Jason Hart confident Dyson Daniels is mentally ready for the NBA

By Anthony Mikos, Pelicans.com

The NBA has been growing its development programs in order to prepare top talent for the rigors of the league. From the expanding G League to the growth of academies overseas, players are given the opportunity to train and compete at the highest levels.

In the 2022 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans selected guard Dyson Daniels with the eighth overall pick. Daniels was a product out of the NBA Global Academy based in Canberra, Australia, but spent the past year playing for NBA G League’s Ignite, coached by Jason Hart.

Hart is a nine-year NBA veteran and he has aided in developing Daniels into a top 10 pick. Hart spoke Wednesday on a conference call with media about the impact of overseas development programs.

“I know that they spend a little more time in the gym honing their fundamental skills and that’s kind of what we try to make our program here at the Ignite,” Hart said. “We try and teach these young guys fundamentals because, when your athleticism leaves, that’s what you are going to be able to rely on.”

Head Coach Jason Hart of Team Ignite plays defense as Dyson Daniels of Team Ignite looks on during an NBA G League Practice and Scrimmage on September 13, 2021 at Ultimate Fieldhouse in Walnut Creek, California. Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Not only do these academies focus on the fundamental component of their game, but also prepare players to understand all aspects of what is demanded at an NBA level.

“Dyson came with a lot of know-how in understanding the game. He understands basketball concepts, teammates and how to work,” Hart said about the 6-foot-8, 199-pound native of Bendigo, Australia. “Those things carry a long way being that he is so young and when he steps into an NBA locker room, he’ll be mentally ready.”

Coming from the academy to join the G League Ignite in California might have been a taunting transition, but Daniels seemed to fit right in.

“One thing about basketball is that it’s universal,” Hart said. “If you can play and I can play then we are going to get along just fine. It was the age that brought all those guys together.”

Pelicans draft pick Dyson Daniels' top 5 plays in 2021-22 G League season

Hart stressed the fact that no matter the differences in their upbringings, his players were able to mesh and understand each other. “They were all 18, listen to the same music, play the same video games and have the same interests mentally,” he said, “so they all fit in really well.”

The game that Daniels was accustomed to emulated the style of play that Hart was trying to implement in San Francisco.

“Dyson went to an academy that was similar to how we run our program. Wake up every morning, lift weights, work a game, take a nap and come back to the gym,” Hart said. “We just stayed on that same path and he fit in really well because his teammates were on the same trajectory.”

This model consistently produces top talent, such as Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga.

“They already understand NBA terminology, that’s huge,” Hart said. “When an NBA coach starts implementing his game plans and strategies, our players will understand and know how the game is to be played.”

Dyson Daniels post-draft media availability | 2022 NBA Draft

Hart detailed how important is it for players’ mind-set to be ready when they step into an NBA locker room.

“They understand that it takes a lot of effort, hard work and dedication to maintain in the NBA,” he said. “Those were some of the things that they were taught daily and they understand that it’s an honor and privilege to be in the NBA.”

This mind-set was rooted within the 19-year-old Daniels from an early age and Hart took quick notice. “Dyson was sent away when he was 15 years old to be a part of the academy,” Hart said. “He understood how to work and that every day was going to be a grind that you have to mentally prepare for.”

With the success of the G League Ignite program, it comes as no surprise that this is a path many players explore. “The program and support system that we gave these guys, it wasn’t just me but a whole team effort,” Hart said. “I was proud of everybody involved and just looking forward to seeing their success.”