NBA Passport: DeAndre Daniels

By Angus Crawford - Special to Raptors.com

As part of our NBA Australia's new feature series, 'NBA Passport', NCAA Champion DeAndre Daniels spoke about being selected in June's NBA Draft, his Summer League experience, signing with the Perth Wildcats, and settling into his new home.

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What was it like for you to get the opportunity to be a part of a program like UConn, particularly over those last two years with Coach Ollie? 

I mean, it was just great for me because everybody at UConn is a family and Coach Jim Calhoun built it, and Coach [Kevin] Ollie took over, but it was always a brotherhood—no matter what we had each other’s back. It was a great thing just to be a part of. 

With the way that the NBA is trending, it’s becoming more and more important for players to be able to shoot from the outside, to the point that perimeter guys are nearly unplayable if they can’t nail threes at least at a league average rate. You managed to make nearly 42 percent of your threes last season, on a decent volume, is it a goal of yours to become what’s often termed a ‘3-and-D’ player? 

Yeah. Just trying to make my shot more consistently, because in the NBA, a lot of guys are just going to be role players. So, trying to focus on mainly just knocking down my corner threes, and just trying to space the floor, focus on my defence, and becoming a better defender. 

On that theme, is there an NBA player—either past or present—whom you’d like to mould your game on? 

[Pauses] Hmm… I mean I look at a lot of guys but I’m never going to be them. So I try to take stuff from a lot of people; like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron [James], and Kobe [Bryant], and just try to take stuff of their games (stuff that I can do). 

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You were instrumental against Florida in the Final Four, playing so well in the upset win [with 20 points and 10 rebounds]. What was that experience of playing deep into the NCAA Tournament and winning a championship like, and how much did it mean to you to perform like that on the national stage? 

It was just unreal, and our team came together at the right time. And then nobody cared who was scoring the points, all that mattered was, ‘Are we gonna win?’ I feel like that brought us closer. Everybody had one goal, and that was to win a national championship. We believed in ourselves when nobody [else] did, and I think that’s why we won it because nobody wanted it as bad as we did. But it was just an unbelievable experience to go through the whole tournament and win a national championship. It’s still unreal. 

A bit of a personal one from me: I spent much of the past two years living near Toronto, did you get a chance to spend any time there after being drafted by the Raptors? Have you been to Toronto before? 

I actually worked out for Toronto and when I worked out for ‘em, I got to walk around and see how nice the city is. I met a lot of people, and everybody I met was really nice out there. I didn’t go after they drafted me, I went straight to L.A. [to training]. But I’ve been there and it was great. I loved it. 

Did you know much about the domestic competition over here prior to negotiating your deal?

No, I didn’t know much… not a lot. When I knew I was coming I did a lot of research, just looking it up and watching a lot of stuff on YouTube. 

So what was that process like, getting drafted by Toronto, and then finding out from your agent that Australia (and Perth) might be an option? 

After I got drafted, I just talked to the [Raptors] coaches. We weren’t really focused on that, everybody was just going to see what was going to happen. After the Summer League, that’s when we sat down with everybody and figured out what was going to be the best situation.  

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Did the success of guys like [James] Ennis—who came across and played with Perth last season—factor into your decision to come to the NBL? 

I didn’t really know too much about [the NBL]. My agent and the general manager from the Toronto Raptors [Masai Ujiri], they had it all planned out, and they wanted me to come here. They felt like it’d be the best situation for me to come out here and get better as a player, and as a person. 

Do you have a timeline or a goal in mind for making the move back to North America? 

I know I’m going back home, back to America, around March. 

You recently underwent an operation on your right elbow, how much of a setback was that, and when should we expect to see you on the floor with the Wildcats? 

It was a minor setback, but all I could do is control the stuff that I can control, and that’s just focussing on other stuff that I can do—in the weight room, working on abs and legs. It all worked out. But actually, I just got back, and I had my first practice today. I felt good, and my arms felt good. I’m perfectly fine now. 

Since you arrived in Perth, have you got to know the guys? Have you had the chance to build a relationship with anyone in particular? 

I have a good relationship with all my teammates. I mean, since the first day I got here, everybody welcomed me with open arms. It’s just like being at UConn for me, with the way that they handle their stuff. Everybody is just one big family. I’m also close with Earnest Ross, with him being from the States, too. I knew him before I got here, so that’s definitely helping me a lot, too.