‘Angry’ Daniels starting to find his role for NC State
The version, the selfdescribed “angry” version of Devon Daniels showed up for N.C. State’s win over Boston College on Wednesday.
Daniels filled up the stat sheet in the Wolfpack’s 89-80 overtime win over the Eagles. The sophomore guard had 19 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and five steals in 25 minutes off the bench. He also did an admirable job defensively on Boston College star Ky Bowman.
It was Daniels’ best all-around game of the season, on the heels of a three-game lull. The crowd at PNC Arena might have been slightly surprised, at the late-season uprising by the Utah transfer, but no one in the Wolfpack locker room was.
“That’s the Devon we saw for a whole year in practice on the scout team,” senior Torin Dorn said.
The Wolfpack (19-8, 7-7 ACC) needs more of that from Daniels on Sunday (6 p.m., ESPNU) against Wake Forest (10-15, 3-10) and the rest of the regular season as it pushes for an NCAA tournament bid.
When Daniels is aggressive and uses his athletic frame (6-5, 200 pounds) to go to the basket and be disruptive on defense, N.C. State is at its best. The Wolfpack is 7-0 this season when Daniels scores at least 15 points.
Coach Kevin Keatts put the roster together for this season with Daniels expected to play an integral role on the wing. There have been good nights for Daniels, like Wednesday, and then there have been off nights.
He had four points in the loss at Duke last Saturday, he had one point in a home loss to North Carolina on Jan. 8 and he didn’t score in a road win over Pitt on Feb. 9. In half of the ACC games he has scored in singledigits and before Wednes- day’s outburst, he had averaged only 8.5 points in league play.
“I can do more,” Daniels said. “I just have to get back to playing how I play.”
And how would the Battle Creek, Mich., native prefer to play?
“I played with a lot of fire (Wednesday night) and a lot of anger,” he said.
The transition from scout-team star to regular contributor can take time. Daniels had a productive freshman year at Utah with 9.9 points, 4.6 re- bounds and 2.7 assists per game. He sat out last season and impressed the Wolfpack staff and his teammates in practice with his aggressiveness.
UNCW transfer C.J. Bryce and Daniels were expected to carry the scoring load this season. Bryce has held up his end of the bargain with 13.3 points per ACC game, best on the team. Daniels has been slower to come around.
But Daniels did miss a year of competitive basketball and was making a transition to Keatts’ system. Bryce played for Keatts at UNCW. Playing well in practice, in a pressure-free environment, and playing well on the ACC stage are two different things.
Dorn, who went through the same process after he left Charlotte after his freshman season, said the adjustment is different for everyone.
“Coming to a new school, playing for a new coach in a different league — all of that,” Dorn said. “It’s a learning process. There are growing pains with it but I think he’s coming into his own.”
Keatts said it has been a transition for everyone on the team. With only three holdovers from last year’s NCAA tournament team, he said he expected it would take time for the new players to get adjusted.
“I’m getting these guys to play for N.C. State,” Keatts said. “When you have so many guys who come from different programs — believe it or not, I know we are almost to the end of the regular season — but it takes awhile for guys to understand their role. He’s understanding how he can help his team.”
The more Daniels understands and does, the better off N.C. State will be over the final two weeks of the regular season.
N.C. State's Devon Daniels (24) celebrates making a three-pointer during the first half of N.C. State's game against Boston College at PNC Arena in Raleigh onWednesday.