‘An­gry’ Daniels start­ing to find his role for NC State

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - College Basketball - BY JOE GIGLIO [email protected]­sob­server.com Joe Giglio: 919- 829- 8938, @jwgiglio

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.

ETHAN HY­MAN ehy­[email protected]­sob­server.com

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.

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