The biggest surprise off the off-season for UConn has to have been the transfer of Roscoe Smith. He is only a junior, was heading into a situation that would give him plenty of starter minutes, and he still faces a year long wait unless he gets a waiver. It made no sense and left Calhoun with another chess piece off the board. It also puts some undo pressure on little used DeAndre Daniels and places this sophomore in a golden opportunity to play those elusive extended minutes he wasn’t getting in his freshman year.
The wing position has been hard to fill since Rudy Gay left and players like Marcus Johnson, Stanley Robinson, Jamaal Coombs-McDaniel, and Roscoe Smith have all tried their hands at it and have found the combination of consistent jump shooting and rebounding a hard lock to break. Daniels will be thrust into making that impact early. He has shown a nice soft jumper, though they tended to not go in, but has yet to show that he can become the rebounder this team desperately needs. He’ll need a few more pounds to hold his position and be a more fundamentally sound position rebounder. This team shouldn’t expect a double-double out of him, but he will have to average around five boards a game to warrant significant minutes.
Points for this team will come mainly from the three guards of Napier, Boatright, and Calhoun, but Daniels must show an ability to chip in for this team to get wins. Teams will create schemes to bottle up the dribble penetration and they will face a variety of zones. So whichever of the forwards that can demonstrate the ability to knock down that 15-foot jumper will have the upper hand at getting huge minutes. Daniels needs to focus on that aspect to his game. He was too reliant on the three point shot from the wing and while he has the ability to knock those down, they weren’t falling for him. He should be focusing on the mid-ranged game this year, making that his number one option and taking the ball to the basket more.
With his limited minutes last year, it was hard to tell how good his defense was. He didn’t do a bad job, but he also didn’t make impact. If he wants to get those starter minutes, he’ll have to show that he can keep his defender in front of him and not foul. If he keeps it simple and can show that he can handle the pick and roll, then he should do fine, but this aspect of his game is still a major question mark.
The chips have lined up for Daniels and he has to make the most of this opportunity. He can’t come into training camp thinking that he has the starter role locked up. He needs to play with a bit of urgency because this window won’t be open for long and he needs to snatch it. Sink or swim, Daniels will go as far as he wants himself to go and hopefully he seize this opportunity and make the most of it.