Students and fans around in the Abilene community may witness the talents of experienced players in senior forward Jaren Lewis or redshirt junior center Jalone Friday, however, one promising newcomer people should keep their eyes on is freshman guard Damien Daniels.
Daniels is a Kansas City native and established his roots of playing basketball there. He said his desire to play developed quickly, having a family who was passionate about the game.
“My family is big in basketball,” Daniels said. “On my dad’s side we have a couple college basketball players and my dad was really good himself. They had me start playing when I was around four-years-old.”
The freshman guard went to Hogan Prep High School and participated in the 3A division. He was named first team all-district in each of his four years and was also honored as a first team all-state member his junior and senior year.
In his junior year, Daniels averaged 23 points per game and led his team to the semifinals. His senior year was even more successful as his team won the state championship. He finished the season averaging 21.8 points per game.
Daniels said his high school team had special motivation to achieve the state title his senior season.
“During the summer after my junior year, one of our teammates died,” Daniels said. “We basically dedicated our season and the state championship to him.”
While in Kansas City, Daniels also played for one of the most talented AAU programs in the state, Run GMC. He competed on the team with current teammate, freshman forward Joe Pleasant.
Daniels said the experience of playing for a big AAU team opened the door for opportunities to play collegiate basketball.
“It was a good experience going from a local team to a big team because you play the best talent around the world,” Daniels said. “They set you up for offers and more exposure. I probably wouldn’t have got this offer if I didn’t play with them.”
College coaches started calling Daniels during the summer of his freshman year, when playing in a tournament. He heard from Air Force and the University of Nebraska Omaha. At this point, Daniels knew he could compete at the Div. I level.
In the summer of his junior year, he started receiving offers from Div. II and talked to a few Div. I schools. Daniels said ACU stood out to him once he received an offer.
“Abilene Christian was the first to believe in me; that’s why I came here,” Daniels said. “I feel like the coaches actually believe in what I can do and we’re building something special here.”
In seven games played this season, Daniels has averaged 3.9 points per game and passed for 18 assists off the bench. He’s also averaged the most minutes per game of all the bench players with 16.6 and helped the team get off to a hot 7-0 start.
With talents such as Lewis and Friday playing alongside the new guard, Daniels said the team is constantly finding ways to improve more.
“Coach always says we’re just trying to get better day by day as a team,” Daniels said. “He tells us to set goals throughout the season and do what we can to achieve them. We try to minimize mistakes everyday and just see where it takes us.”
Daniels and the Wildcats will make a second trip to California this weekend as they take on Pepperdine Saturday and attempt to strengthen their record to 8-0.