Freshman forward Dantiel Daniels said he couldn’t imagine being a Saluki when he first came to visit the school during his junior year of high school.
“I really didn’t like it. I walked around campus for a little bit, and I couldn’t picture myself going here,” Daniels said. “It was gloomy, it was wet and I was just (thinking) I can’t go here.”
But when Daniels returned to SIU in the spring of 2010, he said he loved it and immediately bonded with coach Chris Lowery and the coaching staff.
“When I came down here, we had a heart-to-heart about basically how my career would play out,” Daniels said. “He didn’t promise me playing time, he just promised me; I would get a degree from it. That’s one thing that stood out to me, I really liked that. He wasn’t just telling me what I wanted to hear like most college coaches.”
Lowery said he’s known Daniels since the forward was in eighth grade, and he wasn’t going to let the player slip through his fingers.
“I wasn’t letting him off campus until he committed,” Lowery said. “You can ask his mom. I wasn’t letting him leave until he said he was coming (to play).”
When Lowery was recruiting Daniels in 2010, the team lost Torres Roundtree, Kevin Dillard and Anthony Booker, which Daniels said put more doubt in his mind about coming to the university. But after he sat down with his mother, Daniels said he knew SIUC was the right choice.
“She (said) people are different. Sometimes, if you commit to a school, you go there and it’s not where you want to be,” Daniels said. “After that, I cleared my head. Then I took my visit, talked to (Lowery) about what happened, then I just committed.”
Daniels also had scholarship offers from Western Kentucky, Colorado State and Virginia Commonwealth.
Even though Daniels said Lowery didn’t promise him playing time, the freshman has started in 22 of the Salukis’ 28 games this year, missing three due to a groin injury. He’s sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference with a .579 field goal percentage; and he leads the MVC in blocks, with 1.7 per game.
“He plays extremely hard on the court. We can always rely on him to finish, we just have to give him the ball,” said sophomore forward Davante Drinkard. “Statistically, he’s probably our best player. He does everything right.”
Lowery said Daniels is one of the better freshmen he’s seen at SIU.
“He’s put up numbers against really good people,” Lowery said. “He’s been mature enough to not pout when he doesn’t get the ball; he’s been mature enough to not visually show you he’s disappointed when things aren’t going his way.”
Daniels said he didn’t expect to put up the numbers he has in his first year at SIUC, but he’s proven wrong those who asked if his 6-foot-6-inch frame would be a detriment to his college career.
“If I was a fan, I’d be kind of sketchy, too. (They) don’t know if (I’m) going to be able to guard bigger guys in the league,” Daniels said. “I showed what I can do and I can guard those guys, so I proved them wrong.”