Sunday, April 27, 2014

Troy Daniels: The Unexpected Hero

The VCU Rams basketball program has taken incredible strides in the last decade. Not only have they obtained remarkable success in the college game, but they have begun to produce a brand of players who have been suitable to play at the next level. However, the least expected to have success may end up being the most successful after all.

It all started with Eric Maynor, who was picked 20th by the Utah Jazz in the 2009 NBA Draft. Maynor was believed to have incredible promise as he played solid minutes behind Russell Westbrook for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but a devastating knee injury has slowed him down quite a bit as his career seems to be coming to an abrupt halt. Maynor, the VCU record holder for assists and field-goals, is known as possibly the best player in the history of VCU basketball.

Next, it was the one and only Larry Sanders. During his time with the Rams, Larry made a monumental impact on the defensive end. Larry left after his junior year, (the year before the Final Four run) and he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks 15th overall in the 2010 draft. Larry has all the essentials to be successful in the NBA except for one thing: mental stability. Earlier this year, Sanders was out for 6 weeks with a broken thumb after a bar fight. Now, he has recently come out saying that he is a strong proponent of marijuana being legalized for all professional athletes. Come on, Larry. Larry still has plenty of potential if he settles down mentally and focuses on his game.

However, the crazy thing is, VCU’s best pro may not have been drafted at all. Troy Daniels went undrafted in this past NBA Draft, but instead of taking the often travelled path of playing in Europe, Daniels instead went the route of the D-League, playing with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. In his first season with the Vipers, Daniels set the record for three-pointers made in a season. But here’s the fun part, he did it in half the season. It did not take long for the Rockets to see what Daniels brought to the table as he joined the team fully on April 12th playing limited minutes, until the final game of the regular season where he dropped 22 points. After seeing no minutes in the first two games of the Rockets’ playoff series with Portland, it took Chandler Parsons getting into foul trouble late in Game 3 that enabled Troy to step on the court late in overtime. That’s when the magic happened. Daniels hit the game-winning three in overtime to propel the Rockets to a miraculous victory.
While before this shot almost nobody knew the name Troy Daniels, he is now a household name among NBA followers. Still, people may look at Troy as simply having his 15 minutes of fame, but I firmly believe that Troy has a promising future in the NBA. First of all, he has the size. At 6’4, he can play shooting guard, and he is quick enough to guard both the shooting guard and point guard position. While his defense still needs work, he has shown ability to play successfully under Shaka Smart’s havoc defense. In addition, his greatest quality as a player is one that translates any level he plays at: he can shoot lights out from 3. When Daniels was at VCU, about 70% of the threes Daniels shot were from NBA range. He can shoot successfully from anywhere on the court, and with his quick release and incredible accuracy from 3-point land, Daniels is a reliable option for any team. He still needs to broaden his offensive game, but he is young, and I am confident he will continue to grow as a player.
For now, Troy is simply the hero of Game 3. Nevertheless, this is only the first chapter in what could be quite the story of the undrafted 3-point sharpshooter, Troy Daniels.

-Ben Greer

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