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Daniels takes G League route to prepare for NBA career

March 2, 2022 GMT
Team Barry's Dyson Daniels, of the G League Ignite, plays against Team Payton during a semifinal of the NBA basketball Rising Stars event, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Team Barry's Dyson Daniels, of the G League Ignite, plays against Team Payton during a semifinal of the NBA basketball Rising Stars event, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Team Barry's Dyson Daniels, of the G League Ignite, plays against Team Payton during a semifinal of the NBA basketball Rising Stars event, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
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Team Barry's Dyson Daniels, of the G League Ignite, plays against Team Payton during a semifinal of the NBA basketball Rising Stars event, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
1 of 4
Team Barry's Dyson Daniels, of the G League Ignite, plays against Team Payton during a semifinal of the NBA basketball Rising Stars event, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Dyson Daniels mulled going from Australia to college basketball in hopes of honing his perimeter skills to one day play in the NBA.

Instead, he’s this year’s headliner among the growing number of players taking non-traditional routes to the NBA by bypassing college entirely.

Daniels is playing with G League Ignite, the team designed to develop elite prospects. Last year, Ignite had three draft picks — including top-10 selections in Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga — to have as many selections as any college team.

“I think it’s very legitimate,” ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony said of the G League route. “Every time they step on the court, they’re going up against guys who were either in the NBA or were elite-level college players. So the level of competition is extremely high. There’s nowhere to hide them on the court like that.”

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Daniels is the highest-ranked of the G League Ignite players on ESPN’s list of draft prospects, ahead of wing MarJon Beauchamp and shooting guard Jaden Hardy. The list also includes point guard Jean Montero, playing for the new Overtime Elite program offering another path for preps-to-pros hopefuls that Givony calls “compelling.”

In Daniels’ case, the G League Ignite route offered the most enticing option.

“Just the development on the court, with the coaching staff and the players we’re going up against, playing the NBA style ... everything about it is headed in the right direction for where I want to go,” Daniels said in a recent ESPN interview.

A look at how Daniels stacks up:

SIZE: 6-foot-6, 185 pounds.

STATS: 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.8 blocks.

STRENGTHS: Daniels is ranked 12th on the ESPN prospect list with size, length (6-10 wingspan) and the ability to guard multiple positions. Givony said Daniels has worked as a point guard capable of playing all over the floor.

“He’s just a very unselfish, versatile player, kind of in that De’Anthony Melton mold, Tyrese Haliburton — that type of player, who’s not going to be your best scorer but he just does a little bit of everything to help a team win,” Givony said.

WEAKNESSES: Daniels has shot just 25.5% (13 of 51) from NBA-distance 3-point range with Ignite in 14 games. But Givony noted that Daniels — who turns 19 on March 17 — is still growing into his body as a “late bloomer.”

“It’s a transition and he’s making that transition now as opposed to in his NBA rookie season shooting those NBA 3s,” Givony said.

DRAFT PROJECTION: First round, possibly late in the lottery.

Some other NBA prospects who bypassed the college ranks:

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BEAUCHAMP: The 6-7, 185-pound Beauchamp is ranked No. 15 by ESPN with the potential to be a defender, rebounder and transition scorer. “His ability to impact the game without having plays called for him is going to give him a role right off the bat,” Givony said.

HARDY: The 6-4, 190-pound Hardy is ranked 21st by ESPN with shot-making ability and shooting range. But he made just 40.2% on 2-point shots and 26.9% on 3s in 12 games with Ignite, while having more turnovers (42) than assists (38).

MONTERO: The 6-2, 172-pound Montero is ranked 20th by ESPN as he averaged 16.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the Overtime Elite program. Givony pointed to Montero as an impressive ballhandler who is “really creative” in handling ballscreens.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25