Jaden McDaniels, It's Your Move

Huskies freshman forward has come to a crossroad in his basketball career with a lot weighing on what he does next.
By Dan Raley , |

On a day of NBA mourning, with Kobe Bryant's tragic death overwhelming the sporting world, Jaden McDaniels should pause for a moment and take heed that the game, and life, can end in an instant.

The Washington freshman who, with his perpetual stoic expression, gives almost no clue to what he's thinking, comes off the low point of his college basketball career.

McDaniels, the 5-star recruit and supposed NBA lottery pick, got benched in Colorado. He was told his services were no longer needed against the Buffaloes. He was momentarily discarded.

He watched as Huskies coach Mike Hopkins swapped out his lineup practically every minute of the second half--and didn't once summon McDaniels past the 16-minute mark. He played all of nine minutes and scored 2 points.

McDaniels, just a young teen, had to be angry or humiliated. Or both. 

He most certainly has heard from people surrounding him and repeatedly in his ear who could be telling him that he's been disrespected and is bigger than Hopkins and the UW team.

After all, this is a 6-foot-9 player with a 71-inch wing span who draws some comparisons to a young Kevin Durant and could command untold riches if he figures it out.

McDaniels, shown in an early season video, is the same age as the late Bryant, when Kobe bypassed the college game and entered the NBA with only a high school resume.

The big difference between them is this: McDaniels, for every lightning-quick move he makes and high-arching 3-pointer he drains, has been a huge disappointment.

His game is totally unpolished. He doesn't know how to dominate against college-aged men. He should be making others look like fools with his physical gifts. Instead, he gets taken advantage of by more seasoned players.

Whether it's his frustration or immaturity, McDaniels has turned off the Washington fan base with his series of sophomoric moves that have led to four technicals and cost the Huskies at least two victories. 

This week, as much as any, could go a long way in determining  how his basketball career turns out. There's a lot of money on the line in what he ultimately decides. 

Will McDaniels walk away from all the tension and frustration gripping the UW team?

Will he sit and be disinterested in what goes on around him and let the string play out before he packs up and goes?

Or will McDaniels recommit himself and show up for a game against Arizona on Thursday night that will feature a bunch of athletic players just like him?

The Federal Way product may or may realize it, but how he responds to this crossroad could go a long way in determining what the pros think of him and decide what he's worth in the long run.

Kobe Bryant, if he were still with us, would tell McDaniels to quit messing around with his god-given gifts and get in there and compete. The man's basketball legacy is that he never turned it off or wasted what he had.