By Anari Ormond, Contributing Writer
Posted 7:15 PM EST, Mon., Nov. 14, 2016
The Howard University Bison basketball team has high expectations for the upcoming basketball season with much thanks to their point guard and the nation’s leading scorer: Senior James Daniel III.
The 6-foot, 180 pound guard from Hampton, VA, led the nation with an average of 29.4 points per game last season.
“It’s not like I’m trying to defend the title or anything, it’s not a heavy weight belt. So if I’m leading scorer again, that’s all good, but I’m really just trying to win. So if I get buckets while we’re winning, that’s great.” said Daniel III.
Howard University has a lot of culture, as far as academics and social life goes, but sports culture is an area that often gets overlooked.
“It speaks a lot for the university. Yeah there are some great things as far as academics go, but we have some great things coming out of athletics,” he said. “Going to Howard, you represent a whole culture. Everywhere you go you’re not just yourself but you represent everyone that came before you. They expect you to keep the torch going and just respect yourself and the culture.”
Daniel III considers himself one of the hardest workers in the nation, and is in a constant battle always trying to outwork himself.
“When you sleep, I’m in the gym. When you’re awake, I’m in the gym. I’m just in there,” he said.
Daniel says his relationship with the staff at a local gym allows him to practice sometimes until 2:30 a.m. and then he wakes back up at 6:00a.m. to begin practicing again. After graduating in May, Daniel plans on entering himself in the 2017 NBA Draft.
“All I want is an opportunity to show them I can do it. I’ve been preparing for that journey since I was 3 years old.”
“When you look at his mama’s height and his daddy’s height, it doesn’t take long to realize he’s not going to be 6-foot-7,” said James Daniel II, Daniel’s father, who spent much of his focus on creating an exceptional shooter. “Everyday in the yard, he had to put up 1-200 shots before doing anything.”
James Daniel II also played basketball in high school and then in England after high school. He now coaches for Daniel’s alma mater Phoebus High School and has coached many professional basketball players such as Allen Iverson.
“His work ethic sets him apart,” Daniel II said. “In a 24 hour day, we might spend 6-7 hours in a gym. He has an internal drive that he wants to be the best.”
The Howard University Bison Coach Kevin Nickelberry has also coached several teams as well as professional basketball players, but Daniel’s game and his confidence has always made him very distinguishable.
“From day one his freshman year, I knew he could play anywhere,” said Nickelberry. “He’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached. To be special or to be great it takes you. When the coaching is over and the speeches are over with, you have to go out and set yourself apart. Each player decides does he want to be good or be great. And his freshman year he decided he wanted to be great and that’s what he is.”
Daniel played for Team Loaded out of Richmond, Va. from ages 14-17. He expressed that he realized he was a really good basketball player since the second grade.
“My AAU coach, we didn’t really get along,” Daniel III said. He actually didn’t play me that much. It kinda made me work harder.”
Daniel III is out of practice temporarily due to a sprained ankle after rolling over a teammates foot at practice, however, he still says Bison are in for a treat this semester.
“I got a flat, but I’m a be straight,” he said.
“Our goal is for him to come back out there and come back ready to go and healthy,” said Nickelberry. “And to take the next step to lead us to the NCAA Tournament. I expect him to step up and embrace the expectations and achieve them.”
Daniel III said he is taking this time off to shoot his shot in the classroom. Daniel will come off of the bench with above a 3.0 grade point average, making him an all around hardworking student-athlete.
Daniel comes from a family that excels academically. His siblings also perform well in the classroom. His sister, Carmen Daniel, received a full academic scholarship from William and Mary.
While his father has faith in the upcoming draft, he reminds Daniel III to take care of the animal right in front of him.
“[He has to] stay focused on what he has in front of him, and that’s the season here at Howard,” said Daniel II. “The NBA Draft will take care of itself. His success of the season is where he will fall in the draft.”
Daniel will start off his season well with his routine of watching Kyrie Irving mixtapes and eating gummy worms before each game.
“We’re gonna be really good,” Daniel III said. “I think my numbers will be even better this year, so it should be very exciting.”