A point well made: Daniels’ play at point guard a big plus for Wildcats
As your point guard goes, so goes your team.
That’s the case for the Fruita Monument High School boys basketball team.
Led by two-year starter Tyler Daniels, the Wildcats (17-6) have won their past 20 Southwestern League games and play top-seeded Highlands Ranch tonight in the Sweet 16 of the Class 5A playoffs — the first time they’ve advanced so far in 10 years.
“He’s the coach on the floor,” Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said of his senior floor leader. “That’s the biggest thing for me, he’s the type of guy who tries to set up his teammates.”
Daniels averages five points, four assists, and two steals per game. He’s helped Drew Bridges and Alex Padgett both average double figures this season — Bridges at 17 points per game and Padgett at 12 points per game.
“We always knew what we had,” Fox said. “He had been a great leader on our (JV) and you could see it coming.”
Daniels has played point guard his whole life, and he said he tries to set himself apart with his dedication.
“I want to have a good work ethic,” Daniels said. “There are a lot of kids who have all the talent, but if they don’t have work ethic to go with it, they won’t reach their potential.”
Although both coach and player say he should shoot more, Daniels understands his main responsibility is being a floor general.
“I have to make sure everyone knows that they are doing and getting into the right situation to succeed,” Daniels said. “I take a lot of pride in doing that, and setting other people up for success.”
Daniels is one of three seniors on the Wildcats team. Fellow senior forward Tyler Kenagy said he saw what separates Daniels as a point guard last season. Kenagy was forced to miss most of the SWL season with a head injury, and gained a different perspective watching his team from the bench.
“We’d be playing those close games against Montrose and Grand Junction and he’d come off of timeouts and keep saying ‘we got this,’ ” Kenagy said. “He’s a true leader, he’s always trying to encourage you.”
The fact Fruita Monument has made it this far is special to players like Daniels, who suffered through some tough times earlier in his career. The Wildcats finished 1-9 in the SWL when he was a sophomore and the players took it upon themselves to make changes.
“We felt like we were doing things to prepare for a win, but not getting it done,” Daniels said. “That summer rolled around and we put it in our minds that this is what we want and we have the talent to do. To be back-to-back SWL champs is pretty remarkable and something I’ll cherish for a long while.”
The Wildcats need a big performance out of Daniels during tonight’s game.
Highlands Ranch’s size will present a problem. The Falcons (22-1) have eight players taller than 6-foot-2, including two 6-8 players — Marcus Byrd and Austin Haldorson.
“We have to go over and play physical,” Fox said. “They are a talented group so it’s important for us to get in a low-possession game and dictate tempo if we can.”