Jawaun Daniels stays centered on professional basketball dream years after receiving a second likelihood — Andscape
NEW ORLEANS — Jawaun Daniels didn’t waste his expertise on the first HBCU All-Star basketball sport in April.
He frolicked with native elementary children, taking part in catch and training basketball drills. Daniels simply linked with them, one thing he discovered from taking part in together with his 3-year-old daughter, Rylee. He helped actor Jamie Foxx’s youngest daughter, Annalise Bishop, along with her faculty search, explaining why he selected a traditionally Black faculty and college (HBCU). Within the press field, he additionally shook palms with NBA Corridor of Famer Magic Johnson.
If he will get an opportunity to fulfill Johnson once more, Daniels needs to share how he ended up at that second.
“I made positive I checked out him in his face, gave him eye contact … it was actually temporary. I launched myself and simply principally instructed him who I used to be, and it was a enjoyable expertise,” Daniels mentioned. “I do know I’m going to see Magic once more. In order that’s gonna be one of many ones the place I double again and I let him know, like, I used to be on the HBCU All-Star Sport within the press field. Then I’ll let him know my story the following time I see him.”
After graduating from Prairie View A&M in 2021, Daniels labored out and interviewed with NBA groups. But, after finishing his closing season at Prairie View as a fifth-year senior in 2021-22, the NBA draft concluded with out an HBCU participant chosen for the tenth consecutive 12 months, leaving Daniels searching for one other approach to enter the league.
Daniels’ subsequent alternative shall be in Las Vegas forward of the NBA summer time league when he participates within the HBCU Showcase with gamers scrimmaging and doing drills in entrance of all 30 NBA groups.
For Daniels, the potential for an expert basketball profession felt like a distant dream six years in the past as he sat in a jail cell on Rikers Island.
“The one time it actually hits me is after I’m round my mates,” Daniels mentioned. “They sort of remind me of how far I’ve got here. I simply felt like that is what I used to be presupposed to do. So, it simply retains me humble. I can’t ever be too arduous on myself. I don’t wish to look again and remorse something. So I’m positively proud [of myself] and perceive that these accomplishments [are] one thing that I obtained to soak in and really get pleasure from that I even obtained the chance to do that.”
He doesn’t draw back from the not-so-perfect elements of his life and may be very open together with his mates about his errors, hoping they received’t make the identical ones. His mates will vouch that he isn’t the identical 16-year-old he was rising up in Harlem, New York. Watching Daniels, affectionately referred to as “Wauny,” expertise success over the previous couple of years makes them proud.
“It’s been actually good to see how issues have panned out for him these final 4 years. You realize, graduating from faculty. I’m actual pleased with him for that. Wauny’s management speaks volumes on and off the court docket. He has a terrific vitality about him that’s very contagious,” mentioned Alabama guard Jahvon Quinerly, who befriended Daniels whereas in highschool in New Jersey. “I’m simply glad to see him doing rather well, coming from the place you come from, not lots of people make it out and I do know that sounds actually cliché, but it surely’s, like, it’s actually the reality. So, actually pleased with him. I hope to see him within the league. I hope all of us make the league. Each time I see him, I inform him preserve going.
“I’ve discovered lots from Wauny. One of many largest issues I in all probability discovered from him is simply being conscious of your environment on a regular basis. Lots of people get portrayed a sure manner, however for those who met Waun and sat down with him [and] had a dialog, you can inform in all probability off the primary two minutes that he’s a terrific child.”
On June 29, 2016, the summer time earlier than Daniels’ senior 12 months at Teaneck Excessive Faculty in New Jersey, New York State Police raided his household’s house in Harlem shortly after midnight and arrested him and his twin brother Jalen.
Daniels was charged with a category B felony for gang assault within the first diploma in relation to an incident in 2015.
“Actually the unsuitable place on the unsuitable time, across the unsuitable folks,” Daniels mentioned. “Although I used to be taking part in basketball [with them], my crowd actually wasn’t one of the best, in order that they principally charged me. I nonetheless don’t even know what actually occurred. I principally simply obtained picked up and that’s why I used to be charged with conspiracy.”
Within the weeks main as much as his 18th birthday, Daniels hoped he wouldn’t should have fun the day behind bars. As his court docket case continued, he realized his want wouldn’t come true. Rikers Island jail went into lockdown on his birthday. He spent Aug. 27 alone in his bunk in deep reflection. Daniels has largely suppressed the reminiscences of his three months in jail. Practically six years later, he’s nonetheless processing his incarceration.
“I’m really one of many ones that maintain lots emotionally and bottle them up,” he mentioned. “It was arduous. I used to be important and saved considering, ‘Wow, I’m actually spending my 18th birthday at Rikers.’ The stuff that I noticed there, understanding that I didn’t belong in it and understanding what’s on the skin for me, was very miserable.”
Daniels was charged as a youthful offender and accepted a plea deal that gave him 5 years of felony probation together with stipulations to complete highschool and pay a tremendous for his launch. His twin brother acquired a 10-year sentence for earlier arrests.
“So I ended up pleading responsible and I really got here residence that very same day. The choose principally instructed me I’m not letting you out since you obtained to be like some celebrity basketball participant or as a result of you could have expertise, as a result of it’s a severe scenario,” Daniels mentioned. “He mentioned, ‘I’m letting you out as a result of I really feel like you could have an opportunity to make a distinction and inform your story to different folks.’ ”
Following his launch, Daniels mentioned, he hoped he may play basketball once more. A situation of his probation was returning to New Jersey to finish highschool, however he wouldn’t have one other likelihood to play highschool basketball. Daniels was deemed ineligible his senior 12 months regardless of appeals to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Affiliation.
Earlier than his arrest, Daniels performed highschool basketball for under two years. His first highschool didn’t have a crew and he solely performed briefly after transferring to Wadleigh Excessive Faculty. In 2015, he moved to New Jersey to reside together with his cousin Ja’Quaye James and enrolled in Teaneck. At Teaneck, Daniels was seemingly on monitor; he saved his grades up and was the star participant, averaging 18.5 factors, 12.0 rebounds and a couple of.6 blocks. His efficiency helped the Highwaymen win a state title in 2016 and Daniels earned North Jersey Participant of the Yr. As an alternative of defending his participant of the 12 months title, Daniels spent most of his senior season on the bench rooting for his teammates.
After graduating from highschool, Daniels reached out to junior faculty coaches to play basketball once more. Daniels mentioned some colleges deemed him untouchable due to his file. Former NBA star Caron Butler’s coach at Maine Central Institute, Max Good, was the primary coach to succeed in out.
“Who amongst us hadn’t made errors? I don’t know if there’s any excellent human beings, however I actually imagine in speaking to an individual myself, in coping with the particular person myself, and never go by no matter, what any person else thinks about them,” Good mentioned. “I used to be very assured I may cope with anyone as soon as I used to be their coach.”
Daniels added: “When Max Good reached out to me to recruit me, the very first thing he did was cold-call Butler and obtained me on the telephone and I spoke to Caron. He principally instructed me to remain the course. It’s straightforward to backtrack, it’s not all the time straightforward to maneuver ahead.”
Speaking to Butler was a full-circle second for Daniels. The one ebook he learn whereas incarcerated at Rikers was Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA, Butler’s autobiography, which detailed Butler’s childhood and quite a few arrests throughout his prep college profession earlier than touchdown within the NBA. The ebook and his twin brother motivated him to alter course after his launch.
“I’ve a twin brother that I [have] to deal with. He’s in a scenario the place he didn’t luck up like me. He’s doing 10 years in upstate jail proper now,” Daniels mentioned. “That was my motivation. I’ve an actual twin brother born on the similar time. I can’t have him come residence and I’m doing the identical factor I used to be doing eight years in the past … I didn’t get in any bother because the day I got here residence. If I ever see that choose once more, I’ll thank him. I hope he shall be proud. I’m fairly positive I used to be price [a second chance].”
Daniels enrolled at Central Georgia Technical Faculty in 2017 and averaged 13.9 factors and 4.9 rebounds, serving to the varsity to its first Georgia Collegiate Athletic Affiliation title. In 2018, he transferred to Odessa Faculty, a junior faculty in Odessa, Texas, the place he averaged 9.0 factors and 5.1 rebounds and earned Western Junior Faculty Athletic Convention all-conference honors.
“Simply making an attempt to show myself coming into junior faculty as a result of I felt like I didn’t belong at junior faculty coming in as a freshman. However I knew the obstacles I went by throughout my highschool profession, which led me to return to juco,” Daniels mentioned. “I used to be simply humbled to be part of a university interval. So I nonetheless had that fireside, the battle and the identical motivation.”
Daniels captured the eye of Prairie View A&M of the Southwestern Athletic Convention (SWAC). When Daniels dedicated to the Panthers in 2019, his dream to play Division I basketball got here true.
“I understood the [recruiting] course of. I all the time stay humble, like, I didn’t get down on myself about that. So when it got here to a chance to go to an HBCU, I didn’t even take a look at it as excessive main, low main, mid-major. I simply checked out it as I’m going to an HBCU college with pleasure,” Daniels mentioned. “I may’ve went to, like, any mid-major, and fell in the course of the pack. The SWAC convention, the best way they recruit children, like, they arrive at [you] arduous. HBCUs, it’s all about relationships they usually simply don’t need you for basketball. They attempt to really set you up for all times.”
He completed the season ranked prime 10 within the SWAC for scoring, rebounding, subject aim proportion and minutes performed. Daniels additionally led his crew in scoring and rebounding with 15.2 factors and 6.7 rebounds, together with a career-high 31 factors towards Loyola Marymount. He earned first-team SWAC honors his senior 12 months. Daniels’ success with the Panthers bolstered Prairie View A&M coach Byron Smith’s perception that Daniels simply wanted somebody prepared to put money into him.
“I believe anytime you make investments assets into children you possibly can by no means go unsuitable. … Possibly you’ve had some conditions early on the place you bought in bother or possibly weren’t all the time doing the suitable factor,” Smith mentioned. “Like [Seton Hall coach] Shaheen Holloway mentioned, he had some those who believed in him and invested time and now take a look at how he turned out.
“So, I felt that Jawaun was a reasonably strong younger man with a reasonably excessive upside and is an impactful basketball participant. I imagine that with the suitable construction, and the suitable kind of mentoring, I believed that he may get his life again on monitor. Basketball is a good platform to have the ability to try this.”
Daniels continued to construct on that platform, taking part in collegiately within the nationally televised HBCU All-Star Sport in April. In entrance of NBA scouts, Daniels spent the weekend calling out screens and making outlet passes as he led Group Gaines in scoring with a game-high 15 factors within the loss to Group McLendon.
“It simply brings us vitality, his effort, depth. He’s gonna compete on either side of the ball. He’s gonna defend, and naturally, energy in placing the ball within the basket,” mentioned Landon Bussie, the Group McLendon coach and head coach at Alcorn State, who was an assistant at Prairie View A&M when Daniels was a junior. “He can rating the ball at a really excessive stage. He’s obtained to purchase all of the spots, however his vitality that he brings is wonderful. I positively assume he has a terrific alternative to play on the subsequent stage.”
Basketball isn’t the one factor on the previous Prairie A&M standout’s thoughts now that he’s graduated. Daniels goals of utilizing his felony justice diploma to create 5 rehabilitation facilities for every New York borough. Much like how basketball provided Daniels the chance to rehabilitate his life, he needs every heart to have a devoted sports activities program and leisure league to assist rehabilitate juvenile offenders in his hometown.
“It’s one thing the place [I’m] simply making an attempt to take the child away from his surroundings and attempt to put him in sports activities. I didn’t have that chance. Once I obtained in bother as a juvenile, I went to probably the most infamous jail within the nation,” Daniels mentioned. “I didn’t have the chance to go to a program to attempt to rehabilitate my habits. … So my important factor is to attempt to construct juvenile rehabilitation facilities, not detention facilities. New York and different states deal with [juveniles] like they’re criminals already. Youngsters don’t come residence rehabilitated for many issues.”
Now Daniels plans to pursue an expert profession both within the NBA, G League or abroad and hopes to make use of revenue from his professional profession to fund the rehabilitation facilities. He mentioned he needs to make use of his story and assets to assist steer different youths from making the identical errors.
“Clearly I hope to have a strong professional profession arising these subsequent couple years. Then I wish to jump-start my [centers], however that’s my important aim, that’s just about the one factor I wish to do,” Daniels mentioned. “I’ve been locked in on that for a very long time. I wish to get juveniles proper. First for my metropolis, and my state. Then, hopefully, I can transfer on and contact different cities and international locations.
“It doesn’t matter what I went by as a youth, I’ve a God-given expertise to play basketball. My complete factor was like, I simply can’t waste [my gift] and particularly coming from New York Metropolis, it’s 100 of those tales.”