It never is easy being the new guy on any college basketball team.
There is new terminology to learn. Fresh concepts to absorb. It can be a challenge just to learn the way around campus.
More often than not, these types of newcomers at least have a fellow newbie to share the growing pains with. Not so with new Colorado Buffaloes shooting guard Maddox Daniels.
The newest addition to coach Tad Boyle’s program finds himself in a curious situation. Barring the unexpected acquisition of a graduate transfer with the open scholarship still at Boyle’s disposal, Daniels will be the only new Buffs player in uniform when the 2019-20 season tips off. Daniels began his first classes at CU this past week, and already he knows will not be easing himself into some low-pressure situation.
The Buffs are harboring lofty goals of an NCAA Tournament berth and a Pac-12 Conference championship — be it during the regular season, the league tournament, or both. More likely than not, the Buffs will require solid contributions from their only newcomer to get there.
“I met the guys on my visit, and then I’ve been hanging out the last couple days. Everybody has been great,” Daniels said. “As far as workouts go, I’m making sure I get really familiar with the offense. I think all of us being here right now is going to pay dividends when the season comes around. We have to build up that chemistry. Most of the guys have already been playing together and I’m coming in. I want to make that a seamless transition and slide right in.
“The pace of playing, the pace of the workouts, is ramped up. It’s faster than it was at junior college. It’s definitely a good thing and something I expected.”
Daniels probably won’t have the luxury of easing into his new role beyond getting acclimated to the Boulder campus over the next few weeks. Boyle brought Daniels in to fill two specific and significant voids for the Buffs.
First, the midseason loss of CU’s only senior, Namon Wright, last season left 6-foot-7 D’Shawn Schwartz as the Buffs’ only bigger perimeter player. CU also ended the season with an unexpectedly low .323 mark on 3-pointers, the Buffs’ second-lowest percentage in Boyle’s nine seasons.
At 6-foot-6, Daniels brings the requisite size. And last year in the junior college ranks at SouthWestern State College, Daniels shot .431 on 3-pointers (88-for-204). Daniels shot 42 percent from 3-point range in two seasons at SouthWestern State.
Obviously, Daniels isn’t likely to post the same 3-point percentage in the Pac-12 Conference as he did at the junior college level. Yet new teammate Shane Gatling, who arrived at CU a year ago from Indian Hills Community College, offers an interesting comparison. Gatling’s 3-point percentage dropped from .389 during his final junior college season to .319 in his first season with the Buffs.
A similar drop-off by Daniels would leave him with a 3-point percentage around 36 percent. Only McKinley Wright (.365) and Namon Wright in a shortened season (.382) shot at least 36 percent on 3-pointers for the Buffs last season.
Yet as Daniels gets acclimated to CU and his new team, he is focused less on hitting specific numbers than getting himself, and his game, in shape for the opportunity at hand in 2019-20.
“(Boyle) just wants me to come in and do ‘me’ and make sure that I’m working, staying focused,” Daniels said. “We had about a month gap between when I left school and when I came here. He checked in a few times to make sure I was staying focused working on my cardio, because it’s different out here at elevation. “