There will be only one newcomer to the Colorado men’s basketball rotation this season. And he is being counted on to improve the Buffaloes’ 3-point efficiency that was a somewhat surprising shortcoming a year ago.
For Maddox Daniels, the 6-foot-6 junior college transfer who joined the Buffs this past summer, the already daunting challenge of moving into a higher class of competition is compounded by the pressure of being the one new face expected to fill an important void for an otherwise familiar rotation of players eyeing a run at the Pac-12 Conference championship.
Now two weeks into his first preseason with the Buffs, Daniels is expressing confidence in how he is fitting in with his new teammates.
“I feel like it’s going great,” Daniels said. “The biggest thing, as far as the team, is just us making sure we’re doing our jobs individually. Mine individually right now, I’m just really focusing on defense. It’s another level here at the Pac-12, so I’m making sure I really focus on my defense and rebounding. I really just feel like the more I play with everybody, the more we keep working together, the offense will kind of just take of itself.”
At Florida SouthWestern State a year ago, Daniels shot a stellar 43.1 percent from 3-point range while averaging 13.9 points per game. The expectations surrounding his arrival at CU are somewhat similar to those of Shane Gatling a year ago. Like Daniels, Gatling arrived with the reputation of an ace 3-point shooter after one year at Indian Hills Community College. And like Gatling a year ago, CU head coach Tad Boyle is pushing Daniels to be a factor for the Buffs with more than just his 3-point shooting.
“Number one, he’s different than Shane. He’s 6-6, he’s got a big strong body, and he can do more than just shoot the ball,” Boyle said. “You want guys to be multi-dimensional. And Maddox I think is. I think the biggest thing he’s got to work on is, he is a good shooter, and when he’s open from three we want him to have his feet set and knock it down. But as people start to scout him and know what he does, they’re going to start running him off the 3-point line. And now he’s got to be able to use a shot-fake and get guys in the air, and put the ball on the floor. He doesn’t have to put the ball on the floor five, six times. One or two dribbles to get the ball to the rim or pull up. Those are the things we’ve been getting him to realize.”
Last year, the Buffs shot just .323 from 3-point range, the second-lowest mark of Boyle’s nine seasons at the helm and a figure that ranked just 10th in the Pac-12. That mark fell to just .312 in 18 conference games, and the Buffs shot a combined .325 (38-for-117) in their six games in the Pac-12 tournament and NIT.
Certainly the onus isn’t on Daniels to heighten those numbers on his own, as the Buffs also are counting on improved 3-point shooting from Gatling and D’Shawn Schwartz. Yet even if Daniels suffers a similar drop-off as Gatling as he moves from the junior college ranks to the Pac-12, he would end his first year at CU with a 3-point mark of around 35 percent. Among the Buffs’ regulars last year only point guard McKinley Wright (.365) and forward Lucas Siewert (.352) reached that mark.
“Of course there’s floor spacing, moving without the ball. Not physically shooting but being a threat, making sure the defense has to make a decision,” Daniels said. “And definitely on defense making sure I use my size. It’s definitely something I made a priority during the month of October. Defense and then rebounding, which coach is big on, I feel like if I take care of those two things — make sure I’m guarding the ball and playing good off the ball and rebounding the ball — it will be really good for me.”