New head coach Jeff Lebo is bringing in 6-11 center Ryan Daniel of Goodpasture Christian High School for an official visit this weekend and Auburn is a strong leader to sign the big man, says Goodpasture High's head coach, Keith Edwards.
"Ryan is planning to visit Auburn Saturday and Sunday to check out the university to make sure that is where he wants to go," Edwards tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "He is very interested in playing for Coach Lebo."
Coach Jeff Lebo speaks at his press conference at Auburn last week when he was introduced as Auburn's new head coach to replace Cliff Ellis.
Daniel committed to Lebo last fall when Lebo was head coach at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, however, Daniel did not sign scholarship papers binding him to that college. The reason for that is that Daniel realized that Lebo, who had turned down offers to coach major programs at Iowa State and Virginia Tech, is a hot coaching prospect and he might not be at the Southern Conference school much longer. His intuition was correct. Last Thursday, Auburn made Lebo its pick to become the 19th head basketball coach in AU history.
A three-year starter at Goodpasture, Daniel averaged 17 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and blocked 54 shots as a senior. The 220-pounder had a high game of 29 points while earning Class A All-State honors at school that has a tradition of sending prospects on to college basketball.
Last fall, before committing to UTC and Lebo, Daniel also considered offers from Western Kentucky and UMass. Auburn, Vandy, Tennessee and Ole Miss were among the SEC schools that had recruited him after his junior season.
"He played AAU ball for the first time last year and that was the first time a lot of college coaches had seen him play and they were really impressed," Edwards says. "However, Coach Lebo and his staff had been recruiting him for a long time and that was important to Ryan. I know he strongly considered Vanderbilt, but Ryan is 80 percent deaf and Vanderbilt is not set up to accommodate him. Being a private school, we have been able to do that and he has done very well academically. Ryan is a great young man from a great family."
Edwards notes that Auburn assistant coach Charlton Young and former head coach Cliff Ellis came to Goodpasture to check out Daniel and both liked his game. However, the former coaching staff decided that Daniel needed to redshirt to get bigger physically and they were looking for a post player who could contribute immediately so they did not offer him a scholarship.
Edwards says that at 220 pounds, Daniel definitely needs another 20 pounds to battle in the rough and tumble world of SEC basketball. "I think after a redshirt year, he would be ready to go," the coach says. "Skill-wise, he is ready to play now. He can really do it. He has a European style game. He can put the ball on the floor and he can shoot it."
Daniel made 60 percent of his shots as a senior and has plenty of potential to be an all-around player. "Ryan has a lot of ability and is a great kid," says Edwards, who notes that there is a good chance he will be an Auburn Tiger. "Ryan really likes Coach Lebo."