Despite the loss of key players from last year, the NCAA's unrealistic 5/8 rule and the fact he still can't sign JC players to scholarships, he remains very upbeat about the coming season and the future of Titan hoops.
On paper it would appear they had an unsuccessful recruiting year as the Titans will bring in only two players on scholarship: Point guard/Prop 48 casualty Derrick Andrews and high school shooting sensation Chris Alexander. But, fortunately for them a couple JC transfers have elected to join the team and these two will more than make up for the loss of Ike Harmon and Matt Caldwell.
TitanCentral.com: It's a whole new world compared to the job you left at the University of Utah. Have there been any surprises since taking this job or has it been pretty much what you expected?
Donny Daniels: Pretty much what I expected. The probation and lack of scholarships were something I anticipated. The new 5/8 rule was something I didn't anticipate and it has made it a little bit more difficult to enhance our team. We had some guys who decided to leave... (Joe) Travis, (Keith) Brooks and Mitch Deve and then Danny Kohn gets injured, so that's four guys we anticipated coming back and that's four guys that didn't. You can't replace them because you can only sign five scholarships so that has depleted us a little bit on the front line and those are things I didn't anticipate.
TitanCentral.com: What about the potential changes to this 5/8 rule. Is there any hope?
Donny Daniels: They can change it to where they will give you nine scholarships over two years as opposed to eight. And there's talk to increase the number of scholarships from 13 to 14. That has to happen, first of all. The one thing that's okay about the rule is everyone has to abide by it. A lot of schools like ourselves can fall into a very good player by virtue of elimination because some schools who just don't have scholarships to give somebody. That definitely helps out a Big West School or a WCC school to some degree.
But they have to change that rule to nine (instead of eight) but that's not going to happen for awhile. They're going to let this go for two years and then they are going to make some revisions or reassess the rule.
TitanCentral.com: The program gets two additional scholarships coming off probation this year. Does this rule still apply to us or can the NCAA take this into consideration?
Donny Daniels: It still applies. A lot of schools are at 11 scholarships (as opposed to 13) because of defections, injuries, hardships and things like that. We won't get to a full complement of guys for two years because we're not allowed to give junior college scholarships this year.
TitanCentral.com: Are you able to use the money from these scholarships in other areas?
Donny Daniels: Last year we gave one to a manager and this year, Danny Kohn, who is injured and won't be able to play, got his fifth year back to work on graduation and he'll be like a manager for us this year. We did some different things with our scholarships. Obviously, it's saved some money but we were allowed, through the graciousness of John Easterbrook, to give it to one of the managers and help out Danny Kohn.
TitanCentral.com: So this kind of stuff is allowed by the NCAA and is up to the discretion of a University?
Donny Daniels: Yes.
TitanCentral.com: we know he won't be playing Division I ball anymore but how is Danny coming along?
Donny Daniels: He'll have surgery here in another month to repair another ligament but for all intents and purposes, he's done and he will not play. His NCAA Division I eligibility is done.
TitanCentral.com: What have the returning players been doing during the summer?
Donny Daniels: Weightlifting, working, taking it easy, relaxing. They played pickup games and did some leagues on their own. We started school a week early and met with the team the first day of school so we'll start conditioning next week.
TitanCentral.com: Are you able to set up a conditioning program for the kids to follow during the summer?
Donny Daniels: Yeah, you can do that and they can follow it. It's hard to keep them on campus because we can't give them a stipend check for summer school and it's difficult for some. Guys live in LA which makes it very difficult to drive up and do it. We have a lot of guys in summer school who were unable to work and if they don't work they can't make any money to live out here so our hands are tied. I think for the most part the players did a nice job.
TitanCentral.com: Some posters on out message boards have stated that Babacar has gained something like 15-20 pounds so that sounds like some good news. He must have worked pretty hard in the off-season, huh?
Donny Daniels: Yeah, he's done a nice job on his body. He's up to 238 as opposed to 207 coming in here. He's done a nice job that way and I couldn't be happier with him. Hopefully that weight gain and work means he'll be a better rebounder and better defender.
TitanCentral.com: Anyone else stand out in the conditioning during the off-season?
Donny Daniels: Ryan Dillon did a nice job on the weights. He worked out with Marv Marinovich as far as his stamina, agility, quickness, jumping ability and stuff ... so he was very conscious of that and he made that happen himself and he worked out hard with it. He sprained an ankle which kind of set him back a little bit but he's playing pickup with our guys now.
TitanCentral.com: We're still not allowed to sign JC players and we signed only one high school player during the early signing period last year. Now that school has started we have a better feel for who will be playing for the Titans next season. How about a short preview of some of those new kids coming in?
Donny Daniels: Pape's in and will definitely give us an added boost on the front line. He's a good player who obviously has to learn a few things. He has a natural talent and is as good as anybody coming down the pipes. We're very excited about his athleticism, his running ability, and there's some things he has to learn but I'm very happy that he's here.
Derrick Andrew received his eligibility this summer and he'll be a very nice addition along with Denver Lopez (transfer from CS Dominguez Hills) who will also be eligible this year.
Derrick Franklin (Player X) from Chicago, who sat out last year and received his AA degree. He's 6'-8" and he's thin but I think he'll be a hard worker. He wants to get bigger, stronger and I think he'll be a very nice addition on our front line. He'll play the three and four.
We also have Chris Alexander who is 6'-3", a jump shooter, had a phenomenal high school career at Price, played for a great coach in Mike Lynch. Very good jump shooter, has size and he's a freshman so he has to learn the intensity of what it's going to take.
We're very excited to have these guys.
TitanCentral.com: Okay, Player X has been mentioned quite often on our boards of late. Could you provide us with a little more information on Derrick Franklin?
Donny Daniels: Derrick Franklin is a runner, jumper and he's long. He has a 7'-5" wingspan. He's a good outside shooter, he can drive the ball. He has toughness, he can rebound, he's got good springs. He has to work on his defense... we'll try to play him at the three but in order to play a three, you have to defend a three. He has to do some things he's not used to, like he's going to have to come off screens or defending someone coming off one, two screens, defending a back pick ... At the three he'll be around the perimeter so he'll need to worry about keeping his man in front of him, things like that.
TitanCentral.com: What's in store for the coming season?
Donny Daniels: I would say, hopefully, we just play hard. We open at Pepperdine, we have USF and Loyola and then at Baylor and Wyoming. So those first five games can be a variety of things: 5-0, 0-5, 4-1, 2-3, 3-2, it could be a variety. Wyoming and Baylor are going to be very difficult. Pepperdine was in the post season and have excellent coaching. Loyola beat us at their place last year. USF is coming off a down year but they have probably the top three players in their conference so our first five games are going to be very challenging.
We just want to get better in the conference. We just want to be competitive. Last season we played hard some games and we played bad some games. We're just trying to get more good games than bad games, increase our intensity and sustain that. I think we'll be able to sustain it because we will have more depth in the back court.
TitanCentral.com: I know you have to run off to a meeting but how about one more question. How's Brandon Campbell coming along and is he ready to go?
Donny Daniels: Yes. Campbell will be a great addition, not so much because he's a very good player but because of his maturity. He'll be one of the captains and I'm very excited about having him back. He's excited about being back. He has a great deal of confidence in his knee now.
His knee is not bothering him anymore and there are no more loose ligaments. Obviously, when he finished as the MVP of the Big West in track, he has confidence as far as track, his knee feel quite well and he's ready to go. I'm very excited about having him back.