Future Coug Daniels will come to WSU as wing

EVEN FOR close watchers of the Puget Sound prep basketball scene, future Cougar Vionte Daniels’ senior year was surprising – you don’t go from second team all-league to AP 4A Player of the Year without turning some heads. Not to his coach, though. Longtime Federal Way coach Jerome Collins tells CF.C he knew what he had in Daniels. But we found something even Daniels was surprised by.

Namely, that more Pac-12 programs didn’t put a scholie on the table as Vionte Daniels' monster senior year unfolded. It’s understandable he wasn’t highly sought in the early signing period back in November, he hadn’t blossomed yet. But his senior season was stellar.

“I was surprised earlier on,” said Collins with a chuckle. “And I made some calls and said, ‘Look, we have a quality guy here and I’m surprised you guys are not knocking on the door.’ And (they said) ‘We’ve seen him in the summer and we kinda like him – but we don’t know how he would fare at this level.’ Mid-season, they were more like, ‘Hey coach, you’re right!’ …We felt he had it in him all along.”

Still, other Pac-12 schools didn’t offer, whether it was because they were full or weren’t quite sold enough. But Daniels is also in some pretty good company: among the Cougar notables who also received but one Pac-12 offer include Klay Thompson, Josh Hawkinson and DaVonte Lacy. Speaking of Lacy, we asked Collins who Daniels compares to coming out of the Puget Sound region over the years.

And Collins is the guy to ask – he’s been coaching Federal Way for 31 years and is the state’s winningest active boys basketball coach.

“We’ve had some good ones,” said Collins. “Lacy when he was at Curtis… I think Vionte is comparable to him. And we’ve had some good ones here (at Federal Way) with Isiah Umipig, Michael Hale. Vionte stacks up with those guys because of what he does defensively, and offensively, out on the floor. I know Ernie really likes his work ethic, and the fact he has been put through a regimen here.”

SO WHAT SHOULD Cougar fans expect from the true freshman later this fall?

First, he’s coming to Washington State at the 3.

“They said they envision me as a wing,” Daniels told CF.C. “Off the court they like how I carry myself and Coach Kent is big on character guys… on the court they like the way I shoot the ball and how I fit their style of playing up and down. They like how I D up, which I am accustomed to playing here at Federal Way… they like how I can score the ball and if I need to, I can handle it.”

Asked about his strengths on the court, Daniels listed shooting, running the floor, defense, scoring and finding the open man. His weaknesses?

“Right now it would be ball handling.. and strength, so I’m going to work on those two things,” said Daniels.

“(WSU fans) can expect him to put the ball in the hole and he’s only going to get stronger,” said Collins. “He’s athletic, he can defined it, he can pass it and he’s a team-oriented player. They can expect all of that… I think his upside is tremendous and I know that’s what Ernie is looking at.”

Collins mentioned Daniels’ strong work ethic numerous times, saying it's a great fit with he and Kent sharing the same philosophies on the basketball floor, in the community and the classroom.

“Vionte came out of nowhere from his freshman year - from an unknown to where he is now. That’s typical of all his hard work, the time, focus and commitment he’s put into it. We’re proud of him for that,” said Collins.

With the addition of Daniels, WSU now has a 2015 recruiting class of five, with two more slots available. CLICK HERE for profiles on all five. Four of them signed with WSU in the early signing period in November. Daniels and any others will sign in the period that begins April 15.

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