Daniels ready to fill 'bigger' role this year

November 02, 2003|JILL ERWIN

Erik Daniels has played a lot of different roles for the UK team, but it's possible none have been as important as the one he's going to have to fill this year.

Daniels put on more than 15 pounds over the summer and will be expected to step down low and provide some inside play for the Wildcats while freshmen 7-footers Shagari Alleyne and Lukasz Obrzut develop their game.

"All those different roles I've played in the past, I have to try to put those together," Daniels said. "If I can do that, I think I'll have a successful season."

Daniels has done everything from coming off the bench to startart, from rebounding to dishing assists, from inbounding to playing the ball on Kentucky's press.


He averaged 9.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last year while also passing out 71 assists, blocking 14 shots and grabbing 32 steals.

But the new role, focusing on the inside, is a big step for a guy that expected to play guard when he came to UK.

He has added almost 30 pounds to his once 200-pound frame, but said he still has the ability to handle the ball well which he hopes will help him in his work down low.

"It's a big transformation for me," Daniels said. "I always thought I was going to be a guard, but I've grown a lot. It helped me out because that means I can do guard things with the size of a big man.

"I try to do what it takes for the team to win. If it means for me to play inside and play the five, I'll do that. I played it a little bit last year when we were in our smaller lineup. It's really no problem for me."

Daniels said he ate a little bit of everything this summer to add the pounds. He said he took it upon himself to do what he could to ensure he could help the Wildcats down low.

He has not, however, neglected his shot. He said that was something he did last summer, so he went out of his way to work on it since the Cats were eliminated by Marquette last season in the Midwest Regional finals.

"Over the past summer, I worked a lot on my shooting, fine-tuned it and worked out all the kinks," Daniels said. "I feel comfortable stepping out there and shooting jump shots."

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said Daniels is a player that has always done what UK has needed him to do. He even went so far as to term Daniels' body growth to be a "sacrifice."

"He's bulked up, and I think he's made that sacrifice because Erik is capable of being a very good perimeter player as well," Smith said. "He's a guy that can put the ball on the floor. Last year he made some very good decisions with the ball, inbounding the ball on the press offense.

"He's acknowledging. 'This is my role and this is what I'm going to be asked to do.' He's the type of player that can play at the next level. He just needs to keep doing what he's doing."

That would be a dream come true for Daniels, who said he's always held onto the hope of playing professionally.

"Hopefully I'll get a chance to and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there," Daniels said. "I knew I had dreams of playing at the next level and I have to make this senior season the best one. I had to put everything together and show everybody my total package."

Daniels has a new look atop that total package. Where there have been cornrows and afros before, there is merely a closely-shorn head of hair, nearing baldness.

He said it's not an outward sign of seriousness or senior leadership, just how he feels like wearing it. But he's also not shunning the responsibilities that come with being a senior.

"We have five seniors and it's up to us to get the other guys ready to play," Daniels said.

It's a season he's been looking forward to since the last one ended, and Daniels admitted there was one game above all others he's looking forward to.

"Right now the Louisville game is probably the biggest game on my calendar because they beat us last year," Daniels said. "We just want to get back at them.

"I've waited all summer for this to come. Now it's here, so we just have to show up and play."

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