Vaught's Views: Daniels sneaky, but good

November 16, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Sneaky is not a word that most people like to have used to describe them.

But not Erik Daniels. If anything, he thinks the word fits his game perfectly.

"That's a good word to describe me," said the Kentucky senior. "I am sneaky. I do little tricks I've learned from older guys. I just do whatever works. Sometimes some players are not used to my game and I surprise them. My game is kind of awkward as well as sneaky. That's not a combination most guys face."

Daniels hopes his tricks will enable him to continue to more than hold his own at center. He proved last year that he certainly could play strong forward, but in Kentucky's exhibition games he's been sneaky good.

He had 21 points and 13 rebounds in Wednesday's win over EA Sports, a performance that left Shagari Alleyne raving about Daniels' ability.


"He's not really fast, but he's so quick," Alleyne said. "He's quick and he's smart. He can pass out of the post. He's a really good ballhandler. He has good vision up the court. He is quick, can pass and handle, something most post guys can't do.

"Then he is kind of sneaky. I see that in practice. He fakes one way and goes the other. That comes with his quickness. He's so quick in there that it makes him look even more sneaky because you don't know when he's around or where he's coming from. He goes from side to side to get rebounds. If the ball comes off the rim, he's going after it. But you never know where he's coming from."

Most recruiting analysts questioned why Tubby Smith even gave him a scholarship when Cincinnati and Xavier both walked away from the hometown player.

Check the preseason player ratings. You won't find Daniels listed among the best players at any position.

Yet there he was playing a key role on a team that won 26 straight games, including the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament championships, and reached No. 1 in the national rankings before losing to Marquette in the NCAA Tournament.

He added some weight and muscle in the offseason so he could take his experience into the post this year where Kentucky needed someone to replace the departed Marquis Estill while Alleyne and 7-1 freshman Lukasz Obrzut had time to develop.

"I hope people do forget about me because that makes my job easier," Daniels said. "If they don't notice me, I get a lot of easy baskets. I just creep around the basket. If they don't want to notice me, that's better for us. I just try to do whatever it takes to win. The small things are fine for me. It's just that most people don't notice things like passing, defense and running the court."

Daniels has played so well in the two exhibition games that it should make it impossible for Smith to consider going to a bigger starting lineup when UK opens the season Friday against Winthrop. The small, quicker lineup might be vulnerable inside against a big, physical team, but it can also create havoc for opponents.

"Whatever works, we'll stick with it," Daniels said.

And there's nothing sneaky about that.

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