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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Former Falcon Daniels a major success story

If former Bowling Green Falcon Antonio Daniels didn’t accomplish the impossible, he definitely accomplished the improbable.

Five years removed from his last BG basketball game, Daniels has been a top 10 NBA draft pick and has already won a world championship, joining Orel Hershiser, Roger McDowell and Rob Blake as BG alums who have won a professional sports title in the last two decades.

There is a difference with Daniels, though. Blake came from a comparatively truncated college hockey program pool. Hershiser and McDowell played major league baseball, where an 85th-round draft pick can become an all-star. Daniels plays in the NBA, which only has two draft rounds. It is statistically the toughest league for an athlete to break into. Not only has Daniels beaten the odds, he has flourished. Starting in 1997, when the Vancouver Grizzlies made him the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft, he started gaining a firm toe-hold in the league.

When the San Antonio Spurs, a veteran team that has long been a playoff mainstay in the league, wanted to add a young guard to their backcourt, they sought out Daniels. The Spurs gave up forward Carl Herrera and the rights to Felipe Lopez to get Daniels in the summer of 1998, and Daniels had found a home. As one of the Spurs’ main reserves in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, he averaged 4.7 points and 2.3 assists per game as they rode the MVP performance of Tim Duncan to a four-game sweep of the Knicks in the NBA Finals, the team’s first championship.

Daniels and Duncan, taken first overall by the Spurs in 1997, have become good friends. Both have bought houses in the same neighborhood.

“We’re both four years out of college, so we’re close in age,” Duncan said. “We have a great relationship.”

When Daniels came into the league, he joined a lineage of Mid-American Conference basketball players that has started to populate NBA rosters in the last decade. Starting with Dan Majerle, Ron Harper, Bonzi Wells, and, more recently, Daniels, Earl Boykins and Wally Szczerbiak, MAC alums in the NBA are starting to remove the second-rate stigma of playing for a mid-major college.

“It is a highly underrated conference and has been for quite some time,” Daniels said. “MAC players are beginning to come out and show what we’re capable of doing.”

Spurs coach Greg Popovich said the best attributes of Daniels as a player are his ability and willingness to fit into the team’s plans and his ability to play both ends of the floor.

“He’s got a complete game,” Popovich said. “He can score and he has good defense. He’s unselfish.”

Daniels was an honorable mention All-American as a senior at BG, where he helped lead the Falcons to an NIT berth as a senior, averaging 24.0 points per game, fifth in the nation. He finished his BG career second all-time on the career scoring list behind Howard Komives with 1,789 points. Anthony Stacey and Keith McLeod have since passed both of them.

The BG careers of Daniels and McLeod draw some parallels. Like Daniels, McLeod finished his career second on the school’s all-time scoring list and was an honorable mention All-American. Like Daniels, McLeod may be drafted by an NBA team. Daniels knows McLeod, and he is happy for him.

“I wish him all the luck in the world,” Daniels said. “It’s good exposure for him and good exposure for our school.”

Some of the success has been bittersweet for Daniels. On February 8, 1996, his brother Chris, a center for Dayton, died from cardiac arrest. Both had played high school ball at St. Francis DeSales in Columbus. Chris’s death still has a profound affect on Antonio.

“It makes you cherish the time you have here and cherish those you have here also,” Daniels said on Antonio Daniels.com. “Once you get attached to someone so much and then something like that happens, it’s just like a big piece has been torn from your heart.”

This season projects out as Daniels’ best yet in the NBA. Through 73 games, he has averaged 9.3 points per game in a career-high 27 minutes per game. He has scored 680 points this season through the Mar. 31 game against the Lakers. His scoring average projected out over the final nine regular season games would give him a career-high 763 points scored this season.

The Spurs were the NBA’s hottest team last month, and they were recently winners of 13 in a row. Even though they share a conference with powerhouses like L.A., Sacramento and Dallas, the Spurs may be in great shape to make Daniels the first-ever multiple title winner to come out of BG.

Or maybe Daniels makes the Spurs champions. You never know.

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