Jaden McDaniels looking forward to challenge of McDonald’s Game
Anyone hoping to hear more from Jaden McDaniels this week about where he might play college basketball next season is just going to have to wait.
The five-star prospect from Seattle made it clear Monday morning that the fog won’t be lifted on his recruitment anytime soon.
“I just don’t like talking about it,” McDaniels told the Herald-Leader. “It’s just something I don’t talk about.”
That was the extent of his recruiting-related comments Monday as he and 23 peers from the 2019 class gathered in Atlanta for practices leading up to the McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday night.
McDaniels is one of just five players in this year’s game that remain undecided on their college futures. The other four — Precious Achiuwa, Cole Anthony, Trendon Watford and fellow Kentucky target Matthew Hurt — all shed some light on their recruitments during Monday’s media session. McDaniels, the No. 5-ranked player in the country, remained silent on the issue.
“I think anybody that is trying to pick a school for Jaden right now is guessing, because I don’t think he knows what he wants to do yet,” 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “It’s certainly been a recruitment that has been tough to gauge.”
For a time in the fall, it looked like a recruitment that might be nearing its end.
McDaniels took official visits to all five of his finalists — UK, San Diego State, Texas, UCLA and hometown Washington — before the end of the early signing period. Often, that’s a sign that a recruit is ready to get the process finished, lock in a school choice and move on to his senior season. But the early period came and went without an announcement from McDaniels, who ESPN recently ranked as the No. 1 prospect for next year’s NBA Draft.
The 6-foot-10 forward — who often plays on the perimeter — averaged 23.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game during his senior campaign, earning player of the year honors in Washington state and coming into this week as one of the most-talked-about prospects in the annual McDonald’s all-star showcase.
“I’m just trying to have fun and compete against the best players across the country,” McDaniels said. “It was a big dream. I used to watch it every year. … Being a part of it is a big opportunity.”
McDaniels said he’s focused on getting stronger — his main priority before he starts his college basketball career — and wants to prove himself further as a defender and rebounder. His game has often drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant, another near-7-footer who can do a little bit of everything on the court.
“He’s just long and versatile and can play all positions. I feel like that’s where we match up,” McDaniels said. “It’s cool being compared to an NBA player, but then I’m like, ‘I’m myself.’ … I don’t want to be like anybody else.”
College coaches are hoping he will continue to evolve his game on their campus.
For the past few months, UK and Washington are the two schools that have generated the most buzz in recruiting circles. Both have commitments at this week’s game: Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney for Kentucky, and Isaiah Stewart for the Huskies.
“I mess with him all the time about BBN,” Maxey told the Herald-Leader, adding that McDaniels is “a quiet guy” so he tries to give him some space. The future Wildcat can’t get McDaniels to say much about his recruitment.
“Nobody can,” Stewart agreed. “He don’t know. And I’m not going to pressure him or bug him, because I know how that feels. So I’m just going to let him rock and be a kid.”
The guessing game continues.
“I think it’s a crapshoot,” Daniels said. “My gut says I see him probably staying on the West Coast, but that’s nothing more than a gut feeling.”