Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Australia Basketball is trending toward the point of having to cut NBA players from their national team. One young player that figures to be a major part of the country's future plans as they continue on their ascent is current NBA Global Academy enrollee Dyson Daniels. Daniels, the son of former North Carolina State forward and SEABL League player Ricky Daniels, has put colleges on notice with his recent play. The combo guard has multiple alternate routes in front of him as well as he pursues his dream of eventually playing in the NBA. He currently holds offers from Arkansas, Colorado and Saint Mary’s, along with interest from California, Georgia Tech and others.
With Josh Giddey and Mojave King both garnering Next Stars slots for NBL teams this coming year, Daniels could feasibly be next in line. He is keeping his options open, with even Europe and other pro leagues being a possibility moving forward. Right now, his primary focus is on becoming more consistent as a shooter, though there are plenty of elements to really appreciate about Daniels’ game, even as-is. He is a smooth athlete, aggressive defender and can pass on the move. Having turned 17 in March, he has great size for a guard, a real nose for the ball while priding himself on playmaking.
His older brother, Kai, is playing for Regis University in Denver, Colorado, and his father has North Carolina ties, so a move to the United States as part of the 2022 class is very much in play. Still, with his growth over the last year and the work he has put in with the NBA Global Academy, a jump to the pros wouldn’t be unrealistic on his current trajectory. With COVID-19 taking away his opportunity to represent Australia in international competition, Daniels hopes to one day join the Boomer ranks as yet another Australian in the NBA.
In this interview, Daniels talks about his family history, his development, his experience playing across the globe, his growth as a player, his all-time Australian starting 5, how COVID-19 has affected his life and basketball training, plus much more. For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present NBA Global Academy’s Dyson Daniels, from Bendigo, Australia:
Pro Insight: Can you share a bit about your family, where you’re from, and your background?
Dyson Daniels: Yeah. So, I’m originally from a small country town in Australia, in Victoria called Bendigo. I grew up there all my life, and the last year I’ve been living in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport, so I’ve been here for the last year. I have two brothers, who both play basketball. One’s 19 years old, he’ll be going to a D-2 college, and I got a younger one as well who’s 12 who is playing basketball as well. I got my dad, who played for NC State. He came over to Australia after college when he was about 22. He played in the SEABL League here, so he played a lot of years there, with Bendigo, Ballarat, and Nam, a few of my old teams as well. And so, yeah, he’s been a big inspiration to me and taught me a lot of things. And I’ve got mom, who’s originally from Australia, who has a Dutch background. She grew up playing volleyball and tennis and stuff like that. And yeah, my dad’s from America, my mom’s from Australia, and me and my brothers are also from Australia.
PI: Does that mean you still have relatives in the United States on your father’s side still?
DD: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of family over in North Carolina. They live on the coast down there.
PI: So you’ve visited them on summer vacation in the past?
DD: Yeah, I was down there earlier this year actually, around early March, just before the coronavirus started happening. Got to see them, which was good. I hadn’t seen them for like seven or eight years so it was good to catch up.
PI: Prior to NBA Academy where were you playing and how did this opportunity come about for you?
DD: Prior to NBA Academy, I was playing for Bendigo. I made a few Victorian teams. So I was in the Australian championships playing for Victoria. I made the Australian under-15 team as well, which I was able to go play in Oceania over at Papua New Guinea, which was good. I was also playing with the Bendigo men’s team in the NBL-1 league, so I played one year there and then I got picked up by NBA Academy after that. So after my year there, I came here.
PI: How’s life at the NBA Academy? What does a typical day in the life of Dyson Daniels look like?
DD: I really enjoy it here at the NBA Academy, it’s really good. Great coaches, great people. So I go to school five days a week from Monday to Friday, but every day is different. We have three gym sessions a week, usually have like four team practices, like three individual sessions, and then some shooting sessions in between that as well. So it will usually be like a team practice on Monday, and then Tuesday we’ll have individual in the morning and gym session and shooting in the afternoon. And then Wednesday, we’ll have a game on Wednesday in the ACT men’s league, which I play in here. We’ll do a shooting session before that as well. Thursday morning, we’ll have gym, and then that keeps repeating itself.
PI: How would you compare the style of play in Australia vs. the U.S.?
DD: Here in Australia, I feel like the game style is a lot different to the U.S. I feel like it's more ball movement, getting everyone involved, like playing more together as a team; whereas in America, I feel like there’s a lot of individual talent there. I feel like in Australia, it’s a lot more team based than what you play in America, but I feel like when you go over to America, it’s good to play against the competition they have and play against some individual greats rather than more team-based greats. That’s how I see the difference.
PI: Talk about your experience playing in L’Hospitalet Junior Tournament in Spain. How did that differ from what you’ve seen in Australia and in the U.S.?
DD: Yeah, that was really good, going over to play in Europe. That was a really good opportunity for me. We had a really good team we took over there and played against really good teams. I really enjoyed watching the European game style, I feel like that’s a really good team-based game, top style of play. You know, they’re very smart in the way they play. They don’t have the most athletic guys or anything, but they just play smart. They have shooters everywhere. They have good plays, like you’re not expecting screens and stuff like that. I really enjoy watching the way they play. I’d probably say the European style is a bit more similar to the Australian style than what it is to the American style.
PI: Thus far, who’s been the toughest player that you’ve faced?
DD: I’ve had to play against a lot of tough players, naming one would be tough. I’ve played against a lot of men in the NBL-1 League, but probably from the Academy, I’d probably say Tamuri Wigness, who I’ve had to guard. He’s a really small, quick guard who’s really smart with the way he plays. He’s been very hard to guard. But yeah, I cherish the challenge of trying to guard him when I can.
PI: There’s obviously a lot of talk about you going to college in the US. Is that set in stone?
DD: It’s definitely not set in stone. I’m still young, so I’m keeping all options open at the moment, so I’m not looking to close any doors and I’m looking to make the right decision with my family. When that time comes, I’ll make that decision, but I’m not closing any doors on anything yet, so everything is still open.
PI: It sounds like your family are your advisors. Anyone else you go to for advice?
DD: Yeah, I mean I have a lot of help and support around me. I’ve got a lot of NBA Academy support with the coaches around me. Marty Clarke, and Robbie McKinlay, and those guys, they all of them help me out, as well as people in New York. I got support with the NBA Academy staff and family. So there’s a lot of support, helping me to make the right decision. They’re not forcing me to do anything at the moment. They just want me to make the right decision, choose what’s best for me.
PI: As you consider the college route, what are the kinds of things that are going to be important for you? Do you have a checklist?
DD: I mean, I love basketball, but as well as basketball, I love the academic side of things. My family is pretty strong on that. So if I went to college, going to the school that had the right academics for me, and fit me as a person is what I’d be looking for. I wouldn’t be choosing to go to play with the biggest school that’s got the biggest name or anything if it’s not the right fit for me, so just making sure that the schools I fit in, the academic side’s good, good people to be around, good place, you know, it’s all got to work out.
PI: Obviously, (in Australia) NBA teams are popular, but are college teams really popular down there?
DD: Yeah, there’s a lot of college basketball here in Australia. I wouldn’t say it’s as strong as the people that follow the NBA, but it’s definitely strong here. People know about it, people watch it, people follow the teams, and yeah, it’s strong here in Australia, too.
PI: Let’s switch gears over to your game. First of all, what position do you describe yourself as?
DD: I mainly play point guard, but I can go to the shooting guard or small forward if needed, but I’m mainly a point guard.
PI: How would you describe your strengths, and what would your weaknesses/areas of improvement be?
DD: My strength I’d say is playmaking, being able to make plays for teammates, making plays for myself on the offensive and the defensive end. I really cherish my defense and try to get stops as well as offense, you know. Weaknesses I’d say shooting at the moment. Being able to become a more consistent shooter is something I’m working on, with a big thing with footwork, so I’ve been in the gym getting a lot of work in on that at the moment.
PI: Is there maybe an underrated part of your game that you feel you don’t receive enough credit for, currently?
DD: Yeah, I wouldn’t really say it’s underrated, but I really cherish my game on the smarts I use. I’ve been able to make smart plays on D, whether that be picking off a pass from a big that might not be expected, or on offense, playing smart, making a smart pass, setting a screen that might be unexpected or something. So, you know, just making smart plays is something that might not be talked enough when people talk about my game.
PI: How tall are you now? Have you had formal measurements done at the Academy recently?
DD: Yeah, I measured in last week at 196 (about 6’5”), so I’ve grown a little bit since the Tarkanian Classic. But you know, I’m still looking to grow a little bit, I think I still have a little bit more in me.
PI: And what’s your wingspan, Dyson?
DD: At the moment, it’s 206 (about 6’9”).
PI: Do you model your game after any specific player?
DD: To be honest, not really. I think I play a more different style than what most people play. But if it were someone, I would choose someone like Luka Doncic because he’s a really smart player, being able to create his own shot and create shots for others and stuff like that. So on the offensive end, I’d say Luka Doncic.
PI: In the NBA, is there another combo guard or wing player that you think ‘I can do that’ or ‘wow, I can be that type of player?’
DD: I don’t really see myself as similar to this player, but if I had to name someone who would be the closest, someone like T.J. Warren, who I’ve seen play a lot recently. I mean, he’s a really good defender, and the way he gets out and runs lanes and plays smart on offense, he’s been really good at creating his own shot and creating for others, so at the moment, I’d say him, but there’s still a lot of differences between us. It’s hard for me to say we’re the same player.
PI: Who’s your favorite NBA player regardless of position?
DD: Russell Westbrook at the moment. That’s my favorite NBA player.
PI: Who would be your all-time starting 5 of Australian players?
DD: Australian players, ooh. I’d put Andrew Bogut at the 5, or actually, I’d go Luc Longley at the 5, Luc Longley. I’d put Ben Simmons at the point, I reckon Matthew Dellavadova at the 2. Patty Mills is a tough one, I reckon I’d bring him off the bench. Maybe put Joe Ingles at the 3, and at the 4, damn, that’s tough. I’m not sure at the moment who I’d put at the 4. I’m not very good with my past players, but present I’m pretty good with. Past I could do a bit of work on. David Anderson probably I’d put at the 4, maybe.
PI: What do you think your teammates think about you? How do you think they’d describe you as a player and as a person?
DD: Something I hope they’d say is that ‘he’s a good leader.’ That’s something I’m trying to work on right now because at the NBA Academy, we’ve lost our graduates to college at the moment, so being able to step up and be a good leader is something I’d hope they say. At the moment, I think, just being able to be a tough player. Mentally tough and being able to compete every training. Yeah, hopefully they’d say tough and a good leader, which is what I aspire to be.
PI: And if you had to describe yourself with just four words, what would they be?
DD: Yeah, competitive is definitely one. Honest, I’d say is another one. Fearless, I’d say, and just smart, probably.
PI: Who has been the biggest inspiration to you perhaps outside of your immediate family?
DD: Outside of my family, I mean, I’ve had a lot of great coaches that have been willing to go out of their way for me. Back in high school, I had a coach in particular that really went out of his way for me, took me to trainings, picked me up, took me home. He put in extra work for me. You know, he’s been a big mentor to me. But yeah, him and the coaches here have really helped me develop as a person and develop as a player. So yeah, probably them.
PI: What has been the strongest, most defining moment of your young career thus far?
DD: Being able to represent my country is always a huge thing for me, so being able to go over to Oceania, win a gold medal in a tough match against New Zealand, it was really good. Probably that moment of being able to, you know, play for my country and play in a Grand Final for my country, it was really good...along with all the moments that I’ve had with the NBA Academy and being able to have the opportunities for me to go overseas and play against really high-level talent.
PI: Do you room with somebody when you’re with the national team as well as with the Academy?
DD: Yeah, yeah.
PI: Who’ve been your roommates this past year?
DD: Well it always changes, but at the moment I’m with a person called Tyrese Proctor. He’s a young player, he’s going to be a really good player. So yeah, at the moment I room with him.
PI: Have you already thought about what you would like to major in or study in the future?
DD: Nah, I haven’t put enormous thought into that, but that’s still something I’m going to look into, what I’d like to do if basketball doesn’t work out. But at the moment, I’m focusing on my basketball, and hopefully get that to a point where academics don’t, like I don’t have to worry about that bit. You know, I haven’t always been able to be good academically, something I want to do, so I’m just studying at school and working hard. I don’t really have a plan of what I want to do if basketball doesn’t work out, but I’ll get that together soon I’m sure.
PI: What’s your favorite subject in school?
DD: I love learning about geography, learning about the world, so my favorite’s probably geography.
PI: What’s the stuff you like the least?
DD: The least? Ooh… Math. Math I’m not a fan of. That’s probably my weakness as well so that’s probably why, but yeah, math is something I look to improve if I could. But yeah, not the biggest fan of math, though.
PI: Talk a little bit more about yourself off the court, if you can. What is your biggest passion outside of basketball?
DD: I mean, I have a lot. I just love to hang around with my friends, being able to contact family because I don’t live with them anymore, being able to stay in touch with my family, being able to hang out with friends. I don’t mind going golfing actually, so sometimes the boys here go out for golf on like the weekends and stuff like that, so I enjoy doing that.
PI: What about music? What playlist do you currently have on your phone?
DD: Yeah, I love listening to music as well. Some artists whose playlists I have downloaded: Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch, Gunna, those types of people. So more like rap kinda stuff.
PI: How often does your family come to visit you in Canberra?
DD: Well, I mean, I haven’t seen them in the last few months because of COVID. They’re in Victoria, where the COVID situation is not the greatest, but when I get the opportunity to, or they get the opportunity to, I’m sure we’ll catch up soon. And I was with them for like eight weeks during COVID, so just being able to cherish time with them when I’m with them is something I love doing. So yeah, catching up with my family is something I’d love to do soon. I haven’t seen them in a while, but yeah, I really cherish my family.
PI: Speaking of COVID now, Dyson, how did that affect your training?
DD: I mean, yeah, COVID’s a very unfortunate thing, different for everybody. Fortunately for me, when I was at home, I was able to have access to a gym, so my parents own a gym, so I was able to get in there and get work in. And I had a really good basketball court outside in my backyard, so I was able to put in work there, play 1-on-1 with my brother and get some shots there which was good. We weren’t able to access the indoor courts, but being able to get in the weight room and use my outdoor court was good. I was unable to come back to the Academy until, I think it was June, so that was pretty tough. But you know, when I got back, I’ve been trying to make the most of the time I’ve missed out on. Just being able to catch up on the time that I’ve missed and try to get myself ahead of some of the people who I’m competing against for spots, you know, hopefully in the NBA one day. It’s something I’m trying to do because everyone’s working towards a different situation right now, some people are unable to access indoor courts and stuff like that, so just trying to make the most of the opportunity when I can.
PI: What do you love most about the game of basketball?
DD: I mean I’ve always loved basketball growing up. I love the competitiveness it brings. That’s probably the thing I love most, the competitiveness, the fun of the game. I’ve just always loved the game growing up, so you know, I love everything about it. The opportunities it brings, you know, the friendships it has made for me, it's been great.
PI: Can you talk about your short term goals for the next year, or so?
DD: Yeah, within the next year, my goal is to keep progressing as a person and be the best version I can be everyday, see what comes, whatever it be maybe, like NBL offers, college offers, just trying to see what comes with the work I put in...because who knows what’s going to happen during this COVID time. Just being able to be the best version of me is the main goal I have for the next year, or so.
PI: Where do you see yourself 10+ years down the line?
DD: I hope to see myself in the NBA, but just being able to play for my country, represent my country is something I want to do: play for the Boomers, play overseas. Playing basketball is the thing that I want to do, so wherever basketball takes me, I’m going to make sure I try to get to the best place that I can be for basketball.
PI: If the NBA doesn’t work out, could you see yourself ever playing in Europe?
DD: Yeah, like I said, I still got all options open and I’m not closing any doors yet so Europe’s always an option, NBL’s always an option. College is always an option. Whatever it be, all options are still open.
Watch the full interview with Dyson, here