Viont’e Daniels never imagined he’d earn the accolades and the statewide respect he has this season. One year he’s playing third fiddle on the Federal Way High School boys basketball team, the next he’s one of the best players in the state.
And Daniels on Wednesday decided where he’ll play next year.
The senior committed to Washington State University on Wednesday afternoon. He said he had been deciding between Saint Mary’s, Portland State and WSU, which offered a scholarship Saturday.
“For my family to be able to see me stay close to home, I thought that would be the best fit,” Daniels said. “And I’m playing in the Pac-12. I’m like, ‘Man, that’s pretty exciting.’ ”
And Federal Way coach Jerome Collins knew Daniels was a Pac-12 player from Day One, right?
“Oh, heck no,” Collins said, laughing. “Nobody even thought of that. But we do say to our players that a work ethic and focus and buy-in to this program will do a lot of things for you.”
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound shooting guard with the smooth jump shot and killer instinct averaged almost 24 points, six rebounds and four assists per game this season. His ability to take over games late helped Federal Way win its second 4A state title this season.
“I just know that with hard work and patience, good things will come,” Daniels said. “I’m happy that I get to stay home and hopefully be a role model to kids in Washington. To say, ‘Hey, look, this can be you as long as you work hard in the classroom and outside of it.”
Daniels had to learn that work ethic. Daniels was in Collins’ doghouse his freshman year because he missed practices during a Thankgiving break.
“I can remember it was very difficult for him to understand that we practice during the Thanksgiving break,” Collins said. “We always say that you can’t achieve greatness without sacrifice. The following year he understood the relevance of it and that he needed to be there. His freshman year he didn’t, and it set him back a little bit.
“The next Thanksgiving rolled around and he didn’t miss it, I’ll tell you that.”
Daniels should help fill a void with the Cougars. They lose Curtis grad DaVonté Lacy, who just finished his senior year. WSU went 13-18 in its first season under Ernie Kent, including 7-11 in the Pac-12.
Daniels was named The News Tribune’s 2014-15 All-Area boys basketball player of the year and The Associated Press’ 4A state player of the year.
That after being named to the 4A South Puget Sound League South second-team last season.
Daniels said he began the season with interest from Seattle University, where teammate Malik Montoya is committed. Daniels said he also had offers from Idaho and Northern Colorado.
But Idaho called to say it had chosen another player, as did Northern Colorado. And he said Seattle U stopped contacting him.
The college opportunities picked back up as he emerged as Federal Way’s top player. He scored 27 points, including five 3-pointers, in a 4A state semifinal win over Union.
“I knew I didn’t have much hype and nobody really knew about me, and I was fine with it,” Daniels said, “because now I’ve surprised a lot of people. I just wanted to leave my mark on Federal Way and also on the state. I thank God I did that.”
Daniels is the first Federal Way player to commit to a Pac-12 school since Michael Dickerson went to Arizona and then played four seasons in the NBA. More recently, Collins said Cole Dickerson and Isiah Umipig had opportunities to play in the Pac-12, but chose elsewhere. Cole Dickerson finished his fourth year at San Francisco last season and Umipig was a senior for Seattle U this year.
Donny Marshall went from Federal Way to UConn to the NBA in the 1990s.