It helps to have former 6-foot-9 NBA player Juwan Howard as a cousin.
But that’s not so much of a direct family tie. So where does all this height and length come from in this McDaniels family?
Federal Way High School’s junior Jaden McDaniels is a 6-foot-9 wing (yes, wing, not post) and his older brother, Jalen McDaniels, is a 6-foot-10 forward for San Diego State University.
“It’s still a mystery,” Jaden said. “But probably on my mom’s side. My grandma is super tall (about 5-foot-11, he said) and so is my mom (also 5-foot-11).”
And don’t ask Federal Way coach Jerome Collins.
“I’m not going to take the place of God,” he laughed. “So you’d have to ask him. They are long kids, man.”
But this younger McDaniels isn’t just tall.
He had 17 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in third-ranked Federal Way’s 56-42 road win over No. 5 Enumclaw on Thursday, with University of Washington assistant coach Cameron Dollar in attendance. And McDaniels showcased why he’s one of the more coveted 2019 recruits in the country with his blend of 3-pointers, dunks and acrobatic blocks.
On multiple shots he didn’t block, he altered them so much that Enumclaw’ shooters didn’t get the ball to the rim.
“I’ve coached against some pretty good wings, but few like that,” said Enumclaw coach Terry Johnson, who began his coaching career as an assistant at the UW in 1999 before stops at Pierce College, Prairie, Lake Washington, Auburn Riverside, Auburn Mountainview, Centennial High School in Tennessee and Saint Martin’s University.
Two players who immediately came to his mind were Juanita’s Micah Downs, a 6-foot-8 wing who went on to play at Kansas and Gonzaga, and Roosevelt’s 6-foot-7 Marcus Williams, who played at Arizona and was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.
“But they weren’t as athletic as Jaden McDaniels is,” Johnson said. “You have to start with his size and athleticism. And I think he’s got really good feel. A good sense. His timing and ability to step out and shoot the ball at his size is tough. He’s good.”
McDaniels said he currently has scholarship offers from UW, Montana, Howard and San Diego State.
“But all the Pac-12 is after him,” Federal Way coach Jerome Collins said. “And Kansas is talking to him.
“He’s unique. He’s 6-foot-9, can play five positions, can put the ball on the floor and beat you off the bounce left or right and he can stick it when you play off him.”
But Federal Way certainly has more than McDaniels this year. In their top-five matchup against Enumclaw – with both teams coming off appearances in the Tacoma Dome a season ago – the Eagles (6-0) forced 18 turnovers (11 in the first half) with their tenacious, full-court press defense.
If Collins had his way, Enumclaw would have had nightmares that night about his team’s defense.
They forced one of those turnovers on the opening possession of the second half and Federal Way’s Etan Collins got a breakaway dunk on the other end. McDaniels made it 55-35 when Marcus Austin, a transfer from Seattle Academy, got one of his six steals in the game and under-handed the ball off the backboard to McDaniels for another slam.
“Most of the time at practice, we work on defense,” said McDaniels, who has 21 blocked shots his past three games. “If we shut teams down, we win games.”
Federal Way almost didn’t have McDaniels back this year. He enrolled at Garfield in Seattle at the start of the school year, but he said he had a hard time fitting in and came back to Federal Way after about a month.
Collins said it was a private matter between McDaniels’ parents.
“He didn’t want to go there,” Collins said. “He was really there for two weeks, but it took a process to go through paper work to get him back. And by the time he got back he had been there for just shy of three weeks.
“He loves Federal Way and he loves his teammates and his classmates and the coaching staff. He’s a great kid. What I told him was, ‘Look, let’s move forward.’ He’s just a great kid.”
He played alongside his brother at Federal Way his freshman year, when the Eagles capped the season with their second consecutive state title. And he started game last season when they set the 4A state record for longest win streak at 63 consecutive games (second-longest overall streak in state history behind 2B Brewster’s 82 games from 1973-77). Federal Way placed sixth in state last season.
So McDaniels said he took about 500 shots a day working out with a trainer over the offseason and he said he gets texts on improving his game periodically from Howard, who played 19 seasons in the NBA after being drafted fifth overall in 1994 by the Washington Bullets and was part of “The Fab Five” at the University of Michigan.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot,” McDaniels said. “Last year I didn’t have as big of a role as I have this year.”
Collins said McDaniels has become a better competitor.
“He still has to grow,” Collins said. “But as you can see, he’s growing and blossoming in it. There will be a time where he will be able to flourish in it. He’s learning to compete every night and when he has that quality, the sky is the limit with the kid.”
With how tall he is, he might as well already be in the sky.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
Federal Way: Marcus Austin 12, Jordan Magee 2, Jalen Womack 12, Etan Collins 8 (10 rebounds), Jaden McDaniels 17 (9 rebounds, 6 blocks), Isiah Hart 5.
Enumclaw: Kaden Anderson 12, Griffin Webb 6, Kale Engebretsen 2, Bryson Engebretsen 9, Peter Erickson 10, Easton Tandecki 3.