X factor is tough love

Xylina McDaniel verbally commited to North Carolina, giving the Tar Heels the No. 25 player in the class. Glenn Nelson/ESPN.com

Back in his NBA days, with his menacing physical game, shaved head (before it was fashionable) and X-Man moniker, Xavier McDaniel liked to boast about the playgrounds in Columbia, S.C., his hometown, playing against girls and showing them no mercy whatsoever.

"I would go right at them," McDaniel says now. "I didn't take no pity on them."

That attitude didn't soften much when, 16 years ago, his second daughter, Xylina, was born.

"I was fine that she wasn't a boy," McDaniel said, "but I sure enough was going to teach her to play like one."

All those years being pushed and pushed around, challenged and drilled by her father, transformed Xylina McDaniel of Blythewood, S.C., into perhaps the most relentlessly aggressive player in her class. Just Monday, before she made a pledge to North Carolina, the 6-foot-2 forward watched her future team work on post defense. It all seemed very familiar.

"They were doing stuff that my Dad had taught me," said Xylina McDaniel, ranked No. 25 in the 2012 class by ESPN HoopGurlz.

If punishment is to be a tool of his daughter's trade, then Xavier McDaniel was uniquely qualified to teach it. A wiry 6-7, as a senior at Wichita State, he became the first NCAA player ever to lead the nation in scoring (27.4) and rebounding (15.0) in the same season and was the fourth overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft by the Seattle SuperSonics. He played 14 seasons in the NBA, one of them as an All-Star, and finished with 13,606 career points and 5,313 career rebounds.

Xylina McDaniel, who helped Spring Valley (S.C.) to a 29-0 record and No. 4 ranking in the POWERADE FAB 50 last year, says her father passed on some trade secrets. She knows that he once walked by her future school's most famous alum, Michael Jordan, and whacked him in the back of the head for no reason. In later years, the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics would employ him for his ability to get under Jordan's skin during the postseason.

She did not know, however, that Xavier McDaniel used to keep his fingernails long, the better to rake them across the back of some unsuspecting opponent.

Xylina McDaniel laughs. "He is so rude!" she said.

After he retired from the NBA, McDaniel continued to live in Seattle, Wash., where he started his career. There, he'd take his young daughter to the playgrounds. She was too small to reach the hoops with a basketball, but he had her continue to shoot, as much with her left hand as her right. In a soft moment, he bought her a kid's basket at Toys R Us so she could experience the success of putting a ball through the hoop.

All the while, McDaniel pushed and shoved his daughter, taunted her with names of players he vowed were destined to be better than her. It all sparked her competitive fire.

To this day, Xylina McDaniel loves playing against boys, even if they are bigger and stronger than her, as her father always was. If they don't take her seriously and refuse to play their hardest, she says, "I run them into a wall and get their respect." Her father's tactics, she admits, formed her aggressive approach.

"I'm aggressive even when I'm getting water," she said. "I'll push people out of the way."

Many times, Xavier McDaniel pushed his daughter too far.

"I'd get mad all the time," Xylina McDaniel said. "To get back at him, I used to slack. But that'd just get me in even more trouble. I soon learned that the best way to get even was to do better than everyone expected me to do."

In a big way, that approach was what landed McDaniel offers from Connecticut, North Carolina and South Carolina, her final three college choices.

Xavier McDaniel says proudly, "You don't see a lot of girls play the way that she does."

You didn't see a lot of guys play the way her father did, either.

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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.