Before Tuesday night, DeAndre Daniels was the highest ranked unsigned recruit in the class of 2011. No more. On Tuesday, IMG Academy, where Daniels has spent the past year after originally committing to Texas in 2010, released Daniels' decision: He is going to UConn.
Make no mistake, this is a coup for Jim Calhoun and the Huskies. Daniels was notoriously indecisive about his collegiate hoops future, delaying or ignoring deadlines both self-imposed and otherwise, and leaving fans of the schools recruiting him -- the murderer's row of Duke, Kentucky, Florida, Texas and Kansas among them -- waiting anxiously for a final decision. Few would have predicted this outcome, as ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi said Tuesday.
"I think UConn surprised a lot of people with this pick up," ESPN's National Recruiting Director Paul Biancardi said. "And keep in mind it is just a verbal commitment until he enrolls, but what a terrific catch for the Huskies. UConn is getting a highly skilled small forward who can shoot it from 3, hit pull-ups in the mid-range and finish in transition. At his size he can score over most 3's in the paint."
Biancardi's bit about the commitment is worth noting. Because Daniels waited until after the signing period to announce his decision, he can't sign an official letter of intent, thereby locking him in to his college choice. Until he officially enrolls in the fall, he has room to change his mind. Given Daniels' apparent certainty, not to mention how long he's deliberated before finally committing, another change seems like a very long shot. (Sorry, Texas fans.)
The bigger question is what this means for Connecticut basketball in general and Calhoun in particular. The legendary coach has remained mum on his prospects for retirement this season, and it's generally agreed that if he did retire, Calhoun would do so in the fall, timing the decision to give him the maximum impact on UConn's choice of a successor. (That successor is widely believed to be Huskies assistant Kevin Ollie.) Will adding Daniels to a returning national title core of Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi convince Calhoun to stay for another season? Did he make any pledge to Daniels as part of his recruitment? Has he been planning to stay all along?
Whether a promise was made or not, UConn fans just got totally stoked, brah. Landing a hyper-talented, college-ready recruit is one thing. Preserving the hope that last season's unexpected national title run wasn't the last of Calhoun's career is entirely another.