BASKETBALL has a knack of rewarding opportunities to those dedicated few who respect the game.
Dyson Daniels’ story is one of those times when, after countless hours of hard work, the chance to shine finally materialised.
Daniels, a 14-year-old from Bendigo, recently represented Victoria Country at the Under-16 Australian Junior Championships in Stirling, Perth. It wasn’t an easy journey, in fact it was one that was filled with uncertainty. Initially he wasn’t even selected for the travelling team to Perth.
But after an 11th hour withdrawal from the main roster, Daniels fought his way onto the team.
“We knew at the first training session that someone had pulled out, so from there we pretty much just had to compete for that spot,” Daniels said. “When I got told I was very shocked.”
He may have been shocked but he certainly made the most of his chances to move up from the emergencies to the main roster. But even that amazing achievement wasn’t where Daniels wanted to end this story.
— Basketball Victoria (@Basketball_Vic) July 12, 2017
Clearly not satisfied with just making the squad, Dyson forced his way into Victoria Country’s starting five by the end of the Championships. Averaging nine points and almost five rebounds over eight games, Daniels was a major bright spot for a team that toiled to make inroads against some high-quality teams.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted by finishing 11th, but I had a really good time and it was a tough competition over there,” Daniels said.
Although he was often the youngest player on the court, Dyson never let his age or height hinder his performance.
“I went over there and the other kids were a lot taller than me so I had to compete in other ways and hustle after the ball,” Dyson said. “I think as the tournament went on, I found my way and managed to realise how the tournament was working and what the competition was like.
“I thought I found my form towards the end of the tournament.”
Dyson currently plays for Bendigo in the Melb. Utd VJBL and has represented Victoria three times at School Sport Australia national carnivals – twice of those in basketball.
His game is built on speed and a great basketball mind to back up his natural talent– with a mindset that rarely gets overwhelmed by the daunting tasks ahead.
With the team finding it hard going, Daniels did his best to inspire his team against the eventual tournament winner – Queensland North. He dug deep and did everything for his team, falling an incredible one steal shy of a miraculous triple-double.
18 points, 11 rebounds and nine steals later – he had made his biggest impact yet on the tournament and proved his capabilities against the best in the country.
“I found out I had nine steals with about five minutes left, so everyone was eager for me to get it, but I just couldn’t get it,” Daniels said. “My teammates all got around me and that was when I was in the starting five, so it was good to impress the coaches.”
It was in that game, the last of the group stage, when Victoria Country started to gel as a team. From there the results started to pan out as they finished off the tournament with a win over West Australia Country to secure the 11th place finish.
“We played West Australia Country in the last game to play for 11th,” Daniels said. “They beat us earlier in the tournament but we managed to beat them by 37.
“We were playing our best basketball at the end of the tournament, which was good.”
After such a breakout Championships for Dyson, there were plenty of takeaways that will help him as he continues his basketball career.
High calibre preparation, the need to be switched on instantly are core factors he’ll take from the experience.
“I learnt that you always have to come prepared because if you’re not, they’re going to pounce on you.” Dyson said.
“When we played New South Wales Country, we were down 22 at an early stage.
“Our warm-up wasn’t very good and no one was prepared, so we had to fight back and ended up only losing by two points.”
Fans of country Victoria basketball would be very familiar with the Daniels family name. His dad, Ricky is a legend of Bendigo basketball, with his #23 retired by the Bendigo Braves.
Dyson acknowledges his dad as the reason he started playing basketball.
“He’s a good role model for me and he’s probably the one that got me into basketball,” Daniels said. “In the backyard he’s always pushing me and making me work on things that I haven’t done as well as what I should be doing.
“He’s been a very big motivation to me.”
The many hours of driving are something that those who live in the country have to deal with. Dyson’s mother Brikitta Kool-Daniels says the family has become accustomed to the long drives.
“Initially, it was hard but I have to say it has just become a part of our lives now.” she said. “We’ve been doing it for so many years – it takes a lot of coordination and together with my husband, who thankfully doesn’t mind driving.
“You just find a way to do it when you’re proud of your kids and the opportunities that they get.”
Kool-Daniels credited the way the tournament was run and highlighted the great insight players received on preparation.
“As well as actually playing the games, the week is phenomenal in every aspect,” Kool-Daniels said.
The daily preparation included morning activation, warm-ups, recovery, video analysis of both themselves and opposition… all stand out to the family. Daniels himself really enjoyed the that aspect of the tournament and said it was a major step forward in his basketball journey.
“That was the first time I’ve ever done something like that, so it was a step in my career in getting to know what it’s like on the big stage,” Daniels said.
With potential and the work ethic to match, he has his sights set on pushing himself to the highest level possible.
“I like to set small goals first, so I just want to keep making state teams,” Daniels said. “Then after that, push onto the bigger things like Australian teams and colleges and the NBA… I want to keep taking it to the next level.”
Daniels would like to thank his parents for all their support and all his coaches that have pushed him to become a better player.