During the holidays, a friend of mine came to visit from Cleveland. He clearly fell in love with how beautiful this city is.
He then asked a question I didn’t have an answer for. He asked me, “Who is the biggest sports star in San Diego?”
At first I thought of Rashaad Penny, but he is off to the NFL. Then I thought Wil Myers, but after his 2017 season I’m not sure he qualifies as a star. After my friend left to return home to Ohio, the question stuck with me. But this past Saturday, I think I saw the player that will become a household name around San Diego in the not too distant future.
SDSU freshman forward Jalen McDaniels could be that man.
When the Washington native came out of high school, he was the 98th ranked player in his recruiting class. At age 19, he already has NBA height and it is only a matter of time until he builds up his frame.
When I see McDaniels play, I see the potential of a young Kawhi Leonard.
I’m not saying that McDaniels will become an NBA all-star, but when you look at their respective per-40 minutes stats through their first 14 career SDSU games, McDaniels has better numbers across the board than the former Aztec great. With quality coaching, the sky is limit for this kid.
Obviously, to become a star, you need to play for a winner. In college basketball, that means getting to the NCAA tournament, and once you are there you have to make some noise.
So far this season, SDSU has been very inconsistent. Their best basketball should still be ahead as they grow as a unit. Starting in February, SDSU will start challenging for the Mountain West regular season championship. I expect this team to grow by leaps and bounds between now and March, and that is when I think Jalen McDaniels will become a household name in San Diego.
I think the Aztecs will find a way to win the Mountain West tournament and dance their way into March Madness. The magnitude of those games will give McDaniels a chance to shine on a national stage.
Although he’s not a very polished shooter, he has a decent inside game and is an absolute terror on the offensive glass. Given those qualities, I think that he can lead SDSU to be somewhat of a “Cinderella” team come March. But even if the team fails to make the NCAA tournament, there’s no question that McDaniels has as big an upside as anyone that has played for the Aztec program. The fact that he is just a freshman gives San Diego plenty of time to fall in love with him, the man who I believe is our next star.