June 1, 2020 

Hardwood hype: Brianna McDaniel has next

Brianna McDaniel looks like Chicago's next basketball star

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(Photo courtesy of Chicago Hoops Express coach Jerald Davis)

Since the age of five, Brianna McDaniel has loved the game of basketball. As a kid, she enjoyed balancing basketball with other sports, most notably gymnastics. However, it didn’t take long for her passion and love for basketball to take over.

McDaniel plays for Kenwood High School in Chicago and plays AAU for the Chicago Hoops Express program. That program is led by head coach Jerald Davis.

In being from Chicago, there were no shortages of basketball stars for McDaniel to look up to, enjoy, and model her game after, as Chicago has a strong and rich basketball history. For McDaniel, whose favorite team was the Chicago Bulls, there was no one more fun to watch and to model her game after than Derrick Rose.

“I just love how he played (growing up). I wanted to be like him and perfect my game like him,” McDaniel told The Next. While she still roots for the hometown team, McDaniel made one thing clear: “I watch everybody–I just love watching basketball.”

She also models her game after another hometown great, in the Chicago Sky’s Diamond DeShields. According to her AAU (Chicago Hoops Express) coach Jerald Davis, she also reminds him of a few other top players. “Desire “Dee Dee” Wheeler and Kathleen Doyle, who both played in the Hoops Express program and were WNBA draft picks.  I also see similarities in her game to Natasha Cloud (Washington Mystics). Her ability to score from all 3 levels, (her) toughness, explosiveness and leadership is what these 3 possess and I see bits and pieces of each in Bri’s game.

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Hoops Express coach Jerald Davis)

McDaniel’s passion for the game is far from just talk. Anyone who has seen her play can quickly see how much she loves it, how competitive she is while playing it, and the natural talent she possesses on the floor. Even though her talent is inarguable, she is far from complacent.

McDaniel is ranked No. 14 in the Blue Star Media rankings of prospects in the 2022 class, but it is to be noted that as of May 20, 2020, McDaniel is not listed in ESPN’s top-60 players in the 2022 class. Some believe she will be there soon, while others like myself, believe she should already be there.

“When I was younger, a lot of people doubted me,” McDaniel said. “What makes me stand apart (from others) is just how passionate I am and what I’ll do to help my team win.”

It isn’t just her passion. A lot of people are passionate, but the combination of passion, skill, talent, competitiveness, and work ethic, has helped McDaniel reach heights that will only continue to go higher. Her AAU coach only sees her continuing to get better as well.

Davis has certainly coached his share of great players. Desire “Dee Dee” Wheeler, Kathleen Doyle, Candace Parker, Khara Smith, Devereaux Peters, and Oregon commit Angela Dugalic ’20, are just a few of the players to come through his program. In speaking with Davis, it is easy to hear how impressed he is with how hard McDaniel works.  

“The fact that she works on her game daily and works on her body have also put her ahead of her peers,” Davis told The Next. “What I see is a kind and caring individual who has the ability to turn a switch and go from smiling one minute to being a basketball assassin the next.”

McDaniel ascribed her motivation to a “hatred of losing”, resulting in a tireless work ethic.

“If we don’t win, I’m going to be upset,” McDaniel said. “That’s just who I am. If we lose that night, the next day I’m in the gym working on things with my coach. What could I have done better?”

McDaniel, a 5’10 point guard, plays the game with a balance of speed, finesse, physicality, and toughness that consistently makes her the focal point for opposing teams and coaches every time out. According to Davis, “her most important skill in my estimation is her ability to handle the ball and easily move from place to place on the floor.  Handling the ball also includes her ability to pass and score the ball.”

As good of a scorer as McDaniel is, for her, the ability to pass the ball may just be her most important strength.

“I see passes that no one else sees,” she said. “There could be two people inside my teammate and me and I know I can make the pass. I pass it and have confidence (in my teammates.)”

That should be music to the ears of potential college coaches. A point guard who not only CAN pass, but LOVES to pass. Davis echoed this sentiment.

“Although Brianna can play with or without the ball her PG instincts are very easy to pick us because she is an elite level passer.  She does not waste dribbles, gets the ball up and down the court and has the ability to receive the ball back in any position on the floor and quickly adapt to the game.”

In speaking with Davis, one comment stood out. “She has the unique ability to control a possession without actually dominating the ball.” In an era of basketball that is becoming more and more dominated by spacing, sharing the basketball, and having players on the floor who do multiple things very well, this is such an important characteristic of being a great player.

That said, don’t get me wrong: McDaniel has the confidence of a player whose hands you want the ball in at the end of the game. She can also take over a game, if needed, but don’t ask her to recollect those moments.

“This is the crazy part about me. Some of the games I’ve taken over, I don’t remember.”

She relies on her parents to fill in the details after the game. The only thing on McDaniel’s mind during the game? Win. “That’s what they make film for.”

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Hoops Express coach Jerald Davis)

Like many other players in the 2021, 2022, and 2023 classes, McDaniel may be relying more on film this summer and into the fall, as the future of AAU this summer is in question. Many tournaments are planning on moving forward with having their tournaments, as the Run for the Roses in Louisville and the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chicago have plans in place to give teams and student-athletes an opportunity to compete. While those plans are different, and there is still much to sort out in terms of logistics and ensuring the safety of all involved, one thing is certain: college coaches will not be in attendance. They will be able to watch live streams and film, but will not be court-side.

“I just want to play and be with my teammates and coaches,” McDaniel said. “I hope we can play so I can show the coaches the difference in my game from last summer to this summer. I’ve gotten much bigger and stronger, and I hope coaches can see that.”

While we all hope that McDaniel and others are able to play this July, she is certainly on the radar of some of the country’s top programs. She currently holds 22 Division I offers including the likes of DePaul, Marquette, Michigan State, Penn State, Michigan, Miami, Purdue, Missouri, and Illinois to name a few. With plenty of time remaining in her high school career, that list will undoubtedly grow.

“I’m looking for a school that fits all of my needs,” she said. “I want the program to feel like a family. I want to be able to talk with my coaches and teammates, and I want to feel like my teammates are my sisters.”

McDaniel will have the opportunity to choose from a long list of schools that will hopefully fit all of her needs. Whichever program and coach she chooses, they will not only be getting a fierce competitor, but according to her, they will also be getting “a sweetheart.” “I’m very goofy. I’m just that type of person. If you get to know me, I’m a very nice person. I’m a sweetheart!”

I tried to get to know McDaniel a little better by asking her a few important questions:

What is your favorite movie: “Lion King”

Who is the GOAT? “Michael Jordan and Diana Taurasi”

What is your favorite restaurant: “Benihana”

What city in the USA has the best basketball? “Chicago. Chicago basketball is a different breed.”

That strong, rich basketball history that Chicago has is about to get even better. Get to know the name Brianna McDaniel.

Written by Matt Ward

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