Howard University’s James Daniel is their all time leading scorer and leads the nation at over 27 points per game. (Courtesy: Howard Sports Information)
The game plan by has been the same all season every time Howard University junior guard James Daniel takes the floor. From Tommy Amaker at Harvard to Todd Bozeman at Morgan State all have tried to deny him the basketball and make it tough for him to get his shot.
However, it hasn’t worked.
Daniel began the season for Howard by scoring over 30 points in four of his first six games and hasn’t been stopped yet. He has led the nation in scoring since December and is averaging nearly 28 points per game. Daniel may be the single most dangerous player in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with his ability to win a game by himself.
“If there’s one guy who can do it “Jaybird” can do it,” said Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry. “The bigger the stage the better he plays”.
Nickelberry noticed his future star while coaching at Hampton University during summer camp. He watched Daniel grow from an undersized shooter who had range beyond his years. Before he was a teenager Daniel stood out as a scorer who had a knack for making shots. During his days at Phoebus High in Hampton he served notice of things to come by earning Tri State Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2013.
“I watched him grow from a little kid making shots in camp to one of the best shooters in the Tidewater area,” said Nickelberry.
Daniel became Howard’s all-time leading scorer with 38 points against Maryland-Eastern Shore on February 16. It was a mark that stood for 50 years and with another year of eligibility his record could last into the next century. He will finish this regular season with over 1,800 points and, barring injury, he figures to make a run at the MEAC all time mark of 2,225 held by Tom Davis of Delaware State next year. Daniel is also the first Bison basketball player to score over 1,000 points in his first two seasons.
The statistics don’t tell the real story of Daniel’s greatness. In three years he has been the catalyst for teams that have been plagued by injuries. This season Howard lost the other half of their backcourt James Miller and starting power forward Samuel Mangum who have not played since mid-December. That forced Daniel to elevate his scoring but he leads the Bison in assists.
“I’ve never been one to make excuses,” Daniel said. “You have to go out and play with who is healthy and make it work. I just knew I had to step my game up and try to stay in tight mode. It’s about the end result”.
Daniel is a prolific scorer but who is masterful at directing Howard’s offense as well. Considering that on many occasions his teammates have not been able to cash in on the way he sets them up, he could be amongst the nation’s leader in that category also. Nickelberry acknowledges that Daniel is not the atypical point guard but he’s not trying to change his game after the injuries that have set them back.
“I’ve got the same confidence in him that he has in me,” said Daniel. “He’s does a great job putting us in position to be successful”.
The impact of Daniel’s legacy will live as the player who turned the program around. In the last 29 years Howard has won 10 or more games only six times. However, three of those seasons have been with Daniel on the floor. There already seems to be a place for his retired jersey number in the rafters of Burr Gym after his career.