Daniels will walk on at Alabama

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 5, 2003

The Daniels house will be a little quieter and a good bit shorter after today.

Former Charles Henderson High School basketball star guard LaKory Daniels will move his belongings to Tuscaloosa. He begins classes Tuesday, and he will try to walk on at the University of Alabama.

But for an aspiring basketball star, Daniels spent an unusual final Friday at home. He mowed the yard before keeping "a date at the gym" to play a game of pickup basketball.

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Daniels found the situation humorous.

"My dad has a riding mower, he won't even work up a sweat," Daniels said. "But I'm out here pushing."

Daniels' dad is Vaughn Daniels, the youth coordinator at the Troy Parks

and Recreation Department. Vaughn is an Alabama fan, but LaKory grew up cheering for the blue-and-orange Tigers of Auburn.

However, Auburn stopped recruiting him, and, although Alabama did not offer Daniels a scholarship, the Tide did give him a chance to prove himself. He was offered scholarships by smaller schools, but decided the opportunity to walk on at an SEC school was too good to pass up.

"I've been talking with coach (Mark) Gottfried all summer" Daniels said. "He told me if I can prove myself this year, I have a chance to earn a scholarship next year."

Daniels will likely have a solid chance to earn some playing time as a freshman. Alabama struggled from the field last season, shooting a combined 32 percent from three-point range.

Daniels is a solid three-point shooter, who works on his shooting three-to-four days a week. His best game of his senior season earned him Gottfried's attention, but also nearly made Gottfried sick.

When Wilcox-Central and Michael Williams came to Troy, Gottfried visited Charles Henderson to watch Williams (who has since committed to Texas).

Daniels scored 31 points in the game, and was torrid from three-point range.

"When (Daniels) came off a screen and hit a three-pointer, Mark and I sat up and said, 'Whoa' said Troy State assistant women's basketball coach

and former Alabama player Joni Crenshaw. Crenshaw worked in the men's basketball office under Gottfried and met him at the airport that night. "By the end of the game, Mark was sick because he didn't have a scholarship to offer him."

Daniels is not scared about the challenge in front of him. He has already played with some of the players on the team when he visited the campus earlier this summer.

"They seem to be pretty cool," Daniels said.

Even though he has little experience playing against college players, he has already noticed a difference between high school and college.

"In high school, it's a lot slower," Daniels said. "It was too slow for me. I'm not trying to say I was faster than everyone, but the pace was slow. You had more time to think.

"In college, everyone can play. You have to react more. On a 2-on-1, you

don't have time to think, you just have to react."

Daniels will have to think when he is outside Coleman Coliseum, though. He did not enroll in New College or declare a criminal justice or public relations major.

Instead, Daniels enrolled in the college of engineering and will try to earn a degree electrical engineering.

"I'm trying to be the first basketball player to graduate from the engineering school,"

Daniels said. "Coach Gottfried looked kind of surprised, but he said, 'If you think you can do it.'"

Not only does Daniels think he can do it, he thinks he can do it well. He graduated in the upper 10 percent of his class at Charles Henderson while playing basketball.

"I hope to work for a large company one day," Daniels said. "I want to design products for a major company like Sony or Pioneer."

Before he joins the corporate world, though, Daniels is looking forward to playing in front of the fans at Coleman Coliseum. Alabama was the SEC champ only two years ago, and the student body fills the end zone section with a club called "Mark's Madness."

Of course, Daniels knows he has to change his wardrobe to keep the Tide fans happy.

"I threw all my Auburn stuff out," Daniels said. "I will still keep one

Auburn shirt, but I won't take it with me."

This football season may be a tad different for Daniels as well. Since he grew up cheering for Auburn, he may have some mixed emotions when Alabama and Auburn face each other on the football field.

"I may just wear a white shirt and remain neutral," Daniels said. "No, I'm just kidding. I'll be for the Tide."