Sports

NC State guard Devon Daniels found his game and coach Kevin Keatts saw it coming

N.C. State’s Devon Daniels (24) drives past Western Carolina’s Marcus Thomas (21) during the first half of N.C. State’s game against Western Carolina at Valvano Arena at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018.
N.C. State’s Devon Daniels (24) drives past Western Carolina’s Marcus Thomas (21) during the first half of N.C. State’s game against Western Carolina at Valvano Arena at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Kevin Keatts noticed the way Devon Daniels practiced in the days before N.C. State’s game with Western Carolina at Reynolds Coliseum.

“I thought he was locked in,” Keatts said.

To the point that Keatts made a prediction.

“I told my assistant coaches, that he would have a great game in here,” Keatts said.

Daniels did with a season-high 21 points in N.C. State’s 100-67 win over the Catamounts. The 6-5, 200-pound sophomore guard made three 3-pointers and played with confidence.

Now Keatts has an idea of how to keep the transfer guard from Utah on a roll.

“I’m going to petition to see if we can play half of our ACC games in Reynolds,” Keatts said.

That’s not going to happen but Daniels would like to keep the hot hand. The Wolfpack (8-1) faces Penn State (4-4) in the Boardwalk Classic in Atlantic City, N.J. on Saturday, Dec. 15 (2 p.m., ESPNU).

Daniels had struggled before the outburst against WCU. In the first eight games of the season, he averaged 8.1 points per game. He made 37.5 percent (24 of 64) of his field goals and was 22.2 percent from the 3-point line (6 of 27).

“I think I was just over-thinking it,” Daniels said. “I was just worried about trying to get comfortable. When I just settled down, kept it simple, trust the offense, it came a lot easier.”

Daniels kept it simple against WCU. He showed off his midrange game and was aggressive. He had 16 points in the first half, while the rest of N.C. State’s lineup got off to a slow start.

With Markell Johnson, Torin Dorn and C.J. Bryce getting off to a strong start, Daniels has tried to find his niche.

At Utah, he averaged 9.9 points and 4.6 rebounds as a freshman in 2016-17. He practiced with the Wolfpack last season but had to sit out under NCAA rules.

He is one of nine newcomers on N.C. State’s roster this season and one of five eligible transfers.

Sophomore guard Blake Harris, a Missouri transfer, had a season-high 15 points in the win over WCU. Keatts was asked about Harris’ breakout scoring game.

“Because we have so many new pieces, one by one you’ll see guys start to play a little bit better because they’re starting to get comfortable with the system,” Keatts said.

The same can said of Daniels. The more comfortable he gets, the better off N.C. State will be.

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