Dyson Daniels, the No. 18 prospect in the ESPN 2022 mock draft, has signed with the NBA's G League Ignite program, he told ESPN Sunday.
"I feel that this is the best pathway for me to get to my ultimate goal: the NBA," Daniels said. "It has every resource I need in really good development, a great coaching staff and great competition to go against every day."
The 18-year-old Daniels, considered the best non-draft-eligible young prospect in Australia, is the first highly touted player the G League Ignite have landed from outside the United States high school system, representing a shift in the program's recruitment. He joins five-star high school recruits Jaden Hardy, Scoot Henderson and Michael Foster on Ignite's roster for the 2021-22 season.
Chinese prospect Fanbo Zeng, who previously committed to play for Gonzaga after attending Windermere Prep in Florida, also announced that he'll be joining the Ignite via a statement posted on his Weibo account in April. His signing has also not yet been officially consummated.
Daniels, a 6-foot-6, long-armed guard, burst onto the NBA radar screens when he received a call-up to represent his home country's senior national team in the FIBA window in February and took full advantage of the opportunity, posting 23 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 6 steals in a shellacking of New Zealand.
Daniels is currently training with the Australian national team in its preparations for the FIBA U19 World Cup, which starts on July 3 in Latvia. Australia is in the same group as the United States, which is expected to bring several projected lottery picks such as Chet Holmgren, Patrick Baldwin, Peyton Watson and Kennedy Chandler, representing a stern test for Daniels and a significant opportunity to kick-start his 2022 NBA draft campaign.
As an international prospect, Daniels is not bound by the same rules as U.S.-high school-based players who become automatically eligible for the next NBA draft immediately upon signing a professional contract, and thus has the option of spending multiple years with Ignite if he so chooses. However, Daniels says his focus is on getting to the NBA as quickly as possible.
"My aim is to be one and done," Daniels said. "I know that with my work ethic in getting in the gym extra hours is going to give me the best chance at getting drafted. I'm going to do everything I can to get drafted and get drafted early."
The son of American expat Ricky Daniels, who went to college at North Carolina State and played professionally in Australia, Daniels spurned offers to stay home and join the NBL Next Stars program, as well as college basketball scholarships from the likes of Oklahoma, Houston, NC State, Arkansas, Colorado, Saint Mary's and others, he told ESPN.
"I felt like growing up and always playing against men and people older than me that I was ready to take the step into the pro world, so college was the first option I eliminated," Daniels said. "I felt like trying to make the NBA, Ignite has the best development and learning to play the NBA playing style is going to help benefit me more."
Daniels is the first major prospect Ignite have landed out of the NBA Global Academy, having spent the past two years developing in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport. The NBA has long envisioned a pathway from its Academy program to the NBA with a stopover in the G League. Daniels' signing will be one it will look to replicate in the future.
Daniels says the move is a natural progression for him.
"I'm coming from the NBA Academy where I'm already living away from home and training every day. I am ready to adapt to the new lifestyle and living in a new country too.
"I'm not too sure who exactly I'll be playing against, but I know that it's going to be tough competition and there's going to be challenges to face. I know that every day in practice I'll be going against some quality American high schoolers as well as some veterans who I will be able to learn from. I'm not sure what the schedule will look like but I'm going to be ready to play whether it be a normal season or more of like a bubble-type season."
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and International teams.