The defining moment for former Tulane guard Caleb Daniels on his visit to Villanova earlier this month came during a game of 1-on-1 with Wildcats guard Collin Gillespie.
Daniels had spent his two-day visit on the hearing about what’s known as “Villanova basketball” and he got a chance to see it up close. And it wasn’t exactly pretty.
“They’re hard on them and I can see it by the way Collin plays,” Daniels said Friday in a telephone interview. “He plays really hard, man. He embodies what Villanova basketball truly is. That’s something that really appealed to me.
“We played 1-on-1 and he put a beat down on me. I’m not going to lie. After the workout, we were talking and I told him, ‘Thank you for busting my a-word.’ I gave props to him. I said, ‘Man, that’s something that I really want to be a part of.’ That’s the one thing that solidified everything.”
So one week after he returned home to New Orleans, Daniels, a 6-foot-4 guard who played his first two seasons at Tulane, announced on Twitter that he would transfer to Villanova. He will sit out the 2019-20 season and have two years of eligibility remaining.
Daniels last season averaged 16.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists for a Green Wave team that finished 4-27 and did not win a game in the American Athletic Conference. He led his team and finished seventh in the AAC in scoring.
Daniels declared for the NBA Draft after the season and worked out for the Boston Celtics. He kept open the possibility that he could return to Tulane but it was his one visit, to Villanova and coach Jay Wright, that convinced him to move on.
He said the one thing that Wright told him that stood out the most was to experience the feeling on campus.
“If you don’t feel it, then there’s no use for this visit,” Daniels quoted Wright as saying. “If you can feel this stuff, and you can feel the vibes and everything, then you need to be a part of this family.
“After that final dinner at Coach’s house, I sat down with my parents and said, ‘This is where I need to be. This is the place that’s going to help me take good care of my future, make me a better person and a ballplayer.’ I truly felt as if everyone was tight-knit and that it was a family, and that’s something that I really wanted to be a part of.”
As for his playing style, he described himself as an unselfish team player who will score “when I need to score.” He added that he “would like to say that I’m a two-way guy but I feel I can play a lot harder on defense to work to be that two-way player.”
He said Wright stressed to him the importance of working on his three-point shot. He shot 34.6 percent from beyond the arc last season and his 47 threes were best on the team.
Daniels is an excellent student. He was the valedictorian at St. Augustine’s High School in New Orleans, the same alma mater as that of Kerry Kittles, Villanova’s all-time leading scorer. Daniels and Kittles talked during his visit.
“He was just pretty much telling me that this school is pretty much an extension of my high school,” he said. “At my high school, everybody pushed you to your maximum limit to be the young man you’re supposed to be – a disciplined, intelligent black young man. I feel as if Villanova can also be an extension of that, and playing for Jay Wright is an extension of that as well.”