WASHINGTON – After the UConn men’s and women’s teams were honored by President Obama in the East Room of the White House, they spoke for a few minutes in what they call the “stake out area,” outside the West Wing.
It was the first chance to catch up with DeAndre Daniels, since he announced his decision to leave UConn on April 25 and go to into the NBA Draft.
“It’s great to go out on top, win a national championship, and great to come here. But it’s another sad part. I definitely did not want to leave UConn, but I had to [make] the best decision. Just moving forward and take this whole process. I’m ready to make the next step in my life.”
“[After] sitting down with my family and the coaching staff and trying to figure out what was the best situation for me, me and my family kind of felt it was the best decision for me to leave.”
Daniels said he’s had seven workouts for NBA teams, and has seven more to go. Next up is Cleveland. He flew back to Connecticut on Sunday to be able to join his former teammates for the trip to Washington.
“I’m just enjoying this whole process,” he said. “It’s tough doing all this flying, all these workouts back to back, but this is basketball, this is what I signed up for.”
Shabazz Napier is going through the same process, with the draft a little more than two weeks away, on June 26.
“I’m just kind of taking it in stride. Not looking for best feedback. No, it’s never about [where you ate picked]. At the end of the day the point is to put myself in the best position possible. Continue to work hard and do the things I’ve done that got me here.”
As the players were leaving the East Room, Napier said, The President whispered to him that there is room for him on the Bulls, which is Obama’s favorite team.
At the podium, Obama lauded Kevin Ollie for having his team “hit the books as hard as they hit the boards.”
“That’s what we want for our identity, coach Calhoun wanted that same identity. We want to go out and try to be special people, not just on the basketball court but in the classroom, being special in what we have to do. That’s what those guys do, it’s what makes them great student athletes and makes me proud to be their coach.
… President Obama is a person that always responds with courage and these are the kinds of things I tell them in practices, being steady in games, responding to adversity. President Obama does those things, and his humility, you see that each and every time he speaks he is always thanking others. That’s what we want our kids to understand each and every day they walk on our campus, when we are away visiting another team – it’s what they represent. They are doing a wonderful job of it so far.
… Growing up in Crenshaw, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be in the presence of the president of the United States, shaking his hand, doing the things I’ve been able to do. But it’s real simple, it’s w-o-r-k. When you work and do it the right way, great things happen to you, opportunities happen to you, doors open that you didn’t [think of], but you create it by doing everything right. That’s what we pride ourselves on.
And our guys looked sharp today. That brings a smile to my face, to see them in ties, representing the University, but also representing their parents and where they come from. It was a beautiful day. This is going to be the last time this group is going to be together and it’s sad, but also good, because it was a great group and a great time that we were able to perform throughout the season.”