By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
Dantiel “Tiel” Daniels (B.A., ’16) will receive his master’s degree in education and human resource studies during spring commencement ceremonies this weekend. It’s a phenomenal vindication for a young man born with lead poisoning, diagnosed with learning disabilities in reading and writing, and told he would be fortunate to graduate from high school. And it’s an accomplishment which has coincided with a basketball journey that has taken him to three continents.
Daniels played center/forward at Wentzville Holt High School in Missouri then was recruited to play at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He transferred to CSU as a junior. The Rams had a 27-7 record his senior year, and he had 260 total rebounds, second only to Emmanuel Omogbo with 264. At one point the team was nationally ranked.
After graduation, Daniels played professional basketball in Salo, Finland, where he struggled to adapt to a language he did not speak and to the darkness and cold weather. He learned how to invest in and take care of his body and not to turn right on red, even when no one was coming, as per Finnish law
Returning to CSU as a graduate assistant, he found a joy in school he had not experienced before; he could see the relevance of the graduate classes to his goal of coaching at the collegiate level. Yet the knowledge that he could still play tugged at him, and after one year, he resumed his professional basketball career in Montevideo, Uruguay. Adapting to a new language and culture was much easier this time. His first game was a triumph; he was a perfect 6 for 6 from the free throw line, 9 for 9 from the field, and ended with a double double—24 points and 12 rebounds. He grew to love the family atmosphere in Uruguay, and his great play continued.
This past season he played on Chinese teams in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Ningbo, winning back-to-back tournament championships and playing even better than he had in Uruguay. He also played tourist, visiting many places in China and vacationing in South Korea. He has photos of himself in interesting places, posing with much shorter locals, all of whom are beaming broadly.
While in China, Daniels completed the final two courses for the master’s degree online. He and a cheering section of nearly 30 family and friends will be in Fort Collins for commencement. What is he planning next? He wants to finish his autobiography, the first of several books he plans to write. He also is starting a nonprofit organization “to serve kids who are growing up as I did and to give them opportunities they would not have otherwise.” In addition, he will be playing professional basketball in Argentina.
Daniels loves CSU and says transferring “was the best decision of my life.” He speaks warmly of the beautiful campus, the “amazing people” he met, and “the opportunity to play basketball on a larger platform.” In his memories, “the sun is always shining in Fort Collins.”