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Daniels is warming up for the Huskies

Hartford - UConn freshman DeAndre Daniels is searching for his comfort zone on and off the basketball court.

Daniels, who's from Los Angeles, is adjusting to the cold New England weather. He enjoyed his first snowball fight recently.

He's warming up to his UConn teammates, too, gaining confidence with each passing week and fitting into the system.

In UConn's final exhibition tune-up, Daniels showed off his versatility in a 91-61 rout of C.W. Post Sunday at the XL Center. He ran the floor and scored off dunks, fired in two 3-pointers, set up teammates with nice passes and used his long arms to block and alter shots.

"DeAndre Daniels looked like a complete basketball player," coach Jim Calhoun said. "He handled the ball well, threw a couple of really good passes. He's going to make shots because he's a good shooter. And defensively, he was really, really good."

An athletic, long 6-foot-8 forward, Daniels came off the bench to contribute 13 points, three assists and four blocks in a productive 18 minutes. Sophomore Jeremy Lamb led the way with 23 points and freshman Andre Drummond added 16 points and 10 rebounds while sophomore Shabazz Napier added 14 points and 13 assists.

"I was a little more comfortable out there," Daniels said. "Obviously, the first game I was nervous. I felt more comfortable with the offense and my teammates found me out and I just knocked down open shots."

Imagine what Daniels could do once he really settles in.

Few people in recruiting circles figured that Daniels, who attended IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., would land at UConn. He had never visited the Storrs campus before announcing his decision in June. Texas, Oregon and Kansas were considered the front-runners.

The Huskies scored a recruiting coup with Daniels. But the buzz surrounding the arrival of Drummond, the former St. Thomas More standout, overshadowed Daniels, a highly-regarded recruit of his own right.

Daniels has impressed the coaching staff with his play in practice and during two exhibition games.

"He has a chance to be a great shooter some day," Calhoun said. "Right now, he's not as strong as he needs to be and he doesn't always get shot ready. But he can really stroke it. I happen to be sitting out there about an hour and a half before the game and (assistant coach) Kevin (Ollie) was feeding him the ball, he shoots the 3-point shot very, very easily."

Daniels contributed to a 25-1 spurt that turned a slim lead into a 42-11 advantage with 4:52 remaining in the first half. He scored consecutive baskets, nailing a 3-pointer from the wing and then finishing off a fast break with a dunk. The Huskies led, 54-21, at the break.

"I can do a lot of different things on the court, whatever the coach needs me to do," Daniels said. "Plus, I run the floor. I see myself as a complete player but obviously not today because I had one rebound."

Calhoun is encouraging all the Huskies to rebound better; C.W. Post had 24 offensive rebounds. He'd like to see junior Alex Oriakhi play with more energy. Turnovers (21) also were an issue Sunday.

Depth is another problem.

With freshman Ryan Boatright out indefinitely while the NCAA reviews his eligibility, Napier is handling the majority of point guard duties.

Right now, freshman Brendan Allen, a walk-on from Windsor, is the backup.

"I'm happy with him," Calhoun said of Allen. "With more work, he's going to help us particularly with the situation we have right now. The situation with Ryan Boatright, we don't know the solution to."

The Huskies also were without sophomore Niels Griffey who's sidelined with a hyper-extended right knee and bruise bone in his right ankle. He wore a protective boot on Sunday. Calhoun is unsure whether Giffey will be ready for Friday's season opener against Columbia.

g.keefe@theday.com

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