Dawn McDaniel didn’t know this would be happening so soon. The mother of Paul VI freshman guard Knasir “Dug” McDaniel, a 5-foot-10 point guard for one of the top boys' basketball teams in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, had assumed her son would receive national recognition at some point, just not quite yet.
The past couple of months, McDaniel has watched as the number of her son’s Instagram followers has skyrocketed to more than 11,800. Since December, multiple media groups, including SLAM, Ballislife and HoopDiamonds, have created highlight videos of Dug, generating hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.
Dug hasn’t even finished his first high school season, yet here he is, the latest guard from tradition-rich Paul VI to make waves on a national stage, celebrated for his court vision, ballhandling ability, and shot-creating opportunities. And his mother, lovingly known to some as “Momma LaVar” — a comparison to the outspoken father of Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball that is made because of her tendency to be very vocal from the bleachers during Dug’s games — is starting to realize what her son is becoming in the eyes of others.
“It is a little mind-blowing, it’s ninth grade,” said McDaniel, who thought Dug’s process for choosing the right high school in the Washington area was overwhelming enough. “He’s still a little fetus, a little baby.”
In Monday’s game against fellow WCAC powerhouse DeMatha, Dug continued to put on display his growing skill set, despite the lopsided 78-57 loss. Dug scored 13 points, including the first five of the game for Paul VI, in addition to dishing out two assists and collecting two rebounds. Late in the game, Dug was showered with “He’s a freshman!” chants from the Paul VI student section.
He followed that up with a team-high 18 points in Paul VI’s 64-56 win over Bishop McNamara Tuesday night, adding four assists, four steals and two rebounds.
It has all served to make his mother very proud.
“She’s my best friend,” Dug said. “Anything I do, it’s for my mom.”
Back in early December was the first time McDaniel realized what her son was about to become. Paul VI was playing against nationally ranked Montverde Academy during National Hoopfest, an annual tournament pitting some of the top local teams against national programs. Paul VI had opened the season on a three-game win streak, despite losing their top two guards — five-star Jeremy Roach and Virginia Tech signee Anthony Harris — to knee injuries before the season.
Up to that point, Dug, who picked up two offers from George Washington and Mount St. Mary’s in September before playing a single high school game, had been fairly under the radar. But when he came off the bench against Montverde and proceeded to dish a no-look pass in the paint, score a driving scoop layup past two defenders and execute another great pass in transition, the D.C. crowd erupted each time. Soon after the game, a video from HoopDiamonds was titled: “5′9 FRESHMAN STEALS THE SHOW vs Montverde Academy!!” Another from Ballislife read: “9th Grader GOES AT The #1 Team In America!! Dug [McDaniel] is FEARLESS!”
“I couldn’t believe it the way the crowd responded to him,” said McDaniel. “He would do the simplest thing like make a pass and they would be screaming and I would be like, ‘What did he do?’
“That was definitely when it was like, ‘Uh, oh. It’s happening.’”
Wake Forest offered Dug after his performance against Montverde, and recently he has gotten mail from Virginia, Louisville, Tulane and Oklahoma State. He has also received interest from Georgetown, Kentucky and Clemson.
After the Montverde game, which Paul VI lost 57-50, McDaniel said Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello joked they couldn’t tell Dug how good he was until March, because if they started now, he would get too comfortable. After all, at that point, he was only four games into his high school career.
McDaniel said that she is letting Farello and Keith Stevens, the coach of D.C.-based AAU program Team Takeover, for which Dug plays, help guide her when it comes to handling Dug’s college recruitment. Dawn’s father, Skip McDaniel, who played for Carroll in the WCAC as a point guard, has also been helpful in what she describes as her “first rodeo.”
And while McDaniel says she has felt less nervous when it comes to watching Dug’s games, she is still cautious of everything that happens away from the court. As a way to help ease her mind, she is logged onto Dug’s social media accounts, keeping track of media members trying to reach Dug directly. Dug says he doesn’t mind. He knows it’s his mom just being his mom.
“I definitely try to tame it and keep it at a minimum,” McDaniel said. “We don’t want to puff it up too much. Just let it play out on its own.”
With Paul VI’s regular season play wrapping up soon, another showcase opportunity for Dug will present itself through the WCAC playoffs, which always draws a national audience. McDaniel says she’ll continue to be her son’s “biggest fan,” cheering loudly from behind the Paul VI bench, all while knowing things could continue to get crazier as his high school playing career progresses.
“We are just scratching the surface,” McDaniel said. “It is just the beginning.”
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