Daniel leaves foolish ways behind to lead CSUN

Gilberto Manzano

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Last season Lenny Daniel led the Matadors in rebounding and broke CSUN’s single-season blocking record. Photo Credit: Misael Virgen / Assistant Photo Editor

Last season, Lenny Daniel’s passion to win was both harmful and helpful for the Matadors.

It was as if CSUN had its own basketball version of Randy Moss, Daniel’s favorite athlete growing up.

Similar to how Moss is viewed in the NFL, Daniel is one of the top talents in the Big West Conference. He and his team suffered due to his occasionally poor attitude and behavior.

In his first season as a Matador, the senior forward was named an All-Big West Conference Honorable Mention but was suspended twice for conduct detrimental to the team and for not meeting grade requirements.

Daniel said his frustration of being on a losing team got the best of him last season, as the Matadors finished with an 11-21 record.

“The losing frustrated me. I’m a competitor,” said Daniel, who led CSUN in rebounding with 7.8 per game and scored 11.7 points per game a year ago. “I’ve never been on a losing squad like that, but it was a wakeup call because it shows talent doesn’t mean everything.”

For the upcoming season, Daniel has decided to emulate the character of Kevin Garnett on and off the court. Daniel, who wears number five in honor of Garnett, wants to provide leadership to the Matadors similar to how the all-star forward does for the Celtics.

Daniel said his days of being a distraction to the team are behind him.

“The summer has helped me mature a lot as far as being a better teammate, a better listener to the coaches. All that foolishness with me is gone,” said Daniel, who transferred to CSUN from Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. “I don’t have time for that anymore because I have to be a better teammate and I have to stay on the court.”

CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell sees the difference in Daniel’s character compared to last season.

“He’s matured and grown up quite a bit. He’s not the same Lenny and that’s good to see,” Braswell said. “He’s taken care of his academic responsibility as well, so he’s really stepped up doing the things we need him to do.”

Braswell said not letting Daniel play in CSUN’s Big West Tournament first-round loss against Cal State Fullerton after he failed to meet grade requirements was a learning experience for Daniel.

“Probably the best thing that happened to him was us leaving him home in the tournament last year,” Braswell said. “I know it probably hurt us from a basketball stand point, but overall I think he’s grown tremendously from that.”

Teammate Rashaun McLemore wants Daniel to be a leader to the 10 new players, eight of who are freshmen on the Northridge roster.

“He has to be a leader. He’s a senior and has a lot of new guys looking up to him,” said McLemore, who is a close friend of Daniel from their days growing up in Richmond, Virginia. “He can’t make any mistakes.”

Besides working on his leadership skills, Daniel wants to build on his success on the hardwood. Last season, the 6-foot-8 Daniel broke CSUN’s single-season blocking record with 44 and led the Big West with 1.5 blocks per game.

The transition from junior college to Division-I level was difficult for Daniel, as he quickly learned players are a lot stronger and more physical.

Daniel, who admits he weighed 190 last year instead of 210 as most media guides stated, gained 15 pounds of muscle to compete against the top teams.
The Matadors open the season at UCLA then travel to Cal, but the Virginia born Daniel is mostly looking forward to facing Virginia Tech at the 76 Classic. Daniel knows many of the guys on the Hokie roster, as he played against them in high school.

He said the rebounding and blocking will continue, but that he has improved in other areas.

“My ball handling has improved, also my shot. I can make a 15-footer now I’m a better player,” said Daniel.