Less than two years ago, he electrified the Washington high school basketball scene with high-flying dunks and high-octane scoring.
Then, he took a fast-track to the NBA.
Former Federal Way standout Jaden McDaniels was selected with the 28th overall pick in Wednesday’s NBA Draft. The late first round selection will head to the Minnesota Timberwolves through a trade. The Los Angeles Lakers made the pick.
The ESPN broadcast showed a live shot of McDaniels celebrating with his family in Renton.
McDaniels is the first Washington native picked in the 2020 Draft and is now the fourth player in Federal Way program history to be drafted. He follows Donny Marshall, a second round pick in 1995 (39th overall to Cleveland), Michael Dickerson, who the Houston Rockets chose as the 14th overall pick in 1998 Jalen McDaniels, Jaden’s older brother, who Charlotte selected as the 52nd pick in 2019.
McDaniels broke Marshall’s single-game scoring record at Federal Way on senior night, when he erupted for 51 points during a 106-42 win over Todd Beamer.
Federal Way coach Yattah Reed watched intently on Wednesday, saying that he was waiting to see which team’s jersey he needed to buy with McDaniels emblazoned on the back. Reed was an assistant coach for most of McDaniels’ high school tenure before taking over as head coach his senior year.
Reed played at Federal Way in the 1990s with both Dickerson and Marshall. To see two players head off to the NBA, he said, is special.
“It means a lot as a school, as a community, as a basketball staff, we’re just so proud of him because he’s coming out of Federal Way, which is not a major city,” Reed said. “For him to reach a level that some people only dream of and he’s one of the four in the history of our program to get to the highest level of basketball, we’re just so excited for him to continue on the success for our program.”
As a five-star recruit in high school, McDaniels had his picking of the top college programs in the country. He chose to stay home and play for Washington, where he had an up-and-down season. He averaged 13 points, 5.8 boards and 2.1 assists on 40.5 percent shooting before declaring for the draft.
Throughout his lone year at Washington, his draft stock slipped from Top-10 consideration, out of the lottery. Most reputable draft boards projected him going late in the first round in Wednesday’s draft.
Gary Parrish, a college basketball analyst/columnist for CBS Sports, calls McDaniels one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects under top-30 consideration.
“If you do spend a first-round pick on him, it is not because of anything you saw him do at Washington,” Parrish said. “It is because of everything you think he can maybe be despite what he was at Washington.”
In a pre-draft interview, McDaniels said the best advice he’s gotten through his extension draft preparation was from his older brother Jalen, who went through the same process a little more than a year ago.
“From him being there, telling me to stay true to myself, stay true to my work,” McDaniels told a reporter with the NBA. “And when the opportunity comes, just all the work you’re putting in is going to show.
The move to Minnesota means McDaniels will be teammates with former Garfield and University of Washington standout Jaylen Nowell, who was taken in the second round (43rd overall pick) by the T-Wolves in 2019.
Nowell sent a congratulatory tweet after the pick was announced.