SAN DIEGO - Red-shirt freshman Jalen McDaniels is bringing a contagious energy to the Aztecs Men's Basketball team this season, an energy that's resulted in the team going 2-1 since McDaniels' first start against Wyoming.
"I feel like it just helps me and the team feed off my energy," said McDaniels. "We just feed off each other and I feel like it just builds up and helps us win."
That energy led McDaniels to a career-high 19 points in a conference win over Colorado State University.
"We don't run anything really for Jalen but he ends up with 19 points and 10 rebounds just because of his effort and knowing where to be on the floor," said Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher.
Over the last three games, McDaniels earned his spot as a start and he says the move boosted his confidence.
"It's important to me because it's something I always wanted to do," said McDaniels. "I feel like just me playing with a lot of energy and doing what I'm being told to do is just helping me out and helping our team grow."
According to SDSU, McDaniels is one of 18 freshmen nationally to average seven points and shoot 50 percent or better from the field. In his last seven games, the wiry six-foot-five, 195 pound forward averages 11 points and has made nearly 70 percent of his shots.
"I feel like I still need to prove myself at all times," said McDaniels. "You know any team we go against, you know everybody got to prove themselves. We all got to prove ourselves as a team."
"Now the thing for every freshman is finding a level of consistency," said Dutcher. "Trying to be consistent with that kind of number and that kind of effort and so if he does that, it bodes well for the Aztecs."
His debut season success compares to that of former Aztec and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
"I mean you guys haven't seen anything yet," said Aztecs forward Max Montana. "That kid has a high ceiling. He comes in, plays hard and that's kind of all he wants to do is be that guy and he's done a great job and you're going to see him do a lot of great things the rest of the year."
McDaniels credits his early season success to veteran teammates like Malik Pope and Trey Kell.