Sunday, December 11, 2016

School Days: Class of 2018 Forward Darius Days Is Different Beast This Season

The physical attributes of The Rock's 6-foot-7 Darius Days are no secret to the high-major coaching circles.

 Built like a bulldozer, Days was able to thrive off innate attacking ability alone last season.

With the lethal physical and athleticism blend of an old school Big East player and a proclivity for getting to the rim and finishing with hard contact, Days' toughness was never in question.

There will surely be 7-footers waiting for him at the rim at the ensuing levels of play.

Such a truism has forced Days to invest more mid-range focus while simultaneously increasing his 3-point range.

This, coupled with a newfound commitment to the defensive end, has garnered the interest of numerous high-major programs.

 It also has propelled The Rock, now one of the most balanced inside-outside teams in Florida, to the SIAA's upper crust.

"His shot has continued to progress and what Darius needs to do is to continue to understand he can score at all three levels," said The Rock head coach Justin Hardin, whose team rolled to a thorough 100-71 thrashing of Mater in the championship of the ARod Classic in Miami Saturday night.

"He can post up at times, he can knock down the mid-range which is probably his best shot. His 3-point shooting has improved tremendously as he's now leading our team in 3-pointers made and percentage."

Working in Days' favor is the fact that star treatment is against the tenets of Hardin's system.

He will get no free passes on the other side of the court.

Hardin will be continuously confrontational and demanding with the junior, using every motivational tactic possible to mold a defender in him.

"He's obviously very talented offensive player, now what he needs to do is become a very talented defensive player," said Hardin, instrumental in helping Days shed the habit of gambling.

"He's an all-conference player for a reason. He's getting attention from high-major college coaches and programs for a reason. We need him on the floor. So when he's not applying himself in the right ways defensively, it could put himself in foul trouble which ultimately puts us in a bad position."

The Rock displayed full throttle relentlessness in a balanced victory over Mater at the ARod classic.

With the famed Yankee slugger in attendance, Jamari Wheeler scored 22 points en route to earning tournament MVP honors.

Strength in numbers was a major component in The Rock's consistent power surge, which allowed them to build an insurmountable 23-point first half lead.

Back to back interior buckets by 6-foot-9 forward/ Georgetown target Daniel Mading and Antrell Charlton lifted the lead to 31-19. Moments later, Wheeler converted a turnover into a transition dunk.

Victor Abreu and 6-foot-10 center Brandon Kenyon (who chimed in eight first half points) provided quality post minutes off the bench as both Days and Wheeler picked up three first half fouls.

Wheeler, who will prolong his career at Duquesne, keyed an early 12-4 burst that made up for a slow start. Mater's Jesus Duqesne, a 6-foot-6 junior, finished with a team-best 21 points.

 He got hot early with a trio of first quarter treys. The Rock, which put up just 39 points in a lackluster conference semifinal win the previous night, answered with ramped up defensive pressure.

"They're a proud group, so I think they're going to respond most of the time to the adversity they face," Hardin said. "We had some foul trouble, but I don't think we could have worked any more efficiently than we did offensively in the first half. To hold that team to 30 points in the first half--and they were shooting the ball well--we did a lot of good things."

Virginia Tech, Virginia, VCU, Illinois, UAB, and a variety of others have offered and expressed considerable interest in Days. His stock is likely to gain more appeal this spring.

 Becoming more competitive on the defensive end has already skyrocketed his numbers.

"Playing hard on the other end allows us to get easy buckets, especially with the pace our team plays at," said Days. "Tonight was an all around effort. The guards and the bigs both stepped up, the bench stepped up."