August 31, 2012 in Professional
It has taken Detroit Pershing great Mel Daniels longer than it rightfully should have to be enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame partially because most of his professional dominance happened in the often overlooked ABA. Steve Aschburner of NBA.com has a great feature on what Daniels being enshrined in this year’s class means to the Indiana Pacers legend. It includes some stories about Daniels’ experiences in Detroit:
Daniels’ background was tough from the start. He grew up in Detroit, playing at Pershing High for legendary coach Will Robinson. That’s the school that produced Spencer Haywood a few years later, and Robinson is the man who became the first African-American head coach in Division I when he was hired in 1970 at Illinois State (where he developed Doug Collins into a U.S. Olympian and NBA All-Star).
Robinson steered Daniels to the University of New Mexico, where another 6-foot-9 Detroit preps star, Ira Harge, had played, putting the Lobos on the basketball map. In three seasons, Daniels averaged 20.0 points and 11.1 rebounds. After being snagged by Cincinnati as the ninth pick in the 1967 draft, Daniels became the first first-rounder to snub the established league.
“At that time, it wasn’t about money for me. But y’know, 2 + 2 is still 4,” Daniels said. “I was offered $15,000 by Cincinnati as a bonus and $17,500 as a salary. I was offered $15,000 as a bonus in Minnesota and $30,000 as a salary. So the higher number somehow won out.”