It’s hard to believe that Jailen Daniel-Dalton had just one community college coach who wanted him to be a part of their men’s basketball program.
Unimaginable because Daniel-Dalton has developed into one of the premier players in the Coast Conference South Division in leading Gavilan College to another strong season under coach Derek Jensen.
The Rams entered the week 18-8 overall and 7-3 in conference play, having clinched third place in the South Division behind State top-10 ranked teams San Jose City and West Valley. The Rams are pretty much a lock for the NorCal playoffs because of their Winning Percentage Index, which has hovered in the top 12 for the last six weeks.
Daniel-Dalton is scoring approximately 17 points per game on an excellent 50% shooting. The 6-foot-7 forward also is collecting eight rebounds a contest and ranks among the team leaders in assists, steals and blocks, a testament to his ability to be a difference-maker in all facets of the game.
Gavilan has plenty of balance, with Isaiah Hinds, Cameran Thomas, Fabian Reichstadt, Caleb Onuonga, Alex Harris and Ryan Harris all having made significant contributions throughout the season and especially in the last several games.
On Feb. 8, the Rams lost another close game to West Valley, 77-75, foiling their attempt to make a move for a potential title run. West Valley was simply too tough defensively, staying in front of their man, limiting Gavilan’s ability to drive to the basket and forcing tough shots. Even when the Rams scored, it seemed to be a battle.
“They rebounded, we didn’t, our offense got stagnant at times,” said Daniel-Dalton, who scored a game-high 34 points, the second highest output in his college career. “We just couldn’t find a way. We wanted it pretty bad. We’ve been working for this since the summer, so it’s rough.”
Daniel-Dalton continued: “We just have to bounce back. We got a big game against San Jose (Feb. 15). Just because we lost this one doesn’t mean we have to put our heads down and give up on the season. We still have a lot to play for.”
After a back-and-forth first half that saw the teams go into the break tied at 33-33, West Valley controlled the second half, building a lead as high as eight points. Gavilan had the lead for all of a minute beginning the second half before the Vikings took the lead for good with around 17 minutes remaining.
The Rams missed several shots from close range they normally make, and West Valley controlled the boards and created several second-chance scoring opportunities. Thomas finished with 12 points and Onuonga 10 for Gavilan, which closes the regular-season with a home game against Monterey Peninsula College on Feb. 17.
Daniel-Dalton will be one of the players honored for Sophomore Night, which is always an emotional time. Daniel-Dalton is a great example of where hard work can take a player. Coming out of Mountain View High, Daniel-Dalton only had one suitor: Jensen.
“I didn’t make much noise in high school and didn’t really progress as a player until I got here,” Daniel-Dalton said. “Derek told me that he would develop me as a wing and give me all the tools I would need to expand my game and really blossom as a player. So I’m really happy I came to Gav.”
Daniel-Dalton moved around a lot in his early years because he comes from a military family. He’s lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. In between all those stops was his second-grade year which was spent in the Bay Area.
“I moved all over the place, but it was cool because you get to learn different cultures, meet different people, see different places,” he said.
Daniel-Dalton is expected to land a Division I or II scholarship at a four-year school soon, which seemed unattainable when he came out of high school.
“I wasn’t getting looked at by anyone,” he said. “Derek hit me up and he was the only one that hit me up, so I took that opportunity and it’s been nothing but great from there.”