Basketball talent runs deep in Xylina McDaniel’s family

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Freshman forward Xylina McDaniel goes up for a shot. She is second on the team in scoring.

Xylina McDaniel can hear a voice when she’s on the court.

It’s not in the North Carolina freshman forward’s head. She’s not imagining things. It could be heard from miles away.

“Every single time,” McDaniel said, when asked whether she can hear it on the court.

“Sometimes I try to act like I don’t hear him, but he knows that I hear him, so he’ll keep doing it.”

That distinctive voice box belongs to Xavier McDaniel, her father. He starred at Wichita State and was selected fourth overall by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1985 NBA Draft.

He was the “X-Man” to NBA fans, but to his daughter, he is a confidant, adviser and best friend.
He’s also not afraid to flex his vocal chords.

“I don’t say too much, but I will say something if I don’t see her doing something or I don’t see her being aggressive,” he said.

“When she takes the ball, I know she can hear me. And that’s why I would say something to her like, ‘You’re not playing no defense and you’re not rebounding. Get your ass going.’”

In 1994, during the twilight of the elder McDaniel’s career that featured one All-Star nod, his daughter was born. Four years later, she had a ball in her hands as the NBA veteran prepared for retirement.

As one career ended, another sprouted.

“A lot of people have aspirations of their kids playing college ball, and I had the same thing,” Xavier McDaniel said.

It started with chucking small, rubber balls at miniature plastic hoops clipped onto the doors in their South Carolina home. The budding basketball player soon graduated to the McDaniels’ half-court and basket in their backyard, where father and daughter practiced move after move after move.

It was far from lighthearted bonding. Xavier McDaniel vowed to make his daughter a better player every time she cradled a ball — mostly without any parental coddling.

“On the court, when he’s coaching me, it’s all hard — cussing out, yelling, screaming, making me run,” Xylina McDaniel said.

She admitted to coming to tears during workouts with her father.

“He’s hard on her,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “He’s probably harder on her than my coaching staff is. He knows how to motivate her and get on her.”

When Xavier McDaniel would demonstrate and teach, no matter how angrily he did so, Xylina McDaniel would follow suit with such ease that he could not help but look toward the future.

“When I would do certain things and tell her certain things, I know that she was able to pick it up quick.

“And that’s when I realized that she may have a good chance if she stayed at it.”

Her foray into competitive basketball was nothing short of daunting.

Xylina McDaniel entered the Amateur Athletic Union, the highly pressurized youth sports organization that grooms young basketball prodigies.

She was 13 years old. Some of the girls were four years older. And taller. And stronger.
The demands of AAU primed the emerging post player for life in the NCAA.

“It kind of gave me a look of what college would be like,” she said of AAU games. “It just opened up my eyes and showed me what I would be going up against and what I need to work on.”

The basketball osmosis between Xavier McDaniel and his daughter soon reached its zenith. The summer between seventh and eighth grade, Xylina McDaniel’s basketball stars began to align, she said.

South Carolina scouts paid a visit to her middle school to see her play, her game steadily improved — and high school hadn’t even begun.

All the developing forward did at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina was average north of 18 points and eight rebounds per game, win two state championships, and claim 2012 McDonald’s All-American honors.

An invitation to play at UNC wasn’t far behind.

Entering Thursday night’s game against Maryland, McDaniel had started all 16 games in which she has appeared and has commandeered notable UNC team rankings — second in scoring average, second in rebounds per game, second in steals per game and second in blocks.

She’s been ACC Rookie of the Week four times.

Her play stands as one of the reasons UNC has raced out to an 18-2 overall record.

The UNC freshman owes much of her success to her father. Away from the court, they enjoy car rides together and eating out.

And together, they shared the fruits of those grueling workouts and untold hours of instruction — on Nov. 9, 2012 at Carmichael Arena, Xylina McDaniel started in her first NCAA game.

Her mentor observed from his customary perch in the stands as pupil savored the indelible moment.

“It took a long time, but when it got there, I was ready,” Xylina McDaniel said. “It was awesome.”
Everything she had dreamed?

“Yes,” she said, flashing a smile. “It was.”

Even if a voice sliced through the air and reminded her to get back on defense.

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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