Dyson Daniels' sporting dream will come true at the NBA Draft in Brooklyn on Friday morning (AEST).
The Bendigo teenager will become the 23rd Australian player drafted to the NBA and the third Bendigo Junior Braves product to link to basketball's biggest stage behind Kristi Harrower (WNBA) and Maryborough's Matthew Dellavedova (NBA champion with Cleveland).
Daniels, who now stands at 203cm tall, is one of the most sought-after guards in this year's draft class.
"Ever since I was four or five years old, I've dreamed of getting my name called," Daniels told reporters after a recent workout with the Indiana Pacers.
"I've watched the draft every year that I can remember. To hear my name called, would just be an honor."
Daniels will hear his name called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver - it's just a matter of which club in the first round likes the 19-year-old the most.
He's spent the past three weeks flying across the United States, working out with every club from selection five in the draft - Detroit Pistons - through to selection 11 - the New York Knicks.
The NBA Draft "experts" in the United States have Daniels rated anywhere from pick six - Indiana Pacers - to as low as pick 14 - the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Daniels doesn't have a preference.
"A team that's going to compete every possession, plays switchable defences," Daniels said after working out with the Portland Trail Blazers.
"I'm a versatile player. I'm going to adjust to whatever situation I'm put in and I feel like I can play on really any team in the NBA.
"Whether that be top five, whether it be top 20. I just want the right fit. A team that's going to want me. A team that's gonna play me. A team that I can contribute to."
Ben McCauley started coaching Dyson Daniels with the Bendigo Junior Braves under-12 program.
McCauley was a former Bendigo Braves team-mate of Dyson's father Ricky and he knew Dyson had ability.
Ability will only take athletes so far, even from a young age Daniels had something special about him that separated him from other talented youngsters.
"He's always been someone that worked hard, played hard and wanted to win,'' McCauley said.
"He had that natural ability, but he also had competitiveness to achieve.
"He always brought others into the game. He made other players better.
"Even at a young age people were talking about how far he could go with his basketball."
McCauley said Daniels' skillset was built by Ricky in the family's backyard.
"From the day Dyson was old enough to pick a ball up he was taught to do things the right way by Ricky,'' McCauley said.
"That grounding was very important for where Dyson is today."
Daniels led the Bendigo Braves under-14s to the national championships in Perth where he went head-to-head with Oklahoma City Thunder star Josh Giddey.
Two years later the Braves went to the under-16 nationals and this time they won the title, with Daniels the star playmaker.
At age 15, under the guidance of head coach David Hogan, Daniels made his NBL1 senior debut with the Braves and didn't look out of place.
The following year he moved away from home to Canberra for a two-year stint with the NBA Global Academy.
"That's where he really took his game to another level,'' McCauley said.
"He changed physically, he changed mentally and he was more professional. They did a great job with Dyson."
Then came arguably the biggest decision in Dyson's career so far - which pathway to the NBA was best for him - play in the NBL in Australia, go to college in the United States or play in the G-League in the US.
The move to play with G-League Ignite shocked some people involved in Australian basketball, but it proved to be the right call.
Dyson played against former and aspiring NBA players and proved to be his team's best all-round player.
Prior to playing with Ignite, Dyson was regarded as a potential first round selection in the NBA Draft.
By the end of the G-League season he was a lock for the first round and now, on the eve of the draft, he's more than likely to be selected inside the top 10 which will guarantee him a contract somewhere between $US3.5 million and $US5.5 million for his first season.
"He's a young player with a lot of wisdom and know-how,'' Ignite coach Jason Hart said of Dyson in the New York Post.
"That's why a lot of NBA teams are intrigued by him. He knows how to do a lot of things to make a successful team.
"With his size, skill set and being an elite defender, he has the upside where his offence will catch up.
"He's very intriguing. Because he can do a little bit of everything. And he's a nice kid. So that's attractive.''
NBA Mock Draft's are a dime a dozen, but here's how some of the most credible draft experts rate Daniels and where they expect his name to be called:
8 - New Orleans Pelicans
"... he can guard three positions, has an outstanding feel for the game and has improved his perimeter shooting gives him the type of multi positional versatility to operate in a variety of lineup configurations."
6 - Indiana Pacers
"He plays with a calmness and certainty beyond his years, and his playmaking will truly reveal itself with better teammates around him."
7 - Portland Trail Blazers
"Daniels passes really well and generally makes life much easier for his teammates with his unselfishness, his balance and his passing and playmaking."
7 - Portland Trail Blazers
"His feel and ability to initiate offense and defend all over the floor would work nicely in tandem with (Damian) Lillard."
6 - Indiana Pacers
"Daniels has the size and length to be a versatile defender, and he can pass and rebound quite well."
8 - New Orleans Pelicans
"New Orleans could use a big playmaker who can defend multiple positions, and Daniels is rising up draft boards because of his improved jumper."
At age six, Dyson Daniels played junior soccer alongside older brother, Kai, for Ascot-White Hills under-9s.
Even though he was younger and smaller than his opponents, Dyson ran rings around them and had a happy knack of scoring goals.
His natural ability stood out.
Ditto when it came to Australian Rules football.
Daniels, who started his footy with White Hills and moved on to Golden Square, won the BJFL under-12A league best and fairest, was best afield at inter-league level and was selected in the Victorian under-12 team.
"I remember at Junior Braves under-16 games and bottom age under-18 games we had AFL scouts there watching Dyson,'' McCauley said.
"Basketball was always his favourite though - there was never any doubt about that."
Bendigo Pioneers coach Danny O'Bree was still fielding calls from AFL clubs about Daniels last year.
"Dyson came through the footy academy program here and had a very good skill set,'' O'Bree said.
"He was an exceptional mark and was a very good kick. I have no doubt he would have made it.
"When he was 15, AFL recruiters had watched him play and they were still asking me last year about him.
"He's a great kid and he's certainly made the right choice to go down the footy path."
O'Bree did send Daniels a tongue in cheek message about a footy career.
"I told him that I still have a Pioneers jumper for him and a spot on the list as a 19-year-old if he changes his mind,'' O'Bree said.
"I also told him the Saints would probably love to have him on their list next year,'' the St Kilda fan added with a chuckle.
No matter how far Daniels goes in the NBA, McCauley said the teenager's journey should inspire every young basketballer in Bendigo.
"It shows our junior kids that there is a pathway in Bendigo, if you work hard enough, you never know what you can achieve,'' McCauley said.
"Kristi Harrower was the first to make a name for Bendigo and now Dyson is the next one coming through.
"It's a credit to him and his family for what he's achieved so far. It's exciting to see what comes next."
First 20 selections
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