LAS VEGAS — Kyndell McDaniels of Kennedy High played in the shadow of Marcus Malone, an All-Valley selection, last season.
In this week's Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament, however, McDaniels has found the light.
McDaniels, a member of the American Roundball Corp.'s Valencia team, has displayed his talents while playing unselfishly this week. With a small army of college coaches and recruiters studying players' every move in the tournament, that combination is rare.
Valencia was defeated by the Bahamas on Wednesday afternoon at Nevada Las Vegas, 65-55, even though McDaniels scored 20 points. Valencia, which is 2-1 in the tournament, faces Indiana in a runner-up bracket game today at 3:15 p.m.
In other action today involving ARC teams, San Fernando meets Seattle in a consolation game at 11 a.m., and Mid-Valley plays Kansas City at 3:30 p.m. in another runner-up bracket game. Neither San Fernando nor Mid-Valley played Wednesday.
Ventura ARC, which won its first two games, lost to Century, Ohio, 72-64, Wednesday and drops into the fifth-place bracket of the tournament. Ventura plays again today at 8 p.m.
Ventura led Century, 57-54, with 4:31 left in the final quarter but stumbled down the stretch as Century outscored Ventura, 12-4, to break a 60-60 tie and win going away.
Paul Keenan of Westlake led Ventura with 15 points, 11 in the final quarter. Gary Gray of Granada Hills had 14.
For Valencia, McDaniels has been the leading scorer, contributing 66 points in three games and has twice been named the game's most valuable player. Valencia Coach David Hoffman has been impressed with his all-around game and leadership.
"He's not here for himself," Hoffman said. "We could set it up where he could score 30 or 40 points. He's more in it for the team."
Valencia, which advanced to the round of 16 with victories over Madisonville, Ky., and an upset of the Las Vegas Stars, was formed just prior to last week's Puma National Slam 'N Jam tournament at UCLA and has practiced only four times. The team first played together at UCLA last week when Valencia also lost to the Bahamas.
The team's lack of size--four players are under 6 feet--has forced Valencia to play more as a unit, Hoffman said. He and McDaniels agree that the team's closeness has been a key in its success.
"I want to go out and play and let everybody score," McDaniels said. "The teams with all the talent don't play as a team. They're all in it for themselves."
The tournament's field includes 36 teams from 21 states. The style of play has been anything but mellow Californian. McDaniels has been bumped more times than a '57 Chevy, but the 6-5 senior has not let the rough play alter his style.
"He's a great kid," Hoffman said. "When there is trouble on the court, he never gets in the other team's face. He's real level-headed."
Valencia needed more than what McDaniels had to offer to avenge last week's loss to the Bahamas. Valencia failed to take care of the ball after tying the score at 40 entering the fourth quarter.
In the opening four minutes of the final quarter, the Bahamas capitalized on four Valencia turnovers to take a nine-point lead, 51-42.
Canyon's Greg Paskweitz scored 6 of his 14 points in the final two minutes, and Westlake's Bill Fassl added 2 of his 10, but Valencia never moved closer than six points down the stretch.
"The Bahamas came out fired," Hoffman said. "They played with the intensity we had in the previous three quarters. We over-handled the ball and made some bad decisions. I think their athletic talent outdid us in the end."
McDaniels, who missed last year's tournament, said the experience has been beneficial.
"It lets you play a lot more," McDaniels said. "I feel like I'm just starting to get my shot down this spring."