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The Gentle Giant
The Gentle Giant
Chandler, Arizona
Published by John C.
The Gentle Giant

It was a cold February morning like most February mornings in Ohio, but today was going to be special. The following day, February 9th was going to be my sonís 5th birthday. Because it was his birthday we were going to do something he normally didnít get to do during the week and that was go to a UD basketball game.

That was just part of the special treatment as we were going to take Alice Daniels with us and get to grab a post-game meal with her son Chris at his favorite spot, Dennyís. Chris had become a favorite of Justinís as we would wait after games to get autographs. Chris always seemed to remember each of the kids that spoke to him and would do what he could to make each one feel special.

As I did with most players that UD had signed from the Columbus area, I would go to their games to see if they were going to be the salvation of the program and help us become annual NCAA tournament participants. I had seen Chris play a few times and I realized that even though he had a nice skill set, he wasnít going to be that kid. He just didnít seem to have that killer instinct. He would help but he had a long way to go to become great.

I had watched from afar in Columbus but by some strange ticket office mistake, I was going to get to have a much better view in the years to come. When my season tickets came the next year, there was only one instead of the requested two and it was in a slightly different location. It seems that my tickets were sent to someone else. The ticket office wasnít able to sort out what had happened but Gary McCans promised to take care of me until it was remedied.

As a result, I had to pick up tickets for before every game at the ticket office. It just so happened that for one of the games I sat next to a rather attractive, enthusiastic Africa-American woman. It didnít take me long to figure out that one of her sons played for UD. As it happened, Chris was her son.

Over the next few games we had the opportunity to talk and because of our shared interests, we became friends. As a result, I was able to get to know Chris better than I had any player that I had met over the years doing several articles for UDPride.

Chris was a skinny kid that always had a smile on his face and a kind word to say to everyone. He was reserved and not very outspoken but he was a friend that you knew you had to have. His first few years at UD were not very eventful on the court as he played sparingly before tearing his ACL. It was a long road back and it wasnít until his senior year that he started to show real potential. He had turned into a physical specimen during his five years at UD and had gotten on the NBA radar.

Life was becoming the dream he had had for so many years. But it didnít change him. He was still everybodyís friend and his eyes would light up every time he saw his mother. He wasnít ashamed of being a mamaís boy and seemed to relish the fact. He might be a future NBA player, but he still loved his mom.

It was about seven that morning and I was just about ready to leave the house for that joyous drive to work. Unexpectedly, the phone rang and it was my best friend growing up on the other end. He asked if I had heard the news about Chris Daniels. As I ended the call, I was shaking. I could not believe that this specimen of a man was gone. I called the Dayton Daily News to confirm. Sadly, it was real. Chris had died in his sleep that night.

There would be no trip to Dayton that night. Justinís birthday celebration would become a day of mourning in our home. One of the brightest young lights I had ever known was gone. We would never get to see that smile again. Chris had gone to a greater calling to be with his God.

Alice and I have remained friends over all of these years and every year we speak on this day. It is a joyous, yet a sad conversation and we speak about Chris and all that he was. Chris Daniels was an amazing young man that touched many of us, not because of who he was on the court, but because of who he was off of it.
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By Lifelong Flyer Fan on 02-08-2018, 09:52 AM
Thank you. Please let Mrs. Daniels know that many, many people share the burden of grief she must feel today.
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