A service was held for former WKU basketball star and NBA player Jim McDaniels on Monday. McDaniels passed away on Sept. 6 at the age of 69.
McDaniels, a first-team All-American was tied for the program’s all-time scoring record, as he totaled 2,238 points (he shares that record with Courtney Lee). McDaniel’s is also No. 1 in program history in field goals made (935), points per game (27.6) and double-doubles (74).
“Jim McDaniels was a legendary and iconic figure in the annals of Western Kentucky basketball,” WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart said, according to a press release. “His Hall of Fame accomplishments resulted in the most successful period in our program’s rich history and favorably impacted the Hilltopper Nation and college basketball fans throughout the nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim and his family. RIP Big Mac.”
Among his program records, McDaniels also ranks second in program history in rebounds per game (13.1), fourth in total rebounds (1,118) and ninth in free throws made (368). He joins players like Larry Bird, Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing as players on the NCAA 2,000 point, 1,000 rebound list.
At the service, WKU forward Justin Johnson expressed his gratitude for what McDaniels has done for WKU basketball.
“I guess you could say he is WKU basketball, a big part of it, as we’ve seen,” Johnson said. “All-time leading scorer, his jersey and his picture hanging in the rafters so everybody sees that immediately when they walk in.”
McDaniels was a consensus All-American in 1971, one of just three former Hilltoppers to earn that honor. He was also the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year twice, and was selected to the All-OVC team three times. He was also named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball in high school. McDaniels is one of eight players to have his jersey retired by WKU.
WKU made the NCAA Tournament twice in McDaniels’ career, advancing to the Final Four in 1971.
McDaniels’ success before Johnson’s time has driven Johnson to reach for that level of success as well.
“My thing when I talked to him, and joked around, I always told him, I was like, ‘I’m chasing that rafter up there,’ and he always would laugh, and be like, ‘go get it,'” Johnson said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get to that point of my career. He’s the last to have that 1,000-1,000 career at Western, and I’m on pace to do it, so that’d be a big honor to do that, follow up, especially with the career he had here.”
McDaniels went on to play in the NBA and ABA from 1971-78. He was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics in 1971, and also played for the Carolina Cougars, Los Angeles Lakers, Kentucky Colonels and Buffalo Braves. He was an ABA All-Star in 1972. He also played in Italy with the team Snaidero Udine.
He averaged 10 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 46.6 percent in his NBA/ABA career.
A Kentucky native, McDaniels played his high school basketball at Allen County High School in Scottsville, Kentucky.
He’s a member of the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame and the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
McDaniels remained involved in WKU’s program after his playing days ended, addressing the team and coaching former WKU stars in an exhibition game.
The team will likely do something to actively honor McDaniels this season, though they haven’t decided what that will be yet, according to Zachary Greenwell of WKU Media Relations.