FEATURE: The Rise of the Big Man: Daniel Amigo’s Evolution under a New Regime
Junior center from El Paso, Texas, is at the forefront of first-year head coach Rodney Billups’ schemes
Feb. 10, 2017
DENVER – In the midst of a productive season highlighted by two player of the week awards, junior center Daniel Amigo is experiencing quite a career renaissance under the structure of first-year head coach Rodney Billups for the University of Denver men’s basketball team.
“Last year I wasn’t really given an opportunity to play,” said Amigo, “I averaged about six minutes of game time so I couldn’t really get comfortable out on the court.
“Now that I’ve been starting this year, I have the opportunity to run the offensive end with set plays and that has given me the boost in confidence I’ve needed to score more, so I’m excited for things to come,” the 6-foot-10 center added.
Appearing in 13 games as a sophomore, without any starting time, Amigo struggled to find his basketball identity after averaging 2.1 points and 1.3 rebounds per game for the Crimson and Gold, quite the decline from his freshman year when he made an appearance in 15 games, all starting, and came away with a 6.1 points average on 46.2 percent shooting with 1.5 rebounds, including a then-career-high 14 points against South Dakota State at the end of January.
As a junior, Amigo has flourished under Billups, nearly quadrupling his career scoring average with 15.3 points on a 56.3 percent mark from the floor while adding 7.1 rebounds in 24 games, 23 of them in the starting lineup. Additionally, the Coronado High School product has come away with seven double-doubles -- second in the league -- and has made it a personal mission to accomplish the feat every time he steps onto the hardwood.
“I need to have the mindset of getting the double-double every single game, giving my full effort in every phase from shooting to boxing out and otherwise doing anything I can,” Amigo said. “I can’t just walk around on the court without putting in the effort”
Of course, changing coaches and systems in the middle of a career comes with challenges for athletes at any level, and Amigo, along with the rest of his teammates, make the shift look painless as Denver owns a 15-9 record, 7-4 mark in Summit League play and gaining momentum after recently defeating Fort Wayne on an overtime buzzer-beater with the junior big man leading all scorers with 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds.
“[Coach Billups] is, by far, my favorite coach I’ve had my entire life, he’s given me the confidence I needed to perform at my best and has gotten me in the best shape right now,” the junior big man said. “Plus, the offense is more to my style, fast-paced and up-tempo, since I wasn’t used to Princeton’s slower offense where I felt like I was a robot.
“Now that I’m playing at a faster tempo, which is what I was used to in high school, I’m really enjoying it,” Amigo said.
Amigo is prepared to get his teammates involved too, as he has missed the double-digit point mark in only four contests during the 2017 campaign, but still finds ways to keep the offense, and defense, in gear.
“If I’m not scoring or getting rebounds then I have to help my teammates out in whatever way I can, either through passing or on the defensive side with blocks or switching out,” Amigo said. “Either way, I’m giving it my 100 pecent effort.”
Now with Coach Billups’ first season well underway, the Pioneers have their eyes set on a deep postseason run and Amigo hopes to be at the forefront of it all.
“I definitely see this team as a [Summit League] championship team and I believe we can win out this season,” Amigo said. “Hopefully it goes well but I think we are a really good team and I hope to go to the NCAA Tournament two years in a row.”