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Do-it-all Daghles did it all to help Jordan reach unprecedented heights at the FIBA Asia Cup
AMMAN (Jordan) - Few players that have impacted a national team program as much as Jordan’s Sam Daghles. From the very first time he stepped onto the court as a player through his previous stint as the national team head coach, Daghles has always played a part in pushing Jordan basketball forward.
Basketball wasn’t Daghles’ first love, but it stuck with him when his family emigrated from Jordan to Michigan when he was just 9 years old.
“Every kid in Jordan plays soccer,” Daghles recalled with Mission Valley News. “Soccer is a street sport. I hated basketball.”
Loathe turned to love as Daghles soaked in the play of Magic Johnson and the “Showtime Lakers”.
He turned that passion into a spot on the varsity team and worked his way to play his final two years of eligibility at Midwestern State, a Division 2 school. Despite being derailed by lack of interest from schools and injuries along the way, Daghles made it through to the next stage and would continue to go on even further.
“I went from the third-best player on my high school team to the only player from that team to play college ball and then the only player to play pro ball,” said Daghles to MVN’s Noah Perkins.
In 2003, Daghles started his professional career in Jordan. 2 years later, he would finally make his FIBA Asia Cup debut in Doha, Qatar.
In his debut game, Daghles scored 10 points to keep Jordan close against the eventual silver medalists, Lebanon, losing by 10 points. He followed that a few days later by scoring 7 more in a heartbreaking one-point loss to Korea. The skilled guard ended up averaging 9.8 points per game to help Jordan finish at 7th place which was their highest standing since 1997 at that point.
He was even better in Tokushima, Japan for FIBA Asia Cup 2007.
They beat the defending champions, China, in the very first game. Daghles followed that up with what might have been his best FIBA Asia Cup game yet, dropping 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists against Philippines in the Group Phase. Jordan wrapped up the tournament with two big wins against Qatar and Chinese Taipei to once again breakthrough for their best finish in the FIBA Asia Cup at that time in 5th place. Daghles was continued his strong play and put up an impressive 9.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game.
After two successful runs in the FIBA Asia Cup, Daghles had established himself as one of the best guards in Asia and was at the peak of his prime.
Then later that year in 2007, he tore his ACL.
“That was in the middle of my career and it woke me up and made me think, ‘Sam, you are 27, you need to focus more, think about how you want to finish your career’,” said Daghles as told by The Jordan Times.
“After that, I realized that it can all be taken away from you, in one play,” he added. Daghles began to dive into a detailed and professional study of his body to be able to come back stronger than ever. “I wanted to do it the right way and have no regrets, at least I would go to sleep at night knowing that I gave it my all regardless of what happens.”
What a bounce back it was for Daghles.
Jordan burst out of the gates at FIBA Asia Cup 2009 in Tianjin for 5 straight wins before latter suffering a painful two-point Semi-final defeat to eventual champs, Iran. In the battle for 3rd place against Lebanon, Daghles recorded a sturdy line of 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals to clinch an 80-66 win and Jordan’s first-ever medal at the FIBA Asia Cup. Daghles ended up with averages of 10.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists.
Now at 30 years old, Daghles had helped lead Jordan to unprecedented heights at the FIBA Asia Cup as well as their first-ever berth at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
But he was far from done.
FIBA Asia Cup 2011 returned to China in Wuhan and Jordan sputtered to a slow start. They suffered 3 losses in the first 5 games and found themselves having to play Iran once again in the Quarter-finals. An inspiring performance by Daghles who had 23 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals was enough to counter a huge game from Hamed Haddadi and push Jordan to an 88-84 win. They rode that wave on to the championship game and would eventually lose in the title game to China by only one point.
Daghles once again improved his stat line and finished with 14.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per contest, leading to him being named to the All-Star Five. More importantly, it was the 4th straight FIBA Asia Cup in which Daglhes had helped Jordan their best finish ever in the competition.
“That’s when I saw the change. When teams started respecting our matches and fearing us, worrying about us,” said Daghles as told by The Jordan Times. “Teams realized Jordan had the talent. Every time we stepped on the court, we had a chance of winning.”
He made one more fun at FIBA Asia Cup 2015 and was still good for 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game, but eventually called it an end to his playing career shortly after. The Jordanian legend didn’t stay away for long and returned for FIBA Asia Cup 2017 as head coach of the team.
“If I won’t be the guy that will get the team to the top of the mountain, then hopefully, I will help them take the first step. I can’t see Jordan going further down and down,” Daghles told The Jordan Times.
Daghles was a large part of guiding Jordan through to their second World Cup appearance before stepping down from the position in October 2018. He is now dedicated to working with his basketball academy which focuses on player development across a wide age range of players. Daghlas was also recently announced to have been added to the coaching staff of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the NBA G-League for the upcoming season.
The Jordanian point guard finished as one of the top scorers in FIBA Asia Cup history with 421 points in 40 games. He is also among one of the few players to average a well-rounded stat line of at least 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists (since 2007).
There is no doubting Jordan’s current status as one of Asia’s biggest basketball powerhouses with several stars lining up to shine at the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers and possibly the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 itself. Looking back, it only makes sense that their breakthrough coincides with the rise of one of their players best to don the national team jersey.