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Eric Dailey Jr. Explains Why He Chose Boynton, Stillwater

Dailey is in Hungary at the FIBA U19 World Cup.



Courtesy of FIBA

At 19 years old, Eric Dailey Jr. is a world traveler.

With USA Basketball at the FIBA U19 World Cup, Dailey is in Hungary for the third time. He spent last summer in Tijuana, Mexico as part of the FIBA U18 Basketball Americas tournament. Later this summer, he’ll join Oklahoma State for a tour of Spain. But even through all his travels, Dailey picked to play his college basketball in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Dailey took a postgrad year at IMG Academy in Florida, meaning he actually graduated high school in 2022. Not having to wait for a graduation, that gave him the ability to make the journey to Stillwater earlier than the rest of OSU’s 2023 recruiting class. So, knowing he could be gone for the U19 World Cup, Dailey spent May on campus. The world traveler came just in time for a good chunk of Stillwater’s population to leave town.

“It wasn’t that bad because my city [Bradenton, Florida, a city of about 56,000] is a small city, too,” Dailey said. “It’s a small town. Slow motion, there’s not a lot going on. The only thing I didn’t get used to is not having the beach 15 minutes from my house. Stillwater, it’s a good place to be when you’re trying to focus. There’s not many distractions there. I feel like that’s what you need for a year if you’re trying to get to the bigger goal, which is the next level. I feel like that was just the perfect place to be and just really lock in and stay in the gym, study, do homework. I’ve been on top of my stuff just because there’s no distractions.

“It’s kinda hard not to get better there just because there’s nothing to do there, really. But I feel like when school comes back around, there will be people and I’ll make friends. My teammates are there now, which will be better when I go back, so I’ll have people to talk to. But I enjoy Stillwater so far. I like the peace and the calmness of it. It’s really still water, for real.”

Safe to assume Dailey hasn’t tested out the beaches of Lake Carl Blackwell, but that will come with time.

Dailey has scored in double figures in both of the United States’ games to this point, dropping 12 against Madagascar and 11 against Slovenia. He has been able to show off some versatility, as well. At 6-foot-8, 220 pounds, Dailey is capable on and off the ball. He can create for others or himself.

On a stacked team like Team USA brought, it can be easy to skim past some numbers because of everyone dividing minutes, but on a per-40 basis thus far in Hungary, Dailey is averaging 28.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.8 steals.

“He is a really good, complete basketball player,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “We’ve had conversations about this several times, he’s probably as dynamic in terms of versatility, like effective versatility. We’ve talked about having versatile guys before but not necessarily with his true skill set. At 6-8, 220, he’s athletic enough that he can come onto the perimeter and go by guys. He’s got a really efficient jump shot. He can shoot 3s, so he can play off the ball and help the spacing on the floor. You can play him as a pick-and-roll ball-handler because he’s a willing passer and he’s got good size to see over the defense.

“But the thing I’ve challenged him with, and I’m not afraid to say this publicly, is we’ve got to get him better in the mid to low post because he’s big and strong, and he’s gonna be guarded by smaller guys. And one of the ways you become a really efficient scorer is you get yourself to the free-throw line. Then if you get to the free-throw line, you don’t have to have as much wear and tear to get the points you need. But he’s gonna be a guy that we have some offense that we run through him. But we will also run him as the set-up man to allow guys like Bryce Thompson to get some open looks. Having Javon Small as another primary ball-handler, we’ll have some pretty dynamic play-making ability amongst the three of them and then have the other pieces around those guys, I’m really, really excited about them all.”

USA Basketball and Oklahoma State is just a continuation of Boynton’s relationship with Dailey. Dailey’s mother, Shell Dailey, was an assistant with the South Carolina women’s team when Boynton was a player in Columbia. Eric was born while Boynton was in school.

Boynton said it was with USA Basketball that Eric started turning from a kid Boynton knew into a prospect. Boynton was in Colorado Springs for a training camp that included the likes of Cade Cunningham and Bryce Thompson, but Dailey was a younger player invited to that camp.

From there Dailey blossomed into becoming the No. 33 player in the 2023 class with offers to play at myriad elite college programs as well as pro routes. But because of his strong relationship with Boynton, the world traveler gave up his Florida beaches for a stay in Stillwater.

“I think the coach was important — that was always my thing,” Dailey said. “It didn’t matter what school or where you’re at. I’ve always been taught if you’re good, they’re gonna find you. I had offers from other schools as well, but I just felt like Coach Boynton could really take my game to the next level and pour into me and I could really learn from his mind and teach me how to be a leader.

“Like he said, he’s known me before I knew myself. He knows the abilities I have and he probably knows a lot more things that I didn’t know I had. I’m just trusting him with myself. I’m just going to put in the work, and I’ll just listen. That’s the main thing.”

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