By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 8, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- When ThunderDawgs coach Darryl Dawkins assembled his team, he built it around small, quick players who could outrun opponents.
Then he was told teams in the new ABA 2000 could play zone defense.
"Uh oh," Dawkins thought. "We've got to go out and find somebody."
As the ThunderDawgs stumbled to a 1-5 start, Dawkins added 7-foot-2 center Dnongo Ndiaye and guards Lloyd Daniels and Damion Woolfolk.
The three helped lift the ThunderDawgs to a 117-101 victory over the Los Angeles Stars before about 100 fans Sunday at the Times Arena at Bayfront Center.
Dawkins challenged his players after a 128-121 loss to the Stars on Saturday, telling them more roster moves could be on the way. The team responded with its best game and its first home win.
"I thought we played them real tough last night, and that was a game we could have won," Dawkins said. "We came back tonight and played a whole lot better. We put four quarters of basketball together."
Kwan Johnson scored 26, John Strickland had 20 and Daniels had 19 as the ThunderDawgs led from the start. Ndiaye added seven rebounds and three blocked shots as the Dawgs outrebounded Los Angeles 53-31.
"This win shows the league that if you sleep around Tampa, you're going to get beat," Daniels said.
Daniels was in New Jersey with his family when Dawkins called. He was anxious to resume a career that included stops in the IBL and CBA, as well as the NBA's Spurs, Lakers and Nets.
He provided an instant lift off the bench. Entering with less than three minutes left in the first quarter, he made a three-pointer from the top of the key. His outside shooting forced Los Angeles out of its zone, opening the inside for Strickland, who had his best game of the season.