Many UNM basketball fans regard Mel Daniels as the consummate Lobo hoopster who was capable of doing it all. Daniels was recruited to UNM by head coach Bob King from Burlington (Iowa) Junior College. Starting at UNM as a sophomore in 1964-65, the lithe 6-9 power forward played in 27 games and averaged 17.0 points and 11.2 rebounds.
During the 1965-66 season, Daniels suffered a severe injury when he put his arm through a glass door at Johnson Gym. The freak accident required a startling 352 stitches and almost ended his athletic career. The sutures notwithstanding, Daniels averaged 21.2 points and 10.3 rebounds.
Daniels capped his senior season as a member of the first Lobo team to play in The Pit, UNM's brand new arena. The 1966-67 team won a school-record 17 straight games to start the season as New Mexico climbed to No. 3 in the national rankings. Daniels led the Western Athletic Conference in scoring at 21.5 ppg, and finished his Lobo career with averages of 19.9 points and 11.1 rebounds.
He was the ninth pick of the 1967 NBA Draft, selected by the Cincinnati Royals, and was also drafted by the Minnesota Muskies of the American Basketball Association. He chose to play in the fledgling ABA, and became one of its all-time greatest players.
Daniels was the ABA Rookie of the Year for the 1967-68 season before being traded to the Indiana Pacers, then of the ABA and now in the NBA. Daniels was the ABA Most Valuable Player in both 1969 and 1971 and led the Pacers to three ABA championships. He played in seven ABA All-Star Games, and was named the ABA All-Star Game MVP in 1971.
Daniels led the ABA in rebounding average in three different seasons, and is the ABA's all-time leader in total rebounds (9,494) and career rebounding average (15.1 rebounds per game). He played briefly for the NBA's New York Nets in the 1976-77 season.
After his playing days, Daniels joined the coaching staff of his college coach, Bob King, at Indiana State, where he coached future Hall of Famer Larry Bird. Daniels joined the Pacers' front office in 1986 and was the team's Director of Player Personnel until October 2009.
The Pacers retired Daniels' jersey No. 34.