Over the past few years, Clemson has been pretty much an afterthought in the world of college basketball. If you were asked to name a single player to suit up for the Tigers over the past five years, most of you would struggle mightily. That’s changing this season, and it’s time for all of us to start paying attention to burgeoning star K.J. McDaniels.
While several members of the ACC have stumbled a bit out of the gates, McDaniels has led Clemson to a quiet record of 5-1, including wins over Temple and Davidson. The only loss so far has come against a good Massachusetts team that’s playing like a borderline top-25 squad.
All the while, McDaniels has been making quite a statement, putting up gaudy per-game averages including 18.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. He’s shooting 48.1 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 84.6 percent from the charity stripe.
The 6-foot-6 junior from Birmingham, Alabama has been absolutely electric for Clemson and coach Brad Brownell, who is using McDaniels as the cornerstone as he attempts to build up his program. McDaniels has hit for 20 or more points in four of six games, and has had two games with seven blocked shots. Considering his size, that’s doubly impressive for the super athletic combo forward.
McDaniels flew under the radar a bit coming out of high school, with Clemson and Missouri really being the only major programs to show much interest. He also had looks from schools like Murray State, Tulane and South Alabama, but even in-state schools like Alabama and Auburn failed to register in his recruiting process. As it turns out, it was their rather major loss.
While guys like Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, C.J. Fair, and Joe Harris were getting the majority of the preseason hype in the ACC, it’s been McDaniels who has put together arguably the best all-around numbers this season, showing the ability to score from anywhere on the court while also proving to be a defensive stalwart.
At the end of the season, don’t be the least bit surprised if McDaniels finds his way onto the All-ACC first team. If you’re a college hoops fan, he’s a player you need to know going forward.