K.J. McDaniels adds clutch free throws to his play-making repertoire

Brad Brownell: 'We designed the play to get him the ball, and for him to step up there and knock those down showed a lot of courage'

Clemson's K.J. McDaniels shoots the second of two free throws in the final seconds of the game as the Tigers beat Georgia Tech 63-60 in an NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson's K.J. McDaniels shoots the second of two free throws in the final seconds of the game as the Tigers beat Georgia Tech 63-60 in an NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Brad Brownell keeps telling K.J. McDaniels how much the Tigers need him to "go make plays" - especially in game-on-the-line situations.

On Tuesday, the Tigers' athletic sophomore forward stepped to the free throw line and did just that.

Coolly sinking both ends of a game-deciding one-and-one was perhaps not exactly what Brownell was expecting from the Tigers' highlight clip dunk-and-block machine; but the result was the same - an important play for the Tigers and more confidence for McDaniels.

At the midway point of his second college season, McDaniels is starting to round into what Brownell expects will eventually be a successful professional player.

“K.J. still has a long way to go, but he has a very good ceiling," said Brownell after Clemson's 63-60 victory over Georgia Tech Tuesday night. "He'll be a better player when he’s 26 or 27 and he’s more in to his body and more mature as a player, because he’s still very young as a perimeter player."

The 6-5 McDaniels played mostly inside and in the open court during his high school career. He's still working to master the finer points of perimeter play on both ends of the floor.

"It’s going to take a lot of time for him to get truly comfortable," Brownell said. "He's really good on defense around the basket. He’s uncomfortable on defense sometimes and even gets caught up in screens sometimes and gets turned around. Sometimes he makes up for it with a huge block and other times he doesn’t.

"But he shows unbelievable upside. He can affect the game in so many ways."

Brownell said he was proud the way the Tigers found a way to win against Georgia Tech, including McDaniels' clutch free throws.

"We designed the play to get him the ball, and for him to step up there and knock those down showed a lot of courage," Brownell said. "I'm proud of him for that.

"We were just fighting our tails off to win this one. This was a good performance by our guys with the third game in six nights. That's a grind. To fight through some things, get some stops and win it the way we did, I'm really proud of this team."

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