CLEMSON – In many ways, Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell and rising star K.J. McDaniels were in it together.
McDaniels’ All-ACC campaign spearheaded a 10-game improvement wins-wise this season.
Behind the scenes, Brownell was helping the Birmingham native with one of the bigger decisions of the 21-year-old’s life.
Hard to replace K.J., positive about CU future
Go pro – or stay in school, where McDaniels announced officially he will be in June 26’s NBA draft in Brooklyn N.Y.
The junior wing described it as a “tough” decision, which he made last week.
“It took a lot of thinking,” McDaniels said in a joint press conference with Brownell Wednesday. “My teammates are amazing. They were great to me. They understand what I’ve gone through…It was a difficult decision.
“(It was difficult because of) just my teammates and the Clemson family and how they showed they appreciated me. I love Clemson for that.”
Brownell says the excitement is one of the reasons he’s in the coaching business.
“It’s a great day for Clemson basketball,” Brownell said. "Any time you help one of your players realize a dream. It’s special. That’s what we’re in the business of doing. “Preparing young men for the future. I couldn’t be more proud of how K.J. has conducted himself the last three years. He’s been a model player.”
Describing the draft entry process, Brownell says it took a team effort to stay on task and play as well as they did down the stretch.
“It’s overwhelming if you’re not careful,” Brownell said. “It takes a mature young man for it not to affect your play. I also think it takes a group of unselfish teammates to really understand the microscope the player is under.
“The interactions and amount of things they have to deal with. Certainly we had some idea of what it would be like. It’s constant. It doesn’t go away.”
Brownell, who just completed his fourth season in TigerTown, says McDaniels handled it as well as possible.
“If they don’t handle it right, it becomes a distraction for your team,” said Brownell. “K.J. did a good a job as you can do at deflecting things and staying focused on our team. Always putting our team first in what we’re trying to accomplish this season. “He made several statements over the course of the year every time he was asked (saying) he was not thinking about it. And to be honest with you, with K.J., he wasn’t thinking about it. His mind wasn’t on a draft position.
“His mind was on what we have to do to win. That’s very mature. I don’t think there are a lot of guys who are going to be that way. That’s hard.”