McDaniels ready for NBA draft, shot at dream

Former Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels worked out with the Memphis Grizzlies leading up to the NBA draft (Commercial Appeal).

Former Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels worked out with the Memphis Grizzlies leading up to the NBA draft (Commercial Appeal).

K.J. McDaniels is expected to be Clemson’s eighth-ever NBA draft first-round selection.

Where exactly the first-team All-ACC selection lands Thursday night is another story.

Hopeful of being only the school’s fifth top-20 pick, McDaniels — in addition to the combine — hit the workout circuit hard in June for teams selecting high (Philadelphia 76ers, No. 3 and 10) and low (Oklahoma City Thunder, No. 29).

Leading up to the draft this week, he went out to Denver (pick No. 11) and then Charlotte (No. 9; No. 24). The athletic wing wasn’t quite sure how many team workouts he had done by Tuesday in the Queen City, guessing 12 or 13.

“I’m just praying and enjoying the process and (being) blessed to have the opportunity to be in this position is enough for me,” McDaniels told reporters. “I’m just waiting for Thursday and whatever happens — happens.”

Most draft analysts have McDaniels being selected in the low-20s.

Yahoo Sports and CBS Sports peg him No. 23 overall to the Utah Jazz.’s David Aldridge has him as pick No. 24 to the newly-renamed Charlotte Hornets, who worked him out twice.

“If the Hornets keep this pick, McDaniels would be excellent value here and fit right in with (Charlotte coach) Steve Clifford’s defensive ways,” Aldridge said. “If they don’t, he’ll be a rotation guy for a good team that buys the pick from Charlotte. McDaniels led the ACC in blocked shots last season and has Tony Allen-like potential as an NBA perimeter defender.”

The Hornets’ coach complimented Brad Brownell and co. in his evaluation of McDaniels, the reigning ACC defensive player of the year.

“He’s a tough kid and he’s quick and he looks to me — (and) I haven’t seen him a lot,” Clifford said, “but he has a post-up game and he can drive the ball. He’s been very well coached defensively.”

McDaniels says he the made the most of his second chance in Charlotte.

“I feel like it went good,” said McDaniels. “Second time playing with good-caliber players I felt like it went better than the first time (and) against better competition.”

“I feel like (defense will) be my card in the league. Mainly going out there and stop somebody because defense wins games. Just starting with that defensive mindset and it will all start to flow offensively.”

NBA rookie salaries are guaranteed for the first two seasons with options for third and fourth years — extensions of three years-plus available after that. For the final 10 picks of the first round (21-30), the range of guaranteed money is around $2.3 to $1.8 million.

The two-round draft, held at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, starts at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Trevor Booker was the last Tiger to be selected in the late-June event, No. 23 overall, landing with the Washington Wizards in 2010. Sharone Wright was the school’s highest pick in 1994, No. 6 to the 76ers.

McDaniels joined Booker and 1990 first-round selection Elden Campbell this season in the 40-40-40 club of blocks, steals and assists in a single year.

He was the only player in the NCAA to lead his team in points (614), rebounds (255), blocks (100), 3-pointers (42) and steals (41).

After fielding few big offers out of Central Park Christian (Birmingham), this is just another of the opportunities ahead in proving doubters wrong.

“People saying that I wouldn’t be able to play at this level was pretty much the obstacle I had to face,” McDaniels said. “It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was little. I come from Alabama and most people told me I couldn’t do it so (being drafted) would be a big accomplishment to me and my family as well.”

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