If you look at what junior wing K.J. McDaniels has accomplished while at Clemson you’ll see quite an impressive resume.
Heading into this morning’s National Invitation Tournament game with Illinois, McDaniels ranks in the top 10 in school history for points (575), free throws made (148), blocks (91) and dunks (48).
He had 30 points and 14 rebounds in last Tuesday’s 78-66 NIT win over Georgia State.
There’s no question the high-flying roundballer has done everything in his power to make Clemson successful.
And if his college basketball career ends with the Tigers’ final game in the 2014 NIT, he’ll have helped provide a solid brick to the basketball foundation Brad Brownell is building at the school.
McDaniels was part of Brownell’s first full recruiting class back in 2011, and the coach proved prophetic when he talked up the gangly guard from Birmingham.
“K.J. is an extremely athletic wing player who we feel can make an impact on both ends of the floor,” Brownell said three years ago. “He’s a pretty good three-point shooter and an outstanding rebounder. I think our fans will really enjoy watching him play.”
Oh, they most certainly have.
At times the 6-6 McDaniels has been the proverbial human highlight reel, following up a nylon-twinkling 3-pointer with an emphatic, rim-bending dunk
But he also has the “wow factor” on defense, blocking shots at a record pace and chasing down loose balls with what can best be described as controlled recklessness.
What he can do - and what he does game in and game out - has become business as usual for Brownell.
“I’m more used to him,” Brownell said. “But I’m sure some of the teams that don’t see him play often think they have a layup and then he comes up and pins one on the glass.”
The First Team All-ACC performer and Defensive Player of the Year led the league in blocked shots (2.77 per game) during the regular season. He also paced his team in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and steals.
Of course stats don’t tell the whole story.
For the last month he’s played with a painful shoulder injury.
“There’s still some sharp pain in it but I’m fighting through it,” McDaniels said after the Tigers’ latest victory. “It’s the postseason and no one wants the season to end so I’ll do whatever I need to do.”
So he’s a star and a gamer, and both are attributes that make a student-athlete a fan favorite and one who’ll be getting direct deposits from an NBA club soon enough.
But one of McDaniels’ greatest contributions this season has been the ability to make his teammates better. Guys like Damarcus Harrison and Rod Hall have stepped up in both performance and confidence thanks in large part to McDaniels.
On a team with no seniors McDaniels has provided real senior leadership, a trait that has rubbed off on this year’s team and should pay even bigger dividends next season.
Will McDaniels be around to reap what he helped sow?
However, all his hard work and good work will be apparent even if he’s with the Association in 2014-15.
This young man has done all he could do every time out as a Clemson Tiger. And whatever McDaniels decides to do going forward, he’s already done more than enough.