CLEMSON – Call it the K.J. McDaniels plan – one Clemson coach Brad Brownell fully endorses going forward.
From his sophomore to junior seasons, the Birmingham, Ala. native’s numbers have jumped in leaps and bounds: +6.3 points (17.2), +0.7 blocks (2.8), +2.1 rebounds (7.1) and +16.5 free throw percentage (.849) on his way to first-team All-ACC status.
That groundwork was laid playing 28 minutes and averaging 10.9 points last season as a starter.
Brownell pointed to sophomore center Landry Nnoko as a player taking a similar development.
Playing sparingly behind Devin Booker and Milton Jennings last year, Nnoko averaged only a point per game, with just nine blocks in 206 minutes on the floor.
A starter from day one this season, the 6-10 Cameroon native is third in the ACC in blocks (67), averaging 6.4 points and 6.2 rebounds.
“Landry is the prime example of a guy whose confidence has grown because of success this year,” Brownell said. “He’s seeing himself making plays and making plays against good players. He hasn’t done it every game, but he’s certainly made great strides since last year. If he can make similar strides again, he will be a double-figure scorer.
“There aren’t a lot of true-post guys who are scoring 10-11 points a game and getting rebounds and two or three blocked shots and the things we expect Landry to do next year.”
Nnoko’s game has improved so much he got a little more attention than he’s received at this level, Tuesday, against Belmont.
Nnoko taking on increased attention
Every time he got the ball down-low, they trapped and double-teamed him. He had just three shots, making two for five points, but contributing most on the boards with nine rebounds and four blocks. Nnoko is excited about the possibilities when he’s more ready for that.
“I’m glad people are finally respecting my game,” Nnoko said. “It’s really nice because I can help the team in other ways to passing the ball and getting assists. Having to deal with a double-team – I don’t know how guys like K.J. and Rod (Hall) do that all night and every night. It’s tough.”
Brownell is also looking to his guards to build on their steps taken this season.
Hall, a junior like McDaniels, has boosted his average in points by 3.7 a game (9.4), helped by a +14.7 improvement in free throw percentage (.744).
Hall’s driving ability has been the difference or almost the difference at the end of several games this season.
“Rod more so in being able to make the plays at the end of games,” Brownell said. “Go try to make plays and being a little more successful this year than last year. That’s one of the things you have to admire about Rod is he hasn’t been afraid. Even as a sophomore he had to do things sometimes because he was one of our best drivers on the court last year. It didn’t always work out.
"But he wasn’t afraid to draw contact or make play and we’ve seen him do that this year as well.”
Over the year, Damarcus Harrison’s season-to-season average increases don’t knock you over, but that’s only if you ignore his finish.
Over the last nine games, the Greenwood product has averaged 12 points per, knocking down 39 percent of his 3-pointers and 77 percent of his free throws.
“He’s finished the year well,” Brownell said. “Especially offensively. Hopefully he’s tasted a little success with that and that’s motivated him this offseason. He had a pretty good offseason last year. He even has to up his work level to take another big step.”