CLEMSON - In the conference with perhaps the nation's most decorated individual superstars, Clemson junior forward K.J. McDaniels could not be overlooked.
McDaniels was named to the rare air of the media's five-man first-team all-ACC squad Monday, commended for his efforts in raising Clemson from a projected cellar-dweller to a tie for fifth in the final league standings.
The team, voted upon by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, included McDaniels, Duke freshman Jabari Parker, NC State sophomore T.J. Warren, North Carolina sophomore Marcus Paige and Syracuse senior C.J. Fair.
McDaniels is the first Tiger named to the first team in head coach Brad Brownell's four years at Clemson. Trevor Booker received the honor in 2010.
That wasn't the only honor for McDaniels: he was named on more all-ACC defensive team ballots than any other colleague, the fourth different Tiger in the past five years to be named to that team.
The ACC coaches placed McDaniels on their all-conference second team, preferring Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon along with Parker, Warren, Paige and Fair.
According to a Clemson release, McDaniels is the only Division I player in the nation leading his team in scoring (17.1 points per game), rebounding (7.2), 3-pointers (36), blocked shots (83) and steals (36). McDaniels is just the second ACC player, following Duke's Shane Battier, to post 80 blocks and 30 steals in one year.
"It's been a humbling experience to see the growth that I've developed," McDaniels said Feb. 24. "I felt like I could have had this season my freshman year. But I had to wait for my turn, and my turn came. I think I've capitalized on that pretty well."
McDaniels is on pace, at an average of 2.8 blocks, to defend his ACC crown in individual swats, even though he stands just 6-foot-6 tall.
His stats steadily improved from last year, but it was his five SportsCenter Top 10 highlights and Clemson's 6-win improvement (entering the ACC Tournament) that made his name known.
"This guy will be the best athlete we might see as long as I coach at Clemson," Brownell said Feb. 24. "He makes plays that dumbfound you with his athleticism."
McDaniels was joined by Georgia Tech senior Daniel Miller, Virginia senior Akil Mitchell, Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis and North Carolina sophomore J.P. Tokoto on the media's all-defensive squad.
Parker and Warren tied for the most first-place votes and overall votes on all-ACC media ballots. Paige was voted Most Improved Player, and Virginia sophomore Justin Anderson represented the conference champion Cavs as Sixth Man of the Year.
Clemson (19-11, 10-8 ACC) will play Thursday at 9 p.m. in the ACC Tournament second round in Greensboro, N.C. against Wednesday's victory between Georgia Tech and Boston College.