Clemson's leading scorer predicted to be a first-round pick
BY AARON BRENNER
CLEMSON - The last time a prominent Clemson athlete took his time weighing his options between staying in school or going pro, the Tigers got their man.
K.J. McDaniels went the other way, deciding now was the time to launch his professional basketball career. The 6-6 junior and all-ACC first-team forward will enter the NBA draft.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity these past three seasons to grow as a player and person at Clemson," McDaniels said in a university statement. "None of this would have been possible without the guidance and support of my coaches, teammates and family. This was not an easy decision, but I am excited to take the next step toward fulfilling my lifelong dream of playing in the NBA."
The early entry declaration deadline is Sunday, and McDaniels had been pondering his future since the season ended April 1. Across the street at Memorial Stadium, All-American defensive end Vic Beasley wrestled with his course in January but eventually chose to return to the Clemson football team for his senior year.
However, Littlejohn Coliseum will be missing its most breathtaking figure in 2014-15.
Draft prognosticators from ESPN, Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports say McDaniels figures to be selected in the early 20s. Not quite in the lottery, but potentially bound for a team making the first or second round of this year's NBA playoffs.
McDaniels launched his ACC defensive player of the year campaign by leading the league in blocks for a second consecutive year, the third Clemson player ever to swat 100 shots.
McDaniels also dunked 58 times, appearing in five SportsCenter Top 10 Plays highlights to further spread his profile.
He led the Tigers (23-13) in scoring with 17.1 points per game, plus a team-high 7.1 rebounds, 42 3-pointers, 41 steals and 84.2 free throw percentage. Despite none of his teammates averaging double figures, McDaniels carried Clemson to a 10-win improvement from 2012-13 and lifted the Tigers to the NIT semifinals in New York City.
"I want to thank K.J. for his contributions to our basketball program these last three seasons," head coach Brad Brownell said in the statement. "K.J. is a hard-working, humble young man who always put the team first. He has had a tremendous impact on our program and improved as much as any player I've ever coached. I'm extremely proud of his development and excited for his future at the next level."
Returning to the Tigers next year are their next five leading scorers in terms of total points last year: guards Rod Hall, Damarcus Harrison and Jordan Roper, center Landry Nnoko and forward Jaron Blossomgame.