|by David Hood|
The junior forward was named first-team All-ACC, announced Monday by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA). McDaniels is also the first Tiger to be named to the first team since Trevor Booker in 2010, and one of just 12 Clemson players to achieve that honor.
Due to that history, he wasn’t sure if he would be named to the first-team, so he did what any young athlete does during his free time – he slept.
“I actually got a call from Coach (Steve) Smith first, and he congratulated me first,” McDaniels told TigerNet Monday afternoon. “I didn’t know, because I was in the bed asleep. But it was surprising to me, honestly. I saw a lot of tweets saying that if I didn’t get first-team then something was wrong, and I wasn’t too worried about it. But I was surprised that I made first-team with that caliber of players. It was an honor.”
Heading into the ACC Tournament, McDaniels leads the Tigers in averaging 17.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. For the second straight year, he leads the conference in blocks per game (2.8). He is fourth in the ACC in free throw percentage (.847),fifth in scoring, sixth in field goal percentage (.452), and seventh in rebounding.
McDaniels is the only player in the country leading his team in scoring, rebounding, three-pointers, blocks and steals. He is vying to become only the second ACC player in history to do it, joining Wake Forest’s Josh Howard in 2002-03. McDaniels has 83 blocks and 36 three-pointers, only the second player in ACC history with at least 80 blocks and 30 steals in a season (Duke’s Shane Battier was the other in 2001-02).
Despite the gaudy numbers and rising NBA draft stock, however, McDaniels says the award is more about the Tigers have accomplished as a team.
“It says a lot (about the team). We have worked hard since day one,” he said. “Our Italy trip was beneficial to us and helpful to us. We have been able to use that to our advantage. I am definitely proud of myself, but I have to keep working.”
Head coach Brad Brownell said he was pleased with McDaniels received the honor.
“I am very happy for K.J. and I thought he had an outstanding season,” Brownell said. “I am happy that he was recognized by the media for his fine play. He has led us in a million categories and certainly impacted winning as much as any player in the league and helped our team achieve more than people thought. I am happy to see he was rewarded for his hard work. A big reason why he was first-team all league is the success of our team this year.
“To finish as well as we did makes his stats even more important. To average 17 points and seven rebounds and lead the league in blocks on a team that did as well as we did was big. There were certainly a lot of good players, but K.J. is certainly one of the league’s five best players. He has improved as much as anybody as I’ve ever coached.”
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org