|Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 6:45 AM- -|
Three years ago I had a conversation with Clemson basketball coach
Brad BrownellBrad Brownell
View Full Profile about his program and his vision. Brownell said something that day that turned out to be pretty amazing. It was the fall of 2011 and Sammy Watkins was in the middle of an incredible freshman season. Watkins was the talk of college football. You couldn't turn on ESPN without hearing about Watkins on College Football Live or Gameday. Watkins was the hottest young name in the sport.
Brownell told me, "We need a Sammy Watkins in Clemson basketball. We need to sign a dynamic athlete that is much better than anyone expected."
What Brownell didn't know was that he already had his "Basketball Sammy."
When Clemson signed
K.J. McDanielsK.J. McDaniels
#32 6-6, 200
View Full Profile out of Birmingham, A.L. it was without much fanfare. The Tigers didn't have to beat the major powers in college basketball for his signature. Three years later McDaniels has announced that he is leaving school early and is expected to be a first round pick in this year's NBA draft.
How did an unheralded prospect develop into one of the most exciting players in college basketball? I credit his hard work and Brownell's excellent staff.K.J.'s Legacy
He worked extremely hard and showed steady progress in his three years. His outside shooting and free throw shooting were perhaps his biggest gains. He still has work to do with ball handling being the biggest issue but I think the NBA will get a guy willing to do what it takes to stay in the league.
Brownell and his staff also deserve credit. Time and time again we have seen his staff develop players to levels that many thought were unreachable. I would make the claim that player development is perhaps his staff's biggest strength.
Clemson football has been able to capitalize on superstars like C.J. Spiller and Watkins. They have been able to sell the successes of Spiller and Watkins to potential prospects.
Now Brownell is going to take that campaign to the recruiting trails for Clemson basketball. The staff will try to sell wing players on their development. Coaches can tell them they can become the next guy that is always on the SportsCenter Top 10 segments a couple of times a week. Clemson basketball can brand itself as an exciting brand where high flying athletes can make a name for themselves.
A couple of years ago some criticized Brownell by saying his defensive style of basketball is not exciting. Other teams pressed for 94 feet and ran at every opportunity. Poor attendance was blamed on the "boring" style. Winning and McDaniels changed that. How many times did McDaniels come from the backside to swat a ball into the front row of fans? How many high-flying alley-oops did he crash down on opponents? How many thunderous put-back slams did we see over the past three years?
McDaniels changed Clemson basketball. Hopefully he changed it for the long term and we can look back on his legacy as one of the most important in Clemson basketball history.
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