KJ McDaniels, Clemson’s star forward, announced today that he will forgo his senior season to enter the NBA Draft. McDaniels, whose season far exceeded expectations, is predicted to be a mid to late first round pick this June. Although many scouts and experts believe that were he to stick around for his final season he could greatly improve his draft stock, it is clear that McDaniels does not want to risk or wait for his shot at the NBA. When announcing his decision, McDaniels stated “I’m thankful for the opportunity these past three seasons to grow as a player and person at Clemson, none of this would have been possible without the guidance and support of my coaches, teammates and family.” Although he knew he was an essential piece of the Tigers’ high hopes to compete in the ACC next season, McDaniels feels that the decision had to be made, telling the media “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.”
McDaniels incredible rise this season came as a shock to many. His sophomore year, he was little more than an incredibly athletic player with a uncanny ability for highlight reel dunks and blocks, but little more. It was clear that he had incredible potential if he could develop certain areas of his game, but it shocked everyone when he did so in only one off season. McDaniels had a dramatic increase in every major offensive and defensive category, including averages of over 17 points, 7 rebounds, and just under 3 blocks a game. Though McDaniels showed some inconsistencies, especially toward the end of the season, he clearly possesses the skills, strengths and athleticism to be a very well rounded player at the next level. The most promising quality he possesses though is his ability to improve and his coachability. If McDaniels can continue to improve at a fraction of the rate he did last year, he will more than likely be a solid, NBA starter within his first three or four years in the league, if not sooner.
Despite damaging the hopes for success next season, the Clemson Basketball program can consider KJ declaring for the draft as a successful step. Although he will leave a huge hole in the lineup, McDaniels accomplishments reflect very well on a program that has not had an NBA prospect since Trevor Booker. The national attention that the program will receive from a first round draft pick will help Brownell and the coaching staff to recruit more talented players. Regardless of what happens in the draft and beyond, McDaniels can be certain he will receive full support from the Clemson family, and we wish him all the luck in the world.