McDaniels steps up

With starting junior forward Milton Jennings still on indefinite suspension for failure to comply with the team's academic standards, the emergence of K.J. McDaniels is coming at a good time for Clemson.

The Tigers are in dire need of someone to compensate for the loss of Jennings, who was averaging 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds when he was suspended on Jan. 30.

McDaniels, a 6-foot-6 freshman forward, got the first start of his career on Feb. 4 at Virginia Tech and responded with career highs in points (14), rebounds (five), blocks (five) and minutes (28). More important, he was the catalyst of the Tigers' second-half comeback that came up just two points short.

McDaniels was fouled on a dunk attempt in the game's final seconds and missed two free throws -- the second intentionally -- with 3.3 seconds left, but the misses didn't diminish his effort in coach Brad Brownell's eyes.

"He just decided to put his head down and go make a play," Brownell said. "I'm proud of him for that. I told him it was a big-time drive."

Brownell wants to see McDaniels pocket the experience and continue to feel good about himself.

"Hopefully he has confidence from the standpoint that we went to him," Brownell said. "He was playing well. He was aggressive."

With Jennings' immediate future in doubt, McDaniels may emerge not only as a key contributor but as a potential every-game starter -- regardless of whether Jennings returns.

MONDAY NOTES: Clemson coach Brad Brownell preaches ball protection, so it's no wonder he loves point guard Andre Young. Young, who entered the season as one of Clemson's all-time leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio, has only enhanced his standing this season.

K.J. McDaniels also recorded six dunks in Saturday's loss at Virginia Tech. (Getty Images)
In fact, in the Tigers' last three games, the 5-foot-9 senior has 10 assists and no turnovers despite averaging 34 minutes per game. One of those games was a win against Wake Forest in which Young duly impressed Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik.

"Look at his line: five assists, two steals, no turnovers, 19 points," Bzdelik said. "It's important to have seniors like that who have been around for a while and who understand this game."

Young's scoring took a hit in the Tigers' recent two-game road trip to the state of Virginia -- he went just 3 of 14 from 3-point range in losses to Virginia and Virginia Tech -- but he hasn't let that impact his playmaking or ball control.

Young has improved his assist-to-turnover ratio to 3.1 this season, which now ranks as the second-best figure in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

* Junior F Devin Booker has been productive of late, and the Tigers could certainly use similar efforts from him the rest of the ACC season. Booker has scored in double figures in three straight games and recently scored 16 points in back-to-back games -- the most he has scored in consecutive ACC contests.

"I just need to keep being aggressive," Booker said. "As long as I keep being aggressive, going after rebounds hard, I'll be a factor."

In the Tigers' following game at Virginia Tech, Booker had 11 rebounds and 11 points for his third double-double of the season.

* Clemson continues to be plagued by close defeats. The Tigers are winless on the ACC road, with their four losses coming by a combined 11 points, including a pair of two-point defeats.

"We have to find a way to make a play at the end of these games," coach Brad Brownell said.

Clemson has historically struggled on the road in the ACC, with a meager record of 73-326.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I gave our guys credit for battling. But I also just told them that we can't wait that long to decide we're going to get involved in a fight." -- Clemson coach Brad Brownell after his team fell behind by 17 points, then rallied with a late 15-3 run before losing 67-65 at Virginia Tech on Feb. 4. Top Stories