Brownell enters unfamiliar territory

CLEMSON - Brad Brownell is riding through uncharted waters. In his 12th season as a head coach, he's never coached a player who's played in the NBA.

There hasn't been a Clemson player to make it in the NBA since Trevor Booker, who was a first-round pick by the Wizards in 2010, shortly after Brownell was brought in from Wright State.

Since then, Brownell has seen of his former players make careers playing overseas -- Demontez Stitt, Jerai Grant, Tanner Smith, Andre Young, Devin Booker and Milton Jennings. K.J. McDaniels is the odds on favorite to be the first Brownell-coached player to make the association.

It's just a matter of when McDaniels decides he's ready to make the move.

"I've never really had an NBA guy, so we're both trying to make sure the stays focused on what he's doing," Brownell said. "The better he plays here, the better he plays now, the better our team does. That only helps him in the long-run."

In addition to the spectacular highlights, the numbers tell the story on McDaniels, who leads his team in scoring [17.0], rebounding [7.1] and blocked shots [2.8]. He's also first in field-goal percentage [46 percent] and free-throw percentage [87 percent].

"I think he can certainly make some improvements, without a doubt," Brownell said. "I don't know that you can go from 17 points to 24 points. It's easier to go from 10 to 17 than it is from 17 to 24, but I think he can become a better player, absolutely.

"I think his assists can be better. I think his rebounding -- there's a myriad of things he can still improve, and showcase his game. Some of that is continuing to affect the game without just points, but it's not going to be the dramatic points change that we've seen, especially the last two years. I think you get to a certain point where that becomes top-ended a little bit."

But, as Brownell noted, McDaniels is putting up points for a team that's won a lot of games this season -- 17, as the Tigers head into Tuesday night's matchup at Wake Forest.

"I think one of the things I've talked about here recently with a few people in the media is explaining how well K.J. is doing. K.J. averages 17 points and our team is winning," Brownell said. "So, he's not a 17-point scorer on a team that's won two games. He's a 17-point scorer on a team that's won 17 games and eight league games, so he's affecting winning in more ways than just those points."

Coming out of Central Park Christian School in Birmingham, Ala., McDaniels' offer sheet wasn't that of a guy who was bound for a career in the NBA.

When he committed to Clemson in January of 2011, McDaniels' only other high-major offer was from Missouri. Murray State, Tulane and Arkansas-Little Rock had also offered. Florida, Ole Miss, Wichita State, VCU, UAB and Louisiana Tech were expressing interest.

"I saw NBA athleticism. I remember saying when we signed him -- people though Bryan Narcisse was a good athlete, and he is, but K.J. McDaniels is better," Brownell said. "This guy will be the best athlete we might see as long as I coach at Clemson."

With three regular season home games left on the schedule, the clock could be ticking on just how much longer Clemson fans have with McDaniels at Littlejohn Coliseum.

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