Clemson coach Brad Brownell confident in team despite losing K.J. McDaniels

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Brad Brownell didn’t think last year’s team was as bad as its next-to-last preseason projection in the Atlantic Coast Conference. And he doesn’t believe the bottom will drop out for his 23-win Tigers this season with the early departure of star K.J. McDaniels for the NBA.

“I don’t know if you’ll see a guy do what K.J.

did. It’s awfully hard to become all-ACC in this league,” Brownell said. “But I certainly think you’ll see guys that develop.”

They’ll need to develop in many areas to make up for McDaniels, the ACC’s defensive player of the year now with the Philadelphia 76ers. He led the Tigers, who improved from 13-18 in 2012-13 to 23-13 last season, with 17 points and seven rebounds a game. He had 100 blocks to lead the ACC and a team-best 41 steals.

Coach kind of put the ball in my hands in tough situations and I made plays. That gave me a lot of momentum.
— Rod Hall, Clemson PG

“He’s going to be a big piece that is missing,” point guard Rod Hall said. “But we’ve got to do our best to pick that up.”

Hall’s finish from last season is a good place to start. The senior averaged 9.7 points last season, but went for double figures in eight of Clemson’s final 11 games. He believes that production gave him a jump start to this year when the Tigers will need another go-to player with games on the line.

“Coach kind of put the ball in my hands in tough situations and I made plays,” Hall said. “That gave me a lot of momentum.”

Clemson has an advantage it hadn’t in Brownell’s first four seasons — the Tigers’ top two scorers for each of the past four years did not return the following season — in that four of its top five scorers are back from a year ago.

Along with Hall, senior Demarcus Harrison and juniors Landry Nnoko and Jordan Roper return. Nnoko, at 6-foot-10, finished third in the ACC with 69 blocks a year ago and Brownell thinks he can take another step forward with more of an offensive presence.

“I feel great about it,” Nnoko said. “I feel like it’s my time.”

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