Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Clemson relies on a jumper
Clemson's K.J. McDaniels. center, reacts after he was charged with a technical foul for hanging on the rim after making a dunk in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Coastal Carolina at Littlejohn Coliseum on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas sophomore forward Michael Qualls won’t be the only player Saturday in Walton Arena whose dunks are becoming internet sensations.
Clemson junior K.J. McDaniels, who like Qualls is 6-6, also has a growing reputation for highlight dunks.
“He puts you in the mind of a guy like Qualls,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s just very athletic, but now the skill level is coming as well. He’s an exciting player.”
McDaniels is averaging a team-high 17.1 points for the Tigers (7-1) along with 6.4 rebounds. His average of 3.0 blocked shots leads the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“He’s a quick jumper,” Anderson said.
ARKANSAS VS. CLEMSON
WHEN: 1 p.m.
WHERE: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
TV: Comcast Sports Southeast
McDaniels has more blocked shots in eight games (24) than Arkansas has as a team (20) in seven games.
“It’s just being in the right place at the right time,” McDaniels told the Greenville News of South Carolina earlier this season. “My timing, it’s just been natural. “I’ve always been able to time up things pretty well.
“The presence of me doing that helps the team out a lot, and it puts a lot of fear in other teams.”
McDaniels had seven blocked shots against both South Carolina and Temple. He has 102 career blocked shots in 66 games.
“He has a feel for it, a knack and the athletic ability to make plays that most guys his size can’t do,” Clemson Coach Brad Brownell told reporters. “Rim protectors are valuable pieces of the defense. Certainly, we have a luxury in that we’ve got a 6-6 wing who plays like he’s 6-10.”
McDaniels has scored 20 or more points in five games this season, including a career-high 22 against Coastal Carolina. He had 21 points and 10 rebounds against South Carolina.
Along with 7-foot Tree Rollins, who starred for the Tigers in the 1970s, he’s the only Clemson player to have at least 20 points, 8 rebounds and 7 blocked shots in 2 games, and he did it in back-to-back games this season against South Carolina and Temple.
“He still has work to do and his game still has room to grow, which is exciting,” Brownell told reporters after the Tigers’ 71-57 victory over the Gamecocks. “He’s a guy still learning to play off the dribble and pass in traffic.
“He always makes the highlight plays with the blocks and dunks and things of that nature, but his skill level has improved tremendously with his shooting, his ability to drive it and attack some close-outs. Those weren’t really things he came here with the ability to do.”
Anderson has been familiar with McDaniels for several years. McDaniels played at Birmingham (Ala.) Central Park Christian High School, where Arkansas sophomore forward Jacorey Williams was his teammate. McDaniels also knows Arkansas senior forward Coty Clarke, who is from Birmingham.
Anderson said he recruited McDaniels before he committed to Clemson.
“He’s done a good job in terms of really developing,” Anderson said. “He’s always had the athletic ability, and now he’s scoring.
“He’s going to be a big challenge because he’s an energy guy. He scores a lot of different ways. He’s going to get two or three dunks just hanging around the basket or running the floor. Now he’s putting the ball on the floor as well.”
Sports, Pages 17 on 12/06/2013