Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Clemson SF KJ McDaniels about being 1 of the best shot-blockers in the ACC.
You lost your top-two big men from last year (Devin Booker, Milton Jennings): how much pressure do you feel to be a leader this year? I came in last year expecting to be a leader, so it will be a great challenge for me as well as some of our other guys. We all just try to lead each other both on and off the court.
You do not have a single senior on the roster. Is this team built to win now or do you think this is going to be a rebuilding year? We have a lot to learn this year, so the off-season was very helpful. We are a very close team but it will be a challenge for our younger guys, so we have to lock in and help each other.
Your team took a trip to Italy in August, what was your favorite part of your time abroad? My favorite part was seeing the Colosseum in Rome: I have seen it in movies like “Gladiator”, but to be there in person was amazing.
Three of your new conference opponents this year will be Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse. How competitive do you expect the brand-new ACC to be this winter? I already thought the ACC was the best basketball conference, but with the three new teams it will be even more competitive, so it will be a good year for the ACC.
Your non-conference schedule includes games against South Carolina, Temple, Arkansas, and Auburn. Which of these four games do you feel will present your biggest test? All of them will be big tests for us, especially on the road. I am looking forward to the Arkansas game because I will get to face my former high school teammate Jacorey Williams. It will help us develop chemistry.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? We want to put last year behind us while teaching the new guys what it takes to win games: that starts with defense.
You play for Coach Brad Brownell, what makes Brownell such a good coach, and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him? He is a motivator on defense and focuses on the fundamentals. He is especially helpful to the new players who come here from foreign countries.
You have a 35½” vertical leap, how much of an advantage is your athleticism on the court? It gives me a great advantage, especially because I can guard point guards and power forwards and everything in between.
Last year you were 2nd in the ACC with two blocks per game despite only being 6’6”. What is your secret for being a great shot-blocker? It is not really a secret: just having the right timing and not being intimidated by taller players. You also have to be active with your hands.
Your father Kevin Sr. played at South Alabama. Who is the best player in the family, and do you credit at least some of your success to genetics? My dad was a good player, but I feel that I am the best in the family. He always played ball with my growing up…until I started to beat him! My mom also pushed me to succeed and has a lot to do with where I am now.