Philly Connection: K.J. McDaniels

by Dan Cappetta

Last week we introduced a new feature on called Philly Connection. In the first installment, we highlighted Casper Ware and his ties to the city of Philadelphia. We’re back with more, this time introducing you to rookie K.J. McDaniels and walking you through his links to your city.


McDaniels’ steady ascent to the world’s premier basketball league began in Birmingham, Alabama.  As a senior at Central Park Christian School, McDaniels struggled to garner the attention that many believed he deserved as a recruit. After being passed up on by the likes of Florida, Missouri, and Tennessee, he committed to Clemson with a chip on his shoulder. There, he made a name for himself, playing for head coach Brad Brownell. After receiving limited minutes as a freshman, McDaniels earned a starting spot as a sophomore thanks to his athleticism and unique skill set. He fully hit his stride during his junior year, leading the ACC with 2.8 blocks per game, an extremely reare feat for a 6’6” wing. Thriving under Coach Brownell, he earned First Team All-ACC honors and was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 before declaring for the NBA draft. 

Coach Brownell has played some ball himself. Before earning three letters at DePauw University, Brownell started his career at William Henry Harrison High School in Evansville, Indiana. There, he played alongside Indiana Hoosier great Calbert Cheaney. While Cheaney was recognized as a great talent in high school, he suffered an injury during his senior season that put his future in question. He put those concerns to rest immediately after arriving on Indiana’s campus in 1989. In just his first game as a Hoosier, Cheaney started at small forward, scoring 20 points and becoming the first player in school history to do so in their debut. The scoring never slowed – with 2,613 career points, Cheaney is the Big Ten’s all-time leader. After his senior year in Bloomington, he collected a bevy of postseason honors, including the Naismith, Wooden, and AP national Player of the Year awards, Big Ten Player of the Year, and was voted a consensus first-team All-American.

Aside from Cheaney’s success on the court, he also landed a cameo in Ron Shelton’s star-studded movie Blue Chips. The 1994 basketball drama features a long list of basketball icons, including Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Bird, Bobby Knight, and Dick Vitale. Shelton, who both writes and directs, has handcrafted some of your favorite sports flicks, such as Bull Durham and White Men Can’t Jump. The former film tells the story of a minor league baseball player, much of which is believed to have been inspired by his own sports career – Shelton played in the Baltimore Orioles farm system from 1967 to 1971. Though sports may be his forte, he has also ventured outside of that realm. One of Shelton’s hits outside of his wheelhouse: Bad Boys II, starring none other than Sixers part-owner Will Smith.

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