The 76ers had a change of plans.
They originally had second-round pick KJ McDaniels slotted to only play in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas on July 12-21. But the 6-foot-6 swingman out of Clemson met the team Friday in Orlando. He practiced that evening, and is expected to play in Saturday’s Orlando Summer League opener against the Magic.
“As the week went on, it was just a decision that was made to try and get him down here and have him join the group,” said Sixers assistant Lloyd Pierce, who coaches the Orlando summer-league squad. “He’s here now, and we will see what can do with him.
McDaniels is a little bit behind due to missing four days of mini-camp.
On Friday, the 21-year-old was overjoyed to have an opportunity to practice in an NBA setting.
“It’s a great feeling just to be an NBA practice facility. It’s a great feeling,” he said. “To be in an NBA-type environment is going to be pretty exciting as well.”
It will be interesting to see where he’s lines up at on the court. The team hasn’t decided if they’ll use him at shooting guard, small forward or both.
“It’s just kind of in between the two positions,” McDaniels said. “But either one they need me to play I’m willing to do.”
That’s because he’s eager to leave his imprint on the game, regardless of where he plays.
“I feel like just being a spark,” McDaniels said of his role, “having the energy and being out there giving my best effort and bringing the excitement to the game, blocking shots, putback dunks. Just being the all-around athlete that can do everything on the court.”
McDaniels was the only NCAA player to lead his team in scoring (17.1 points per game), rebounds (7.1 per game), three-point field goals (42), steals (41), and blocked shots (100).
A defensive stalwart, the Birmingham, Ala., resident led the Atlantic Coast Conference in blocked shots for the second consecutive season.
One of his best performances came against Georgia State in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament. He shot 9 for 11 from the field and finished with 30 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots.
He ended the season as a first-team all-ACC selection and conference defensive player of the year.
Follow and contact Inquirer 76ers beat writer Keith Pompey on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers