|by Nikki Steele|
Brad Brownell has no seniors on a team that far exceeded the preseason expectations of a 14th place finish in the ACC and no postseason play. He also has added two top-notch players during the last recruiting cycle that could very well be the missing pieces that the Tigers have been searching for.
The good news is that Brownell and company have shown that they are more than capable of developing players, and that their players get better each and every year.
Just look at Rod Hall, Landry Nnoko and K.J. McDaniels. Those three improved leaps and bounds over where they were a year ago.
The next step is getting them all even better.
“We have made a lot of positive steps,” Brownell told the media Tuesday night. “We have some young men in our program, Rod Hall, Nnoko, K.J. McDaniels made huge strides this year and have become good players. Now, if you're going to take the next step, you need more guys to be great players, and certainly K.J. was that this year. We just need a little more consistency from a few more guys.”
Hall, Ibrahim Djambo, Damarcus Harrison and McDaniels, should he decide to return, will all be seniors next year.
“The good news is we have all young players,” Brownell said. “So you know, this is a process; it's a tough process. But certainly the experience of the last two weeks has really helped us. I think the experience of the season, the grind of the season for our team to stay in and fight, really until the last game or two for an NCAA Tournament bid hopefully bodes well.”
The even better news is that Clemson will get Jaron Blossomgame – who suffered a hairline fracture in his leg in the Georgia State – back. They will also have the services of freshman Patrick Rooks, who missed this season with a hip injury that he suffered back in September. Rooks is a 3-point shooter who performed well on the Tigers’ trip to Italy last August, and his absence robbed the Tigers of another outside threat.
The best news of all may just be that in addition to all of the experience returning for the Tigers, they will add a lot of talent in Donte Grantham and Gabe DeVoe. Grantham is a forward who can play the “4-man” or play on the perimeter. Before spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy, Grantham averaged 18.3 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game at Martinsburg (WV).
DeVoe is a Parade All-American 6-2 shooting guard who put up unbelievable numbers during his senior year at Shelby (NC), leading the entire state of North Carolina in scoring with 34 points per game. He set school records for three-pointers in a game with 11, a season with 105 and career with 218. He also set the school record for points in a game with 52, a season with 885 and a career with 2,072.
Despite the disappointing loss in Madison Square Garden, Brownell said that he likes the direction his team is heading.
“We certainly feel very good about where our program is and what we are doing. But we are in a monster league,” Brownell said. “We have got IBM and Coca Cola and all those people in our league and they are not going away. They reload with McDonald's All Americans every year, and we have got to continue to take the guys that we recruit and build them up and get them to play hard and get stronger.”
As we look ahead to next season, Brownell hopes that the Clemson faithful are just as excited about the direction of this program as he is.
“So you've got to really work at it in this league, but it's been a very good year,” he said. “I think we have rejuvenated our fan base a little bit and I'm very excited with where we're going. “
Nikki Steele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org