Commentary: Purnell Moving In The Right Direction
The frustration is beginning to set in, but there is still light at the
end of the tunnel. Some may say that the light is an
on-coming train, either way I am going to continue to support and advocate
the progression of Clemson's MEN'S basketball program (the train hit the women's program
almost a year ago).
As frustrated as I am now, I can remember watching the Shyatt era, that
memory is why I am not deterred by the recent setbacks. I hate to beat a
dead horse, but some people need to be reminded. Before Purnell was
hired, it was a regular occurence for Clemson to lose to Yale, Wofford,
and South Carolina. No, South Carolina is not in the same breath as Yale
and Wofford, but Shyatt was only able to beat the in-state rival once. A
rivalry that was dominated by Clemson under Rick Barnes, at a time when
both programs were at a high level, and now Purnell has defeated South
Carolina two consecutive years.
If you want to see progression, you can take a look at the recruiting
classes. Purnell's first class consisted of Vernon Hamilton. Hamilton
would have been first team All-ACC midway through the conference season.
He has battled injuries since early in the Virginia Tech game. Hamilton
was shooting 54% from the field, and number three in the country in steals
per game. The injuries have hurt his numbers, but he was playing the point
guard position as well as anyone in the southeast, not just the ACC.
Year two: Cliff Hammonds, Troy Mathis, James Mays, and Cheyenne Moore.
Cliff Hammonds is the only player that is seeing significant minutes
currently. Moore was a talented perimeter player, who left the program
for various reasons. Mays was Clemson's best player the first half of the
season, but he made poor choices in the classroom. Mathis was suspended
his first season. He was expected to fill the void on the perimeter left
by Moore. There was no way to know that Mathis would recover from knee
surgery. Hammonds is struggling on offense. His personality has been his biggest setback this season. Hammonds has such high standards for himself that he just presses too hard in games, especially late.
Year three: KC Rivers, Julius Powell, and Raymond Sykes. Rivers was the
only junior to start for Oak Hill, which is maybe the most prominent high
school basketball program in the country. Rivers has a chance to be one
of the best scorers in the history of the program. He will only get
better, when the offense is geared around him more next season. Powell
has a nice perimeter jump shot and plays well within the offense. He was
very timid, when he first stepped on campus. He has looked timid on the
defensive end multiple times this year, but a year in the weight room and
a year of experience should allow Powell to become more aggressive on the
defensive end next season. Sykes was by far the most raw player Purnell
has signed. He has tremendous athleticism, but he lacks offensive skills.
What Sykes does not lack is effort. Every time he has stepped on the
floor this year, he has put forth a great effort. He has the skills
defensively, but he needs to bulk up. The coaches will look to develop
his offensive game, much like they did with Sharrod Ford. Ford averaged
5.2 points per game, when the current coaching staff took over.
The recruiting class that Purnell just signed will be his best class, when
they step on campus. The recruiting classes have improved each year. The
coaches have not been able to land the nation's premier talents, but they
have done a good job of identifying players to fit the system.
To build a program from ruins, you have to identify the players you can
get and the players that fit your style. Most coaches who fail to
complete a rebuilding process fall short in one of those two areas. Coach
Purnell and his staff have not fallen short in either criteria.
The forward progress has been slowed by the absence of Mays, Moore, and
Mathis, and now the lost of Hamilton could potentially destroy any
Is it okay to be frustrated? The answer is yes, but to deny the progress
of the program from obscurity is simply uneducated.