Last season, the Clemson men’s basketball team closed the season strong to earn a berth in the NIT. The season was highlighted by three wins against Maryland and a last second victory over arch-rival South Carolina. In Oliver Purnell’s second season, his team proved they could play with anybody in the country.
24 hours after beating Maryland in the ACC tournament, Clemson played eventual National Champion North Carolina to wire, in fact the Tigers lead almost the entire game. Now the Tigers will look to make some noise in Coach Purnell’s third season.
Friday night, we will get our first look at the 2005-2006 men’s basketball team. There is a solid nucleus of players returning led by Cliff Hammonds, Shawan Robinson, and Akin Akingbala.
Hammonds was one the biggest surprises in the ACC as a freshman last year. Hammonds is a leader on the floor and can create his own shot. It will be exciting to see what improvements he has made in the off-season.
Here are few things we will be looking to see in the scrimmage tomorrow night:
1) How the big men look without Sharrod Ford. Akingbala has played well at times, but this will be by far the largest role he has ever played. James Mays was impressive leading the Tigers full court pressure last season. Mays will need to be more physical on the inside this season. Ford was a tremendous presence as a shot blocker, and the Tigers will likely have to use a host of players to replace him.
2) How does Sam Perry look shooting the basketball. Perry was a lock down defender and showed he could attack the basket as a freshman. If Perry shows an ability to consistently hit a 15 or 17 foot jump shot, he will be very difficult to defend.
3) Does Troy Mathis appear to have any rust? Mathis was not allowed to practice with the team until late in the season. He was very impressive in the Orange and White scrimmage last year. Mathis has the offensive skills, but his ability on the defensive end will determine how much court time he sees this year.
4) Is KC Rivers 100%? If Rivers looks 100% from a broken ankle he suffered last year, he could be an instant impact. We will watch closely to see how well Rivers moves. In scouting him last year, he was maybe at 80%. He is a very basketball savvy player and could be the team’s best shooter. If Rivers delivers, no one will remember the loss of Cheyenne Moore.