Brownell has different style than Purnell, builds for postseason

by - Senior Writer -
The Tigers' leading returning scorer is Demontez Sitt at 11.4 points per game.
The Tigers' leading returning scorer is Demontez Sitt at 11.4 points per game.

SUNSET, S.C. – Clemson men’s basketball coach Brad Brownell, embarking on his first season at the helm of the Tiger program, met with the media at The Reserve on Thursday, and said that his job is to try and get Clemson to the next level.

The first step in getting to that next level would be winning a game in the NCAA Tournament, something that former head coach Oliver Purnell failed to do during his tenure at Clemson.

Brownell was asked whether he would play pressure defense as much as Purnell’s teams and he said that he believes that style of basketball doesn’t always work well come NCAA Tournament time, which is why he prefers to use an aggressive half court defense.

“I am not saying that to discredit Coach Purnell,” Brownell said. “Coach Purnell did a good job here, and he took the program and did some wonderful things. He was just not fortunate enough to win an NCAA Tournament game. I think maybe that style of play sometimes doesn’t lend itself to the NCAA Tournament, and that’s why I don’t press all the time.

“Better teams handle the pressure better. Some players are better in the open court. The pressure was great for Littlejohn, and it was great to incite the crowd. It made for a home court where you can rattle the opponent when 10,000 people are screaming. But in other situations it’s not always as effective and you have to have other ways of doing things.”

Brownell said he was ready to get the season started, and was pleased with how the team has worked during the offseason.

"I feel really great about what we've been able to do in preseason,” he said. “Guys are working really hard. We finished up conditioning this morning. Now it's time to get on the court here soon and really get to work with these guys. We've been working in small groups for a month and a half now. I'm anxious to see how our guys pick up our philosophy on what we are trying to do and we'll see where that takes us."

The 41-year old DePauw graduate was asked if anything had surprised him about the team or the players, and he answered that it was hard to get a gauge on the players until full practice starts.

“Biggest surprise? Hard to say again because we haven't done anything in a full-team setting,” Brownell said. “We haven't seen our guys interact with each other. If I had to pick one [surprise] it would have to be Bobo [7-footer Catalin Baciu]. Just from the stand point of, looking at his stats and listening to people talk, there are almost no expectations for the guy. He basically hasn’t played for two years.

“I've done some things in talking to our strength coach and talking to him about how I feel it's important for Bobo to improve in that area immensely. He's worked hard. That's been a big goal of ours. He's up to 255. I don't know what that's going to lead to yet but I think he's a guy I've got to imagine is going to play for us this year. I don't think a lot of people saw that coming."

Brownell was asked how long he thinks it will take for the players to adapt to his style, and he said that the offense will be harder to pick up than the defense.

“I think the offense will be more difficult,” he said. “It will be more complicated than what they've done in the past. When you have great players like Trevor Booker, you don't have to be so complicated. When you aren't as talented, you have to find ways to manufacture baskets in basketball. That's the difference. It's like in football where you have a playmaker when he can make the same catch break a tackle and take it to the house, some other guys can't do that.

“In basketball it's the same way. It will take a little longer because we are going to have to be a little more complicated offensively because I don't know that we have a lot of guys in our program like that right now. Some of those guys will emerge. We have to coach them up and hopefully that will happen.”

And who does he expect to take on the mantle of “scorer?”

“Demontez [Stitt] is one. We need somebody inside to emerge,” he said. “Hopefully Devin Booker is a logical candidate in terms of having physical tools. He just hasn't had a lot of game experience. He has to learn how to play through things. The Andre Young's of the world, and the Tanner Smith's of the world- I don't think we are just going to have three guys all of a sudden average 15 points per game. I don't see that happening. But I think we'll have a lot of guys who can get eight to 12 and maybe one guy gets 15 and we'll see what happens. But I haven't really worked with these guys in a setting in five-on-five.”

Teams were able to pack the inside against the Tigers, especially late in the season in 2009, and Clemson was unable to muster enough outside shooting to free up the inside players. That could be an issue in 2010 as well.

“Shooting will be a question mark,” he said. “When we are doing some of our shooting drills when we are comparing to some of our guys we've had at other places we aren't as good yet. But I think some of our guys will certainly improve. I don't know that we will be one of the better shooting teams in the ACC, but we have to shoot the ball reasonably well to have a chance to win. Our guys understand it. Our coaches understand it and that is why we put a lot of time and effort into that in September. “

Brownell said this year’s Tigers will have to play with more of an “inside presence.”

“We have four guys who are 6-foot-8 or bigger,” he said. “We have to play with an inside presence. Because we don't shoot the ball quite as well as other teams, we are going to have to get the ball to the block and score. They are going to have to score and get fouled and make some free throws. That's not that much different than the past because we've had Trevor Booker down there. It won't be distinctly different but it will have to be a point of emphasis. Without Trevor Booker - I've told them you need to be able to score down here if you can't command a double team in 1-on-1. Hopefully, they are excited by that challenge.”

He ended the interview by saying he hopes to build a team that can win different types of games.

“I think the best teams can do both - win in the 50’s and win in the 80’s,” he said. “There's a tremendous misconception. You watch the NCAA Tournament and the Final Four- where were the games? They were all in the 50’s and they barely made the 60’s. I mean, it's high-pressure, lower-possession basketball. I'm not saying that's the only way to win because North Carolina plays a different style, but a lot of times when it comes to tournament play the games grind slower. You better be prepared to win those games unless you are just supremely talented and can outscore everybody.”

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