For the first time since his first season as head coach when he
became just the fourth first-year ACC coach to win 20 games in his
rookie season, Larry Shyatt has balance on his roster. Clemson's
2002-03 club will feature a roster of five seniors, two juniors, four
sophomores and four freshmen. Like that 1998-99 club, he also has
balance on the court, as he has scoring potential inside and outside.
Statistical balance is certainly important in this day and age of
college basketball, but Shyatt centers on team balance in another
area as being just as important. "We have balance in leadership
entering this season and that is something we have lacked the last
three years," said Shyatt, who is in his eighth year at Clemson as an
associate or head coach. "We have five seniors (Edward Scott, Ray
Henderson, Thomas Nagys, Walker Holt, Jermel Douglas), and all five
are on track to graduate. We have seniors in every area so there are
leaders at each position. It is important for the young players to
have someone at their position to serve as a guiding light. We have
not had that the last three years with just one senior on the entire
team each year.
"Certainly, two of the prime leaders will be Edward Scott at guard
and Ray Henderson up front. They, along with Thomas Nagys, are
four-year players who have logged a lot of playing time against ACC
competition. Scott has a high level of respect after earning
All-ACC honors last year and the same goes for Ray Henderson after
finishing second in the league in rebounding."
Shyatt hopes his personnel experience is finally ahead of the ACC
curve. The Tigers have three returning starters, 10 returning
lettermen and four talented and "experienced" freshmen on the club
for 2002-03. The ACC just concluded a season in which it had the
NCAA Champion (Maryland), the dominant #1 ranked team for most of the
season (Duke), plus two other two other teams that were ranked
throughout the season and won at least 21 games in Wake Forest and NC
The ACC returns just four of its top 21 scorers from last year. Two
of the four are Clemson players Scott and Chris Hobbs. Only five
of the top 13 rebounders return and two of those players are Tigers
Henderson and Hobbs. Scott is one of just four players returning
from among the 15 players who made the first, second or third-team
All-ACC. Overall, Clemson returns 64 percent of its scoring, 78
percent of its rebounds, 72 percent of its assists, 90 percent of
its blocked shots and 68 percent of its playing time from a year ago. "When you look at the programs and their corresponding history in
this conference you realize some programs are always going to be
strong no matter what the experience level of their returning
players. But, this year we enter the fray with as much experience,
depth and leadership as we have had in the last four years.
Hopefully that will translate into a continued improvement in the
victory category and our goal of returning to postseason play." In evaluating his prospects for the 2002-03 season, Shyatt feels an
improvement from a defensive standpoint will be the biggest factor in
reaching the postseason. Clemson was seventh in the ACC in scoring
defense and last in three-point field goal percentage defense last
"Defense is the area that we need to show the most improvement. That
said, defense is a function of maturity and intellect, and when you
look at our roster we certainly should be improved in that area.
Hopefully that will lead to an improvement defensively.
"The keys on defense will be the leadership shown by Scott and
Henderson. The game starts with Edward's defense and him making that
a number-one priority in the preseason. His defense and intensity
,iust be contagious throughout the entire team. The same goes for
Ray Henderson on the inside."
While defense was an acknowledged weakness of the Tigers last year,
rebounding was a team strength and that should be the case this
coming season. Clemson led the conference in rebound margin with a
+5.1 margin for the season, the third-best rebound margin in Clemson
history. The Tigers also ranked second in the conference in
offensive rebounding. Each of the top four post players return this
"Rebounding is a product of a team's level of desire. We had that
last year, we were out-rebounded just seven times in 30 games. We
had as good a foursome of frontcourt rebounders as anyone in our
league last year. We are happy to have all four back, plus the
return of Steve Allen and the addition of Akin Akinbala. I think we
can be excellent in this area of the game. Hopefully this group can
convert free throws at a higher rate than they did last year. Had we
made 70 percent of our free throws last year we would have made the
The aformentioned word balance, this time in terms of scoring, should
also be a hallmark of this year's team. Clemson returns double
digit scorers Scott (11.9) and Hobbs (11.6), plus Henderson (8.1),
who is capable of reaching double figures.
"We have an outstanding leader of the offense in Edward Scott. He
makes sure we have offensive balance in not only points, but shot
attempts, free throws, half-court sets vs. fast break opportunities.
We will continue to have balance and that will make us more difficult
for the opposition when it comes to preparation." With Scott running
the attack last year, Clemson had four players average in double
figures for the course of the season, a first for a Clemson team in
The schedule faced by the 2002-03 Tigers will be challenging. In
addition to the 16 games against the nation's top conference, Clemson
will face Cincinnati, Penn State and South Carolina among its
non-conference foes. Only Duke has been ranked number-one more often
than Cincinnati over the last five years. Bob Huggins teams will
travel to South Carolina to face the Tigers December 22 in a game
that will be televised nationally by Fox Sports Net.
Due to significant renovations to Littlejohn Coliseum (including a
new roof), Clemson will play at least its November and December
"home games" at The Civic Center of Anderson in Anderson, SC, a
facility that is about 25 miles from campus. The facility that holds
close to 5,000 fans has been the site of the Big South Conference
Tournament, Harlem Globetrotters exhibitions and some Clemson men's
and women's exhibition games in the past. Littlejohn is expected to
be ready for the January 5, 2003 game with Duke. If the facility is
not ready in January, Clemson will continue to play in Anderson until
the renovations are completed.
"We are excited about the renovations that will produce a "new"
Littlejohn Coliseum," said Shyatt. "The people in Anderson have been
tremendous and we look forward to making The Civic Center of Anderson
our home away from home. It actually should be an outstanding,
intimate atmosphere for our team and our fans. It will be a challenge
to basically play 30 games away from home, but we have a mature group
of young men."
Second-year team captain Edward Scott is not only the leader of the
backcourt, but the leader of the entire team. A third-team All-ACC
player a year ago, Scott is the best combination scorer and
playmaker at Clemson since Chris Whitney (1991-93), who is entering
his 10th year in the NBA. At times last year Scott's simultaneous
brilliance in both areas sent media to the Clemson and ACC record
books to document his performance. His 30 points and 16 assists in
Clemson's incredible 118-115 double overtime victory over 17th-ranked
Wake Forest marked just the second time in ACC history that a league
player had at least 30 points and 15 assists in the same game. In
the regular season home finale against Florida State he nearly
recorded a triple double, as he stuffed the stat sheet with a career
high 36 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. The point total
was the highest by a Clemson point guard in 32 years.
For the year, Scott averaged 11.9 points and 7.93 assists per game.
His assist average was the best in Clemson history and third-best in
the nation during the 2001-02 season, just behind T.J. Ford of Texas
and Steve Blake of Maryland. His 238 assists were a school record
for a player who averaged at least 10 points per game. His 4.9
rebounds per game were the highest average by a Clemson point guard
since the 1959-60 season.
"When you look at the list of returning players, Edward, Travis
Watson of Virginia, Josh Howard of Wake Forest and Steve Blake of
Maryland he would have to be considered one of the leading
candidates for All-ACC honors," said Shyatt. "They are the returning
players who were ranked among the top 15 players last year. Edward
makes a contribution in so many areas. Leadership is certainly
significant. We hope his enthusiasm for all aspects of the game will
spread through our entire team. We rely on him to do a lot for this
team, but he welcomes the challenge"
A prime candidate to be Scott's runningmate in the backcourt is
sophomore Chey Christie. As a freshman, Christie had flashes of
brilliance, including a 21-point performance at #1 Duke in December
that featured a 7-8 shooting performance. He also was a major factor
with 16 points off the bench against Penn State in December. But, an
ankle injury slowed him at midseason. He concluded the year
averaging 5.3 points per game, sixth on the Clemson team, but he had
a 7.8 scoring mean, including 11 at North Carolina in the regular
season finale over the last seven games.
Shawan Robinson is one of four first-year freshmen who could have an
impact on the 2002-03 Clemson team. Because of his versatility in
the backcourt, where Clemson must replace 2001-02 double figure
scorers Jamar McKnight and Tony Stockman, Robinson might have the
best chance to make a strong contribution early in the year. "Shawan Robinson plays a vital role for us because of his ability to
play both the point and the two-guard. He joins Chey Christie and
Edward Scott as players with experience at both positions. Shawan is
a player of high intellect, similar to the way Merl Code (point guard
on 1996-97 Sweet 16 team) played for us in the past. " Robinson, a native of Raleigh, NC, was an all-state player in North
Carolina and averaged 24 points and five rebounds per game at
Leesville Road High. He helped Leesville Road to the state
championship as a junior. He is the son of a coach, always a good
sign when it comes to fundamentals. His father, Darryl Robinson, is
the head coach at Leesville Road. This past summer he was the MVP of
the North Carolina High School All-Star game.
Walker Holt and Jermel Douglas are two seniors who have been a
significant part of the Clemson program the last four years. Their
leadership on and off the court will be an important ingredient in a
successful 2003 campaign. Holt has played 41 games in his career,
including a start in an ACC game at Maryland as a freshman. He has
40 points and 36 rebounds in his 239 career minutes as a Tiger.
Douglas came back to the team last year after taking a year off to
work on his engineering degree. He scored 11 points last year,
hitting 4-6 shots from the field in 15 minutes of action.
Olu Babalola will be a challenger for playing time at the three-spot,
but the 6-6, 245 pounder is also capable of playing on the inside.
Babalola played in 23 games a year ago and scored 31 points. His
defensive effort and overall hustle in limited action is an element
Shyatt is looking for on a consistent basis from all of his players
this year. He won the team's Hustle Award a year ago.
Two newcomers will challenge for playing time on the wings this year.
Ori Ichaki is a 6-5 native of Israel who was a summer signee, while
Julian Betko is a 6'-5" player from Pennsylvania. Ichaki averaged 17
points and four rebounds a game on a national team in Israel and at
21 brings international experience to the Clemson team. Betko made
58 percent of his three-point goals as a senior and averaged 22.7
points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
"During the recruiting process, many coaches, including Roy Williams
of Kansas, felt Julian was one of the top outside shooting prospects
in the nation. Three-point shooting percentage has been an area we
need to improve over the last couple of years. Ori, on the other
hand, has a background of playing a physical game against older men
in Europe. He should bring an aggressive defensive intensity to the
The frontcourt should be an area of strength for Clemson in 2002-03.
Strong rebounding numbers have been a hallmark of Larry
Shyatt-coached teams. Two of the top three rebounding teams in
Clemson history have been established under his watch and this year's
group could join the elite list in Clemson history. That is saying
something when you look at the list of Clemson frontcourt players
(Tree Rollins, Larry Nance, Dale Davis, Horace Grant, Elden Campbell,
Sharone Wright) who have gone on to successful NBA careers. Shyatt has a strong frontcourt combination in returning starters Ray
Henderson and Chris Hobbs. Both enter the 2002-03 season ranked
among the top 11 field goal percentage shooters in Clemson history,
as both have shot at least 54 percent. Hobbs ranked fourth on the
team in scoring as a sophomore with an 11.6 average, while Henderson
was the ACC's second leading rebounder with an 8.8 figure.
Both players have double-double potential. Henderson had nine last
year to rank among the top five in the ACC in that category, while
Hobbs has seven for his career, including a 24-point, 17-rebound game
against 17th-ranked Wake Forest. Nicknamed "The Bruise Brothers" by
Shyatt, the duo has combined for 871 rebounds and 1066 points on a
"We feel our frontcourt will not back down from any ACC team, or any
team on our schedule. They have the experience and intellect to play
with anyone from a strength standpoint. They have worked very hard
in the off season to become even stronger. We didn't rely on any one
player offensively last year and that will be the case this year.
But, I do look for improvement from both Henderson and Hobbs because
of their work ethic, including increased time in the off season
working on free throw shooting. They showed improvement in that area
last year, but they will shoot a high percentage of our free throws.
If we can get them both to 70 percent at the foul line we will show
improvement in the win-loss column."
Hobbs made 54 percent of his field goal attempts as a sophomore and
is now at 55 percent for his career (201-365). He is sixth on the
all-time list, just behind Elden Campbell. Henderson stands at .539
for his career and has shot at least 52 percent in each of his first
Thomas Nagys is a third experienced four-year player returning for
the 2002-03 season. The 6-10 frontcourt player from Lithuania
averaged 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last year and now has
315 points and 311 rebounds for his career entering this season. He
is a veteran of 83 career games and over 1000 minutes in the ACC
wars. The aggressive inside player draws a lot of fouls and is a
67 percent career free throw shooter. He ended last season on a high
note with 18 points and nine rebounds in the ACC Tournament against
Sharrod Ford is a precocious sophomore who also came on strong at the
end of last year. In the final game of 2001-02, he had 12 points and
11 rebounds in the ACC Tournament against Florida State, the first
Clemson freshman in seven years to record a double-double in the
conference's season ending affair. Ford set a Clemson record for
field goal percentage by a freshman with a .606 mark. He made 23 of
his last 34 field goal attempts. Ford concluded the year 4.5 points
and 3.6 rebounds per game in 14 minutes per game.
"Sharrod has spent a lot of time with our strength coach, Shannon
Patterson, this past summer. He has put on 25 pounds and we hope he
will be near 235 pounds by the time the season begins. When he adds
that strength and learns to position himself under the basket, he
will become a very valuable player in our rotation."
Two other young frontcourt players will be factors for Clemson on the
inside this season. Steve Allen is a 6-10, 255 pound center from
Fort Lauderdale who saw limited playing time last year. He also also
added strength and maturity in the offseason and should be a strong
contributor this year. Freshman Akin Akinbala has the reputation of a
shot blocker, giving Clemson a strong, young one-two punch on the
inside with Ford, who ranked 15th in the ACC in blocked shots even
though he did not average 15 minutes a game. Akinbala averaged 22
points, 13 rebounds and six blocks per game at The Brunswick School
in Greenwich, CT last year.