Players say the pieces are in place for Clemson to have long-term success
|Saturday, March 24, 2018, 2:01 PM- -|
OMAHA, NE - Clemson missed a 3-point shot with 79 seconds left, and its deficit never got any closer than the final score of 80-76 in a loss to Kansas as its breakthrough season ended at 25-10 and with its first Sweet 16 appearance in 21 years. The players and coaches don't think it will be another 21 years before the Tigers are back.
The Tigers were trying to reach just the second Elite Eight in school history and the first since 1980, but a 17-5 run by Kansas in the first half led to a 20-point deficit from which the Tigers couldn’t recover. Clemson loses senior guard Gabe DeVoe, who scored a game-high 31 points, senior Donte Grantham, and senior swingman Mark Donnal but most of the roster returns for head coach Brad Brownell next season.
Center Elijah Thomas said the Sweet 16 loss to the Jayhawks makes him want even more.
“We’ve got some work to do because we want to be back, and we want to win the whole thing next year,” Thomas told TigerNet. “This was a great group of guys that bought into the system. It just shows that (for) the guys coming back next year, the things that can be done.”
Grantham said everything is in place for Clemson to be successful in basketball, and he hopes the fans support the team.
“I think, to be honest, we set a platform this year of success where we just believe in one another,” Grantham said. “I think we have the talent. We have the facilities. We’ve got really good players. I think this is something our team can consistently do on a consistent basis.”
Grantham sat in his locker with tears in his eyes.
“It hurts a lot. (It’s) my last game as a senior. I really wanted us to win this game,” he said. “Obviously, it’s going to hurt bad. I love this team. It’s the favorite team I’ve ever played on. I just love the game of basketball. Nobody in here likes to lose, so it’s going to hurt.”
Grantham said knowing he will no longer play at Clemson is what hurts the most.
“Just knowing that I’m not going to get to play with them (any) more,” he said. “Just knowing that I won’t put on this Clemson jersey (any) more. It’s going to hurt.”
Aamir Sims said that while the loss hurts, he believes the future is bright.
“I believe in my teammates. I believe in my coaching staff. I believe in my school,” Sims said. “I think our coaches are going to do a tremendous job of bringing (in) even more players that believe in Clemson grit. We have a good group of guys coming back.
“I really want to thank our fans. There’ve been games where we would play dominant teams and they all still showed up and had lines waiting outside of Littlejohn. There are fans who flew all the way out here and drove here, as well. I just want to thank the fans from the bottom of my heart.”
Head coach Brad Brownell says the Sweet 16 experience can only help the program.
“I think it means a lot. Obviously, the exposure we've gotten in the last couple of weeks have been terrific,” Brownell said. “Confidence in our players to know that we can get to this point and play with
these kinds of teams. We do it on a regular basis in our league, but to go out to San Diego and play the
way we played, we played tremendous out there. And so I think those are big things.”