Purnell Excited About Puerto Rico Excursion

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - The most recent statistics show that nearly 500,000 people in the Carolinas have been or are still without electricity due to the ice storm which blew through the region Wednesday.

Count Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell among them.

"No, there's no power at my house," Purnell said during a teleconference Friday afternoon. "But a power forward? Yeah, I've got a couple of those."

Purnell's good mood is understandable, weather woes aside. His basketball team is off to an 8-0 start, exam week has come to an end, and the Tigers are leaving behind the heat-challenged Upstate this weekend to fly to Puerto Rico.

There Clemson will begin the San Juan Shootout at 10 a.m. Monday, facing host Puerto Rico-Mayaguez in the tournament's opening round. Mississippi State, Chattanooga, Holy Cross, Akron, Mount St. Mary's and Liberty also are in the tournament field.

The Tigers will face either Chattanooga or Holy Cross in the second round.

For Purnell, the trip is a chance to see his basketball team continue to improve as the non-conference schedule begins to wind down.

"I'm feeling pretty good about the progress of the team to this point," he said Friday. "It hasn't all been smooth going. I thought we took a step backwards against Wofford. But we came back against East Tennessee and our effort and sense of urgency was back.

"Granted, we were up 17 in that game and had a chance to really blow things open and didn't. So there are a number of things to work on. But we're 8-0, and in seven of those games we've played the way we wanted to play.

"So I can't complain too much."

The trip to Puerto Rico will be about winning basketball games, to be sure. Purnell wants to make sure his Tigers are in a successful frame of mind as the Atlantic Coast Conference season draws closer.

But there is more to the tournament experience than just basketball. Many of the Tigers have never been to Puerto Rico and may never go again. So the chances for some education and sightseeing will be worked into the schedule.

"Anytime you take these kind of trips you look at it, first of all, as good for recruiting," Purnell said. "It shows we're doing things in first class way, so you can recruit to that.Then it's an opportunity to play good basketball.

Thirdly, should be educational opportunity. It's a chance to see the culture and other parts of the island. We have some things planned...We'll probably give the guys an opportunity to visit beaches, the rain forest, see parts of old San Juan. Things like that."

Team chemistry will also be a focus while in San Juan.

Purnell has said since before the season began that the best chance Clemson has for success in 2005-06 is to get back to the level it was playing at when last season ended as quickly as possible. That team's chemistry, he said, was the big reason it finished so strongly.

Good chemistry is also why this current team is playing so well out of the gate, Purnell said. But there's always room for improvement, and spending time away from campus together can help rush the process.

"Believe it or not during exam time you can become splintered a little bit because everyone's in a bad mood," said Purnell. "The players are in a bad mood, the coaches end up yelling at them. I might stop practice and make them run...

"But overall our chemistry is solid. I've been very pleased up to this point."

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