Shyatt Begins This Basketball Season In Paradise

by - Correspondent -

You resist the temptation to call Clemson's basketball team "Babes in Paradise" for obvious reasons as this weekend unfolds, but in effect that's exactly what it is.

Larry Shyatt's youth-laden Tigers open the 2001-2002 season tonight at 7:45 against Morris Brown in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. The opening-game roster includes five true freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and a senior.

But those figures are misleading, to a point. The lone senior - Jamar McKnight - is in just his second season with Clemson, having come from the junior college ranks.

So it's with this roster that Shyatt begins preparation for what should be, by all accounts, another rugged season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. That, coupled with the fact that the Tigers are coming off consecutive losing seasons, might render most coaches a tad grim.

But Shyatt is bubbling with enthusiasm.

"The young guys are going to be exciting and energetic," he said. "You look at last year with a Chris Hobbs, Dwon Clifton and Tony Stockman, three freshmen who got a lot of quality minutes early and were very important to this team as the season went on.

"Sometimes they did some things that maybe the coach wasn't too sure about, but they're all fine young players who should be even better this year. I think we're in for much the same thing with this new group."

The player likely to gain the most attention among the freshmen is 6-foot-4 guard Chey Christie, brother of former Tiger standout Tony Christie. The younger Christie's junior high looks hide a wealth of talent, talent he displayed when he exploded for 24 points in Clemson's final exhibition game against EA Sports earlier this week.

Christie figures to have the most immediate impact of any of the freshmen, but success this season will be determined by several factors:

- Can All-ACC freshmen Hobbs and Stockman elevate their games to the next level?

- Will Clifton, pronounced fit after a heart scare last month, corral his massive talent and produce big numbers?

- Can Clemson's wealth of post players in the 6-8 to 6-9 range - including Ray Henderson minus 30 pounds from a year ago - overcome the fact that the Tigers have no true center?

- How will junior point guard Ed Scott handle both the basketball and his new duties as team captain?

- Finally, will the Tigers find scoring from enough different sources to make up for the 19 points per game Will Solomon took with him to the NBA?

Shyatt is looking foward to getting all these questions answered.

"This is a great group that is working very hard," he said. "We're going to go out and compete every night in the best basketball conference in America, and hope to get a little better every time we hit the floor. But it's fun, and I can't wait to get started."

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