Tigers searching for go-to guy as season opener approaches


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DeVoe (L) and Grantham (R) are two of Clemson's seniors
DeVoe (L) and Grantham (R) are two of Clemson's seniors

CLEMSON – What kind of basketball team will Clemson be this season? Not even head coach Brad Brownell knows for sure what he has, but he and the rest of Clemson will start the process of finding out Friday night in the season opener.

Clemson opens the 2017-18 season on Friday against Western Carolina in Littlejohn Coliseum. It marks the first meeting between both programs since the season opener in 2010-11. Clemson owns a perfect 11-0 record against Western Carolina, including a 10-0 mark in games played at Littlejohn Coliseum.

“Really excited about starting the season. The guys have been working really hard here over the last several months and I think we're all anxious to kind of get it underway and play a team that is extremely well-coached,” Brownell told TigerNet Thursday. “They are a hard man-to-man defensive team. Physical. One of those games you like to start the season with because you know you are going to have to compete hard. It's going to be a game that is going to be about physicality and doing things the right way. I think our guys have practiced really well over the last couple of days and we're excited to play somebody new.”

Clemson split exhibitions with Augusta and Tennessee, coming back to defeat Augusta 80-56 and losing 71-67 to the Vols. The Tigers return two double-digit scorers from a year ago: Shelton Mitchell (10.8 ppg) and Marcquise Reed (10.0). Elijah Thomas, Donte Grantham and Gabe DeVoe all averaged over 7.0 points per contest.

“We certainly have five guys that our experienced. I don't think they are playing extremely well together right now,” Brownell said. “I think we are still kind of working through some things offensively that have to get better and I think we turn it over too much. I think defensively we've made some strides. I am excited to see it here in a live game. And then just blending in the newcomers is kind of fun. Those guys have been great about being a part of the team and bringing a lot of positive energy. That has been fun to coach and I think it's been fun for the older guys to play with those young guys.”

Mark Donnal is eligible to play immediately for the Tigers after qualifying as a graduate transfer. Donnal played over 100 games in his career in the Big Ten Conference for Michigan and has played in five NCAA tournament games over the last two seasons.

Clemson will debut eight players who have seen limited or no action in a Tiger uniform during the 2017-18 season. Brownell welcomed four freshman into the fold, including redshirt freshman Anthony Oliver II who enrolled as an early enrollee in January of 2017.

Who will be the go-to guy?

“I think we have to wait and see,” Brownell said. “Anytime you lose a guy like Jaron (Blossomgame), who you've been kind of able to go in situations, you have to change some things up. I think we have talented enough players to do that and we have options on this team, but we have to figure out the options everybody has to blend into. I think that is one of the fun things about coaching.”

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