AP Sports Write Pete Lacobelli caught up with Clemson head coach Brad Brownell and incoming freshman Austin Ajukwa as the Tigers prepare for a four-game trip through Italy.
The bad news is, this a Clemson team that has no seniors and only three juniors (only one of which I’m projecting to be a starter). The good news is, Brownell and Ajukwa isn’t letting that fact get them down. In fact, the head coach sees the youth movement as a positive.
“There’s a different attitude here,” Brownell said. “Because the guys are closer in age, they seem closer together” off the court.
Of course it helps to have incoming freshmen willing to do anything to win.
“I want to do whatever I’m asked,” he said. “If they need me to make a play or grab a rebound, that’s what I want to do.”
I’m all for staying positive. It’s done wonders for Tony Robbins, but this won’t be a good year for the Tigers.
The reality is, former Clemson coach Oliver Purnell had zero recruits coming in when he suddenly ditched the Tigers for Depaul. While Brownell was able to bring in Cory Stanton (he eventually proved to not be ACC material and transferred out), the reality was, the man didn’t really get started until 2011.
The good news is, the kids Brownell has brought in are buying into the system, because he’s been able to avoid the transfer bug (eight of the ten players recruited post-2011 are still on the roster). So yeah, his team is young, but they’re his players.
Three things need to happen for Clemson to improve from a 13-18 season.
1. OUTSHOT SHOOTING - The guards need to hit some damn shots. The Tigers were 300th in the nation in scoring (61.5 points per game) and only one player hit more than 33% of their three pointers. It’s tough to predict who will actually get the start and the heavy minutes in Clemson’s backfield, but Jordan Roper is the best outside shooter, so I’d like to get him in as the starting point guard.
However, they’re going to need some improved jump shots from everyone, including Adonis Filer, Rod Hall and Damarcus Harrison. If not, look for incoming freshmen Austin Ajukwa (compared to N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown) and Patrick Rooks (compared to Seth Curry) to get their minutes.
2. HEALTH - Clemson gets two big pieces back into the rotation this season. First there is Devin Coleman. He returns after redshirting last year due to a Achilles injury. He’s a lefty who loves to attack and will work the passing lanes on defense.
However, the big question mark is Jaron Blossomgame. The #23 rated SF in the 2012 class was forced to red shirt because of a broken leg. He’s Brownell’s top recruit and he could be a difference maker…if he can get healthy (he had to go back under the knife in June, so it’s hard to determine if he will actually be 100% come November).
In the end though, this is a much different, i.e. much BETTER Clemson team if both Coleman and Blossomgame start.
3. FRONT COURT - With Devin Booker and Milton Jennings graduating and Bernard Sullivan transferring to Charlotte, the front court is losing a ton of points and rebounds (not so much from Sullivan). Who will fill the gap? Returning, all the Tigers have are sophomores Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith (combined 11 minutes of action last year, 2.1 points, 2.1 rebounds).
After that, Brownell brought in community college transfer Ibrahim Djambo and the #43 rated center in the 2013 class (according to ESPN), Sidy Mohamed Djitte.
There is plenty of potential here. There’s length, there’s athleticism and there are some pretty decent defenders in this foursome, but we all know that it takes time for these big guys to develop a offensive game. If they can’t produce points under the rim, then opponents will just stretch out their defenses, making it that much tougher for the guards to hit outside shots.
My worthless prediction: 13 wins again seems about right.