Clemson Basketball Preview: #22
Overall Rank: #22
Conference Rank: #4 Atlantic Coast Conference
2008-09: 23-9, 9-7
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Oliver Purnell (117-77 at Clemson, 373-268 overall)
Coach Oliver Purnell has done a great job at Clemson, especially over the last two seasons. And despite the loss of three starters, this is still a team that can compete with just about anybody in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Coach Purnell’s up-tempo style of play means he would prefer to have at least ten bodies to rotate in and out of the game. With six players back who averaged at least 13 minutes per game and a very talented group of four newcomers, the Tigers have the ten guys they need.
Key Losses: G Terrence Oglesby, G K.C. Rivers, C Raymond Sykes
The one thing Clemson does not need is a point guard and that is the only position this recruiting class lacks. At 6-6, Noel Johnson has great size for a player who can shoot as well as he can. And because of his size he can play either spot on the wing. Donte Hill does not quite have the size of Johnson, but he has plenty of toughness and rebounding ability to play small forward. Devin Booker is a talented power forward, but it is Milton Jennings, a McDonald’s All-American, who is the likely candidate to replace Raymond Sykes in the starting lineup.
Demontez Stitt spent much of his sophomore campaign getting the ball to the now departed sharpshooters K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby. However, Stitt still managed to score 8.7 points per game and has the potential to score even more if he needs to. Unfortunately, Stitt is not much of a shooter and had some turnover problems late in the year. That paved the way for Andre Young to play a bigger role. Young may not be as dynamic of a playmaker as Stitt, but he did a much better job taking care of the ball and is a better outside shooter. And somebody needs to hit the outside shot or this team will have to completely retool its offense.
There is little doubt who the star of this team is. Trevor Booker tallied an impressive 15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. At 6-7, Booker is not your typical big man, but he is obviously a very tough rebounder and can even step outside and hit the occasional three-pointer. David Potter is a quality option off the bench who can play either forward spot and stretch out the defense with his outside shooting. Yet, it may be Jerai Grant who is poised for a breakout season. Grant is a good athlete who fits perfectly into Clemson’s scheme on both ends of the floor. He will use his length to block shots and get the occasional steal. On the other side of the floor he is very good on the offensive glass and has the potential to emerge as a decent scorer.
Who to Watch:
Rivers and Oglesby were the only two players to connect on at least one three-pointer per game. Just who is going to fill in on the wings and can they shoot efficiently enough for this offense to continue to be dynamic? Tanner Smith could be that outside shooter. Smith is a good all-around player and he could be starting if he can build off his solid freshman campaign. He only connected on 35.7 percent of his attempts from long range last year and it might be up to Johnson to step up early and hit the three-pointer.
This team has talent and enough bodies to be very good. Stitt and Young can handle the point and the elder Booker should be a household name by the end of the season. With a bevy of talented options to fill in the holes, the Tigers should be headed to their third straight NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Demontez Stitt, Junior, Guard, 8.7 points per game
Tanner Smith, Sophomore, Guard, 3.6 points per game
Noel Johnson, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Milton Jennings, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Trevor Booker, Senior, Forward, 15.3 points per game
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