Top 68 Team Previews: #52 Clemson Tigers
Andre Young will try to lead Clemson back to the NCAA tournament once again. (Icon SMI)
By Robb Jacobson
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Last Season: 22-12 (9-7)
Key Losses: Demontez Stitt, Jerai Grant
Head Coach: Brad Brownell
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Andre Young 5-9 Sr.
SG: Tanner Smith 6-5 Sr.
SF: K.J. McDaniels 6-5 Fr.
PF: Milton Jennings 6-9 Jr.
C: Devin Booker 6-8 Jr.
Key Reserves: Bernard Sullivan 6-8 Fr. PF, T.J. Sapp 6-3 Fr. PG, Devin Coleman 6-2 Fr. SG
Even with a strong effort by Andre Young, the Clemson Tigers weren't able to fully recover their game deficit after charging within just three points of West Virginia in the last three minutes of the second round of the NCAA tournament.
A bitter taste is what most have after the NCAA tournament, but head coach Brad Brownell has done well to keep the Tigers focused.
Andre Young holds Clemson together as the team's glue. Relatively short at his position, he has a knack for getting to the basket and knocking down outside jumpers. His strongest feature is his ability to stare down (or up, from his perspective) the face of a defender and still get his shot off with tight coverage.
Starters Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant were great assets to the team, holding the highest two PPG's for the team. After leaving gaps in the frontcourt as well as the backcourt, Clemson needed a solid recruiting class to help transition to the new four-year generation.
Newcomer K.J. McDaniels should be able to fill in as a starter from day one. With Grant's departure, Milton Jennings can shift closer to the basket where his talents will be utilized more efficiently, leaving a spot open. They could go to the bench to try to fill the gap, but starting McDaniels would give the team the ability to train him on the job to get his talents rolling faster. He's capable of a quick transition from the 3-point line to the basket and has a fantastic leaping ability for grabbing rebounds and slamming down a dunk or two.
Jennings and Devin Booker hold the frontcourt steady with plenty of experience and power. With around 11 rebounds per game between them, the Tigers are able to score on the second, third, and sometimes fourth attempt.
Tanner Smith has a relatively low points per game average to be leading the team as point guard, but he knows how to run the offense, he can spot the open lane a little before it opens, and he isn't exactly incapable of scoring. A delegator, Smith will have fresh talent to relieve him from the bench in T.J. (Daniel) Sapp. Though his shot selection needs some work, Sapp's ball handling and passing abilities make him a good substitute for whenever Smith runs out of steam.
Bernard Sullivan is the team's top recruit for the year, with a great low post game and the ability to use his size to create space and unleash his speed. He's left-handed, so there will be a constant stream of mismatches between him and defenders. If he works on his pass catching skills and adds a little more mass to his frame, he may be able to steal a starting position before the year is through.
Devin Coleman is a strong scoring guard that can score from anywhere on the court. He can knock down outside jumpers or use his strong body to drive to the basket and finish. He will certainly get plenty of minutes as a freshman.
The Clemson Tigers lost their two best players in the offseason, but if the freshman class learns the college game quickly and the leaders can rally around Young and his outside shooting, they might be able to match their performance in the 2012 NCAA tournament.