Monday, March 5, 2012

Oliver Who?

Yeah I am going to say it since no one else will. The Clemson basketball team closed out the regular season with a 8-8 conference record with the loss at Florida State earlier today. While the game was something like a scene from the nineties movie “Groundhog Day” where actor Bill Murray keeps waking up in the same day, the Hardwood Tigers dug themselves an early hole only to embark on a furious comeback only to come up short. Making a game that seemingly was out of hang look respectable in the final box score.

This team with five freshmen somehow, someway, managed to finish .500 in conference when early on I was resigned with the reality that this team could battle Boston College for the cellar of the conference. With a few less lulls and a true go to scorer, this team wins ten or eleven games in ACC play. I know almost doesn’t count but this team for the better part of conference play was competitive on a game to game basis.

I give Coach Brownell a lot of credit for not losing this team and having them prepared on most nights. The absence of a go to guy in crunch time was a glaring weakness on this team, you couple that with the youth playing meaningful minutes you are going to suffer those head scratching nights where you wonder if the guys on the floor had previous basketball experience. They also had moments that gave Tiger fans hope of things to come.

We are not in a position to where Clemson can go out and sign a Sammy Watkins type impact player so player development is key to long term success at Clemson and I truly believe that Coach Brownell is truly the man for the job.

Fan fan favorite Catalin Baciu had been left for dead under the previous staff.  Two years under Brownell, the young man from Romania began to develop post skills and a defensive prowess. Going back to last year Jerai Grant made significant strides to the point that he was a significant force during the stretch run last season. In both cases you were left feeling if they only had one more year they could be special. I feel strongly about “Bobo” as many felt about Grant last year.

I give former coach Oliver Purnell credit for his talent evaluation but his ability to mesh talent with the up and down pressing scheme he employed could certainly be called into question. His overall player development left something to be desired. I know many will point to Trevor Booker who has had his moment in the NBA for the Wizards but I always felt like the previous staff was more interested in athletes who play basketball than basketball players who are athletes.

The freshman on this current team have a higher basketball IQ thank previous teams and I sincerely believe we will witness that play our over the course of the next three years. We will see these young men develop into good to exceptional players who will get back Clemson back to competing for a bye on an annual basis.

There were many tense moments, face-palming plays but there is reason to be encouraged about this basketball program as we move into post-season play.