The big question as Clemson’s basketball season came to a close in Greensboro with the anti-climactic closing of the ACC Tourney and thus Clemson Basketball season. The Tigers of Clemson who came into the season with so may missing pieces that needed to be replaced. Over 75% of the team scoring from the previous team was lost to graduation. Then add to that season factoring and in some cases ending injuries that caused the Clemson basketball program weeks of depth and continuity issues from game day to even creating competitive practice situations. As eclectic a start as could be expected saw this version of the Tigers hoops squad struggle all season for consistency and identity..
It was the win at North Carolina that really changed the Tigers season and saw the Brownell led hoopsters start to gain some confidence and an identity. I think the one thing we noticed covering this years squad was upon the return of Clyde Trapp to the line up this team seemed to gain confidence and attacked in the half court with more presence of mind and utilizing Trapp’s awareness on the court and his growing leadership all forwarded by his experience and his skill level. Trapp was a calming force and we think was crucial in particularly one players development and growth over the season as we sa Amir Dawes grow up and develop right in front of us. Specifically pointing to the game at Pitt when Dawes had a break-out performance and played the rest of the season with a composed and seasoned mind set. Dawes emergence along with Trapp’s return took all pressure off the one returning starter Amir Simms. Simms who saw oppposing teams work him inside all the first 1/3 of the season, found himself regularly in foul trouble due to the fact his back up had yet to develop and offensive game to relieve the junior forward enough and early on in games he was the obvious target of many game plans. As the Tigers leader found himself with no help around him and in early foul trouble quite often.
All these factors and the emergence of a three point threat with the late season emergence of Freshman sharp shooter Alex Hemenway who was a victim of a high ankle sprain early in the season that kept him off the court for almost 60% of the year. When he got the chance to finally get on the court the Indiana native more than proved his worth from the three point line, thus giving Brownell and staff yet another option to add to Trapp and Dawes and now able to spread the offense and gameplan around. And John Newman III grew and made himself a “utility” guy that showed an ability to drive the lane and force the issue and a steady three point shooter when he finds his groove. Defensively one of the best players on the squad and a player that showed a lot on court leadership as the season went on. The arrow is pointing way up for Newman in 2020-21.
And this season’s biggest non-star that saw himself really make a huge difference was the graduate transfer Tevin Mack who was the one player that seemed to assimilate and morph into any role asked of him. The Columbia, SC native had an impressive senior campaign as he tried to along with Simms hold this M*A*S*H unit together as Brownell with what seemed one hand tied behind his back managed to take this squad and rattle off Top 5 wins against Duke, Louisville, FSU and broke “the Streak” in Chapel Hill after 57 attempts. Finally the Tigers walked off the court in Chapel Hill with a WiN. In What had to be one of the most eclectic and what seemed cursed seasons in Clemson basketball history. Brownell and staff made their way into the ACC Tourney and Managed and win in round one and looked to take on #1 seed FSU before the ACC canceled the tourney just prior to tip off between the two. The Tigers were hoping to build on the recent win over the Seminoles in Clemson and take another step towards the NCAA’s (If the Tigers could run the ACC tourney) if not the staff and squad would have headed to the NIT and much needed post season play to build momentum into the 2020-21 season..
Bottom line with the showing by this team when at “full strength” given all the losses from the previous years team… Brownell earned our respect here at CSN and deserves that pass on the 2019-20 season with all the outside issues that affected his team. Remember the NCAA did not allow a huge piece to this team to participate when it ruled guard Nick Honor ineligible . 2019-20 a season with an asterisk* for the NCAA and for Clemson and Brad Brownell. If ever there was a “Mulligan”of a season this one was it .