SUNSET, S.C. — Last season, Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame broke out as a junior, when he averaged 18.7 points per game en route to first-team All-ACC honors.
This season, forward Donte Grantham could be primed for a similar and significant step forward as a junior — at least, according to Clemson assistant coach Mike Winiecki.
After watching Grantham in the preseason thus far, Winiecki has seen signs that make him believe Grantham could be this year’s Blossomgame.
“I’ve seen the same stuff that Jaron did last year,” Winiecki said on Wednesday during Brad Brownell’s annual media golf outing at The Reserve on Lake Keowee. “The game has slowed down for him. I think he’s going to make a breakout year.
“Donte’s shooting, his versatility, his passing, his midrange game’s getting better, so take the next level, and he’s the next guy to take the biggest step, I think.”
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell agreed that Grantham appears poised for a big season.
“He doesn’t look like the same guy that he was last year or certainly not his freshman year, and so I do think he has a chance to have a big year,” Brownell said. “There’s no question that Donte Grantham feels good about his game right now.”
Grantham was second on the team behind Blossomgame with a 10.2 points per game average in 2015 after averaging 8.8 points as a freshman.
The area in which Grantham improved the most, though, was 3-point shooting. After shooting 28 percent from 3 during the 2014-15 season, Grantham improved that clip to 35 percent last season.
In Clemson’s first scrimmage on Friday, Grantham went 5-of-7 beyond the arc.
“I think Donte has shot the ball extremely well in the first two weeks of practice,” Brownell said. “He’s got to continue to develop in other ways to where his 6-foot-8 frame has impact on the game defensively where it has an impact on the game on the boards.
“That’s his next step as a player, but I do think his confidence level is higher now than it’s ever been.”
Grantham was a top-150 prospect coming out of Martinsburg High School in West Virginia in 2013. Following one prep season at Hargrave Military Academy, Grantham immediately garnered plenty of minutes in Brownell’s rotation.
The 6-foot-8, 215-pounder logged 29.6 minutes per game as a freshman, the most by a Clemson rookie since Trevor Booker in 2006-07.
Grantham started every game of his freshman and sophomore seasons, the first Tiger to do so since Booker from 2006-08.
Brownell said that Grantham’s performance didn’t always warrant the amount of playing time he received.
But Brownell played Grantham anyway, recognizing the potential that he hopes Grantham fulfills in 2016.
“Part of my plan initially is you’ve got to play a guy with that kind of ability early in his career,” Brownell said. “I probably played him more minutes than he deserved sometimes so that when he gets to his junior season, you have a guy that has a chance to be special.”