SUNSET, S.C. — Don’t get Brad Brownell wrong. He loves the new digs the Clemson basketball program just moved in to.
Littlejohn Coliseum has been renovated and looks like a brand new facility with its club seating, new video board and ribbon boards, while the Swann Pavilion provides both the men’s and women’s programs with state of the art player facilities and a brand new full court practice floor that connects the two programs together.
And as good as all of that sounds, none of it guarantees an NCAA Tournament bid for the men’s program, which is what the expectations are for a Clemson team that returns its three leading scorers, including All-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame.
“The building does not win you any games,” Brownell said on Wednesday as he hosted his annual media golf outing at The Reserve at Lake Keowee in Sunset, S.C. “The better office and nicer TVs and couches does not win you any games.
“Hopefully, it brings guys together in an environment they can spend more time together so they can bond better and become closer. Then that togetherness and that bond helps you win games.”
And that’s what Brownell hopes carries his seventh team to the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid since the 2010-’11 season – his first year at Clemson.
“We have good enough players and good enough guys … where we earned our orange (jerseys) this past fall to really put our guys in position to understand all the things we have been talking about so we can have a chance to have a great season,” Brownell said.
The Clemson coach says the biggest hurdle his team has to get over is to refrain from putting too much pressure on itself. Granted, the Tigers want to make the NCAA Tournament, but they can’t get caught up in all the hoopla that is surrounding it.
With Blossomgame and his 18.7 points per game back, as well as standout players like Donte Grantham (10.2 ppg) and Avry Holmes (10.0 ppg), Clemson has the potential to be a top 5 team in the ACC this season. It also enhances the expectations from fans and media with the additions of transfers like Shelton Mitchell, Marquise Reed and Elijah Thomas.
“Internally you want something so bad that you can get in your own way,” Brownell said. “I think that is something, if I was looking at our football team, I wonder the same thing. Those guys want to win a national championship, but they cannot win a national championship until they get a chance to get there, and that is hard,” Brownell said. “When you are the hunted, like they are every week, and you are getting everybody’s best shot, it is hard to stay focused and play perfect.”
The Clemson coach says there are a lot of things going on in a young man’s life other than just basketball – whether it’s with their school work or their family, that putting too much pressure on themselves can begin to block what their original goals are.
“We are dealing with 18 or 21 year old guys that have a lot of things going on more than just college football or college basketball. They want something so badly whether it is an NCAA Tournament bid or the (College Football Playoff) Championship. You can’t control all of those things and you can’t even get yourself into position until much later.
“So working really hard and being focused every day to get there is tough. But that is something we have to certainly pay attention to. We talk to our guys and have already tried to talk to our guys about those things. All we can do it try to be 1-0 today and then 1-0 after Georgia and then we go from there.”