Last year, Clemson brought in guard Avry Holmes to help improve the team’s overall shooting, while giving them another solid scorer to compliment Jaron Blossomgame and Donte Grantham. That worked as Holmes finished the year behind both as the third leading scorer, averaging 10.0 points, while playing and starting all 31 games.
However, Holmes also had to play the point position more than expected, which limited his ability as a pure shooter and scorer. This year, head coach Brad Brownell adds Vanderbilt transfer Sheldon Mitchell to the mix, which the coaching staff hopes will allow Holmes to be able to come more of a scorer and shooter for them, instead of a facilitator as he had to be a lot last year as he shared time with the now graduated Jordan Roper.
“Avry obviously did a lot of good things as the point guard last year, especially defensively, and we could play (Holmes and Mitchell) together because Avry does shoot the ball very well and Sheldon is the kind of point guard that can really get going downhill, penetrate, get into the paint and create a lot of shots for other people,” Clemson assistant coach Dick Bender told The Clemson Insider. “Right now there is a possibility they will play together, but at the same time they will be sharing some point guard roles also.”
Mitchell sat out last season after transferring to Clemson from Vanderbilt where he started 11 of 31 games for the Commodores, who advanced to the NIT that year. As a freshman that season, Mitchell averaged 4.3 points and 3.3 assists per game. He led Vandy with 103 assists, which was one of the top totals in Vanderbilt history for a freshman. He ranked second on the squad that year, and played 20.0 minutes per game, while shooting 71.4 percent from the foul line.
“(Mitchell) is doing okay. He needs to talk more and he needs to understand what we are trying to get done,” Bender said. “I think once he understands how we are trying to play, and we are still figuring that out, I think he can be really good.
“Right now he can be a little more vocal and can be a little more aggressive with his play on both ends of the floor. That will help us. He is a little tentative because he is still trying to figure it out, but once he gets it figured out more with our system, he will be good.”
The Tigers, who open the season on Nov. 11 hosting Georgia in the new Littlejohn Coliseum, also get back sophomore Ty Hudson, who came on late in the season in 2015-’16. Hudson played in 23 games and averaged 2.4 points per game.
Clemson is coming off a year in which it was 17-14 and went 10-8 in the ACC.
“I really enjoy the effort that our guys are giving right now. It is a very determined senior group of guys that have led the intensity of practice, but most importantly, guys are really getting after it defensively,” Bender said. “We did have our first scrimmage last Friday, and it was okay. We showed them some film and then we had a great practice on Sunday rectifying that so we are still in the learning stages and still getting everyone acclimated to what is going on, including the two transfers that were sitting out, but the pace of practice is picking up daily.”