Last March, the Clemson women’s basketball team returned to the locker room following a second-round loss in the ACC Tournament to Louisville.
The Tigers finished the 2016-17 campaign 15-16 a game below .500, but it was the best record in over a decade for the program.
The previous day the Tigers defeated Virginia Tech, 67-66, to advance to the second round. After a hard-fought season, full of ups and downs the Lady Tigers were maxed out.
“We were spent, we had given everything we had to beat Virginia Tech in the first round and I told them we’ve had a good run but we don’t want to feel like this next year,” said fifth year head coach Audra Smith.
Now in year five leading the Tigers, Smith believes her team is ready for another fierce campaign in 2017-18. The Lady Tigers return a strong nucleus from last season and also added three talented freshmen in the offseason.
However, it does take a blow losing one of its top performers. Nelly Perry is out for the season to a shoulder injury. Perry led the Tigers in scoring last year averaging 12.7 points per game.
One player who will fill those shoes is junior guard Danielle Edwards. Last season she averaged 9.7 points per game and looks to have a bigger impact this year.
Edwards comes from a basketball family. Both of her parents played at Mount Saint Mary’s in Maryland, her twin brother Drew plays at Providence and her older brother is a graduate assistant at Providence.
Smith sung high praises for her junior guard, “She has an unbelievable basketball IQ and reminds me of a player I had at UAB who was literally my brain on the floor.”
Smith is excited to be back on the floor and showcase her team’s competitive identity. “We are going to be a scrappy go getter team and we are not waiting for the first punch,” she said.
To avoid feeling “spent” at the end of conference play Smith took a different approach to this offseason. She gave her players more off time and focused on weightlifting, conditioning, and team building instead of playing basketball for every allotted hour.
Smith said this motivated her team to work on basketball skills away from practice while gaining strides in the weight room and maturing physically. She added the unconventional summer made her team eager to begin fall camp.
“We picked up a ball in September and started workouts and they were hungry,” Smith said. “She believes this will help her team not have that same feeling later in the year.
“I think it’s going to help us in the long run so we aren’t fried and you want to be at your best when conference play starts.”
The Clemson women open up the 2017-18 campaign Friday morning at 11 am in Littlejohn Colosseum against Kennesaw State.