They just want to continue to get better
When he saw they were finally ranked, Clemson guard Gabe DeVoe could hardly stand it. He had to tell someone.
“I was excited,” the senior said. “I texted my Mom and I texted all of my boys, I was excited to talk about seeing that number beside your name. It was a big deal to me.”
It is a big deal at Clemson.
For a program, which a year ago was struggling to win close games and rumors were floating around that their head coach was out, being ranked for the first time under head coach Brad Brownell was a huge deal.
While the football program just finished its 52nd consecutive week of being ranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll, and its third straight top four finish, the men’s basketball program went from January 23, 2010-January 2, 2018 knocked ranked, nearly eight years.
The Tigers, who have won 10 straight games, debuted at No. 25 in last week’s polls and this week jumped up to No. 17 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll and to No. 19 in the AP.
“That is the best thing about coaching,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said earlier this week. “You see them grow up, get better. You see how hard they work, whether it is in practice now or also in the summer in the weight room. Some guys are putting on weight and some guys are improving their shooting and ball handling, just getting comfortable.
“You certainly want success for the guys you see putting in the time that our guys are. Also, they are growing as people away from basketball and just really becoming grown men. That maturation is part of why guys become better players, too. They are more focused on their business of basketball and they are more focused and ready to deal with things that happen that are challenging. This group is in that category.”
Now the question is can the Tigers keep it going. At 14-1, Clemson is one of six teams left in the country with one loss and its 3-0 start in the ACC is its best since the 2006-’07 season.
It will put its win streak and its unblemished record in the ACC on the line Thursday night at NC State, a team they beat by 16 points back at home on Dec. 30. After their trip to Raleigh, the Tigers return to Littlejohn on Saturday to face No. 19 Miami.
They also have a road trip to No. 18 North Carolina next Tuesday. Clemson is 0-58 all-time in Chapel Hill.
“Every night in the ACC is hard,” Clemson guard Shelton Mitchell said. “I think with our preparation, we will be ready for all of them.”
Brownell says his team has been pretty level-headed for a while now. He doesn’t think the success they have had changes how his players are preparing, whether it’s a tough non-conference road game at Ohio State or a tough conference game in Raleigh.
“I hope we still enjoy coming to practice and competing,” Brownell said. “We want to learn and we want to be prepared and get better, and figure out what it is that we need to improve upon. Then what it is that we are doing well that is helping us and just enjoying the journey of playing good basketball and having some good results.
“So I don’t know if there is anything that I can tell them right now that they have not heard before, that we have not talked about through the years. But at the end of the day, hopefully, that hunger to want to continue to improve and be good late that’s what we are trying to do.”