By Trey McCurry.
Brad Brownell met with the media Tuesday just a few days before his first game as the head coach of the Clemson Men’s Basketball team. The Tigers open with Western Carolina on Friday night at 8:00PM at Littlejohn Coliseum. The Catamounts finished last season 22-12 and ended the season with a tough first round loss at Marshall in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
“I don’t know our starting lineup yet,” said Brownell. “I am pleased with the way the guys have worked. Practices have been pretty scary. We have stayed healthy and are looking forward to getting started.”
“I have a lot of respect for Western Carolina and Larry Hunter. He has done a good job at Western. They are athletic with two good guards coming back and a good big man inside. They also got a taste of success last year. We are just ready to get started. I was pleased with the exhibition. We saw a lot of guys get a lot of minutes.”
With the season starting so soon, Brownell was asked if he wished he had more prep time before the first game of the season. “We probably could use a little more time, especially when you take over a new job. The learning curve is just slower and you take things for granted. You call out drills you think people would know and then have to go back and take time to re-teach. Slow things down and do it again. I think that is why you see a lot of upsets in the early games. You are trying to get comfortable with your lineups and what you are doing.”
“I am excited if it goes well. That is a part of it. I am more worried about being ready and being prepared. I am certainly excited about coaching a live game for Clemson. At this state, you are more worried about understanding the team. There is a good thirst for knowledge on this team. From day one they have been excited about a new voice and excited about some of the things that we taught them early. They are excited about a new style.”
A key play for the Tigers this year is Demontez Stitt. Coming in as a three year starter, Stitt has stepped into a key leadership role with this year’s team and Brownell addressed that Tuesday. “No one is going to do what Trevor did. We don’t have a player that will impact the game like him. As far as leading the team and taking ownership of what is happening on the court, Demontez and Jerai will do well with that.”
Another player Brownell has praised several times this pre-season is Catalin Baciu aka Bobo. “Bobo is doing well. I’m not sure he is ready for a double-double every night. I have been impressed with his willingness to learn and grow. He put on some weight and that has helped. We have worked with his confidence and he has done well. He is excited about the year and the opportunity. It has been enjoyable because he is so eager to learn. It is fun to coach guys that are invested.”
A major discussion last spring and into the fall was the shooting ability of this year’s team. “We have emphasized shooting and worked on it a lot. We spent a ton of time on it and I hope we are making strides in that area. We have some guys that can make shots and I think our shooting is improving.”
Brownell also addressed the fact that is he not fond of naming a starting lineup. “I am not a huge guy on who starts. Media and parents make a big deal about that, but who finishes games is important. We will have Andre and Demontez start most, if not all, of the games. I want some things to be competitive. I am not sure with the other guys. As for who I want finishing, it depends on the game. I want Andre and Demontez in there. I am not sure about the big guys yet, it will depend on who is playing well.”
The Catamounts had a huge win at NCAA Tournament team Louisville so they will provide a nice challenge on opening night. Last season in a 79-57 win over Western Carolina, Tanner Smith had 13 points while Stitt and Devin Booker each had 10 for the Tigers.