By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- When Clemson head coach Brad Brownell started his coaching career at Clemson last season he wasn’t sure what was in store for him. What he found was a “blue collar” group of juniors in Tanner Smith, Andre Young, Brian Narcisse, and Catalin Baciu who have transformed this season into senior leaders both on and off the court.
“Certainly a good group I’ve really enjoyed coaching them,” Brownell said. “When you take over a job you obviously aren’t sure of the kids that you have. The best thing I can say about these guys is that they’re as unselfish and committed to the team as just about any group I’ve coached. I think they’ve all improved a great deal in the last two years. Andre and Tanner have emerged as go to guys at this level and it’s nice to see Bryan and Bobo getting the opportunity to play, they didn’t play much if any as freshmen and sophomores. They’ve both been good contributors to our team. They’ve all been outstanding leaders for our freshmen; they’ve shown our freshmen the right way to go about doing things here in terms of how to work, listen and continue to grind. They do have some short comings in terms of athleticism and basketball ability, physical limitations occasionally, but they certainly make up for that and more with the way they approach things and the quality of people they are, they’re an outstanding group of young men.”
All four of the seniors when interviewed spoke about how proud they are of the group and how they’ve handled themselves off the court, something that Brownell finds rare in a group of collegiate student athletes.
“It’s unfortunate and some of it is that the kids at this level are under such microscopes,” Brownell said. “I often say that if all of us, including the media had been under the microscope that these guys have been under throughout college than you may have gotten suspended during your college career. These guys have been more than model citizens; they’ve been great ambassadors for Clemson University. They’re all extremely well liked on campus, I run into people in the community all of the time that tell me something nice about our players all the time.”
Tanner Smith, who has been noticed nationally for starting his foundation “Tanner’s Totes”, seems to have taken on the vocal leader role of this young team.
“ Tanner is the guy that gets the most notoriety in the group and for good reason, with his foundation and everything that he does he can make all of us feel a little bit small and make us ask ourselves if we’re doing enough as a person in our community.”
As for shooter Andre Young, Brownell believes that Young’s military upbringing is how he’s become the person he is today, handling himself and everything that he does the right way.
“Andre is just a quiet guy that goes about his business in a professional way,” Brownell said. “Some of that is he’s a military brat and comes from a family where I’m sure you’re expected to do things the right way and he just does. You never have any issues with him.”
Bobo, the 7 foot 2 Romanian center who has been a fan favorite from the moment he stepped foot on Clemson’s campus has a side according to Brownell that most Clemson fans don’t know of.
“Bobo is just the happy go lucky guy that I think people enjoy being around but he’s also pretty bright and appreciates the whole part of school and education more than most kids,” Brownell said. “He’s gotten involved quite heavily with his major and things and is getting the most out of his education as well.”
Bryan Narcisse, who along with Smith has already received his degree after graduating in December, is another upstanding citizen according to his coach.
“Bryan comes from a terrific family and is one of the most humble kids,” Brownell said. “He’s a guy that cares more about the team than anybody. I’ve talked about how we’ve put him on the scout team and had him learn the other team’s stuff, very few seniors are asked to be on the scout team and he has no issue with that. He gladly does it too because he knows it will help the team, and he’s smart enough that he can learn the things quickly for scout team and he can still remember how we’re going to guard the opponent when he plays on our team in practice. There aren’t that many guys who are that unselfish and humble.”
“Bryan comes every day ready to work and excited, has very few practices where he’s not energetic,” Brownell said. “He’s the type of guy that seems to enjoy practice and playing. If he’s not having a good practice in terms of effort and energy, you need to talk to him because there may be something wrong. He has the right attitude every day, and we’ll miss that. It’s something you don’t coach, something that guys have and it lifts the spirit of others. Bryan helps get our whole team going, Tanner is that way too.”
Overall Brownell believes this group is unique in the way they carry themselves and pride themselves on being upstanding citizens and leaving behind a good legacy.
“They’re a unique, special group,” Brownell said. “Two have their degrees already and the others are only a couple of classes away from having them. This speaks to the way that they were raised and how serious they are about being great ambassadors here, they want to do everything well. It’s been fun to get to know those guys, a real joy to have such a solid group of guys around for two years.”
When Brownell first got to Clemson, this group was what he considered a “blue collar group,” contributing in whatever way possible. However, throughout their senior year, Brownell has enjoyed watching them grow both in their game and as leaders on and off the court.
“Last year they were blue collar, hard working guys that came in and did whatever we asked them to do and embraced the changes,” Brownell said. “This year they’ve learned to be leaders and go-to players, a little more vocal and it’s been a nice two year development. I have a great relationship with these guys.”