Whether you love or hate the direction of the Clemson basketball program, we can all agree on one thing.
Brad Brownell keeps getting the short end of the stick.
First he inherited two years worth of bare cupboard on the recruiting front, forcing him to start from scratch. Then he saw a host of potential key players transfer out of the program. Last season, he got stuck with horrific leadership, lost his best signee to injury before a game was even played, and presided over a team with no juniors and only two seniors.
Even still, Brownell’s program continues to develop. A promising recruiting class entered this season with the ability to become a part of a quality team.
Then Patrick Rooks got hurt.
Rooks was going to be a key cog on the perimeter for the Tigers. Now he will go the way of Jaron Blossomgame, last year’s preseason casualty, and sit out the season as a redshirt.
Rooks will have surgery to fix an injured hip suffered during the preseason. I’ve been told there have been some complications with the hip that forced the injury to worsen, but the staff is not particularly concerned about the long-term effects of the injury once the surgery and rehab is completed.
This is the kind of injury that seems relatively innocuous since Rooks hasn’t even played in a collegiate game yet. But when you glance at Clemson’s roster, the Charlotte native’s absence becomes more glaring.
Rooks was a focal point of the Tigers’ rededication to the motion offense in the preseason. His ability to step out and shoot the three is extremely valuable in Brownell’s system. Coming off screens and knocking down shots has been a major weakness in Clemson’s program for a while. Rooks was set to fill that void.
Motion offenses truly cannot have too many shooters. It is a free-flowing approach that accentuates ball movement and smart decision-making. For it to work properly, the offense must occupy all five defenders at all times, or at least be able to make defenses pay for sagging off of a player.
With Rooks gone, there are really no natural shooters left on the roster. The long-range shooting will fall to guys like K.J. McDaniels, Damarcus Harrison, Jordan Roper, Devin Coleman, and Blossomgame. Of all of the aforementioned players, Coleman is the only one considered—from my perspective, at least—to be a proficient outside shooter.
Harrison and Roper could be, but their strengths are currently in the midrange game. The same is true for Blossomgame, whose role becomes more up-in-the-air given Rooks’ absence. McDaniels has improved his shooting from the perimeter, but he is at his best when he can slash to the rim and use his explosiveness.
Simply put, losing Rooks could be potentially devastating for the Tigers. Brownell certainly has plenty of time to cope with the absence and design a scheme that gets the most out of his remaining healthy players, but Clemson’s offense will miss the dead-eye jumper and court presence of Rooks all season long.