By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
For the second straight season, the Clemson basketball team heads into its season opener without the services of a perimeter presence that would have provided plenty of points for the Tigers.
Many outside observers might take a woe-is-me approach to the situation, dwelling on the fact that the Tigers have now been beset with season-ending injuries in back-to-back years.
Within the program, however, there is a sense of calm surrounding the absence of sharpshooting freshman Patrick Rooks. The peace stems from the idea that the team has been through this before, only it was worse back then.
Losing both Devin Coleman and Jaron Blossomgame prior to the start of last season dealt a crushing blow to Clemson’s depth on the wing. But the experience they gained—and the experience gained by those that prematurely took their respective places—can now be converted into confidence the Tigers can weather the storm again.
“We can learn from it,” guard Jordan Roper said. “We’ve been in this situation before. It’s next man up, and we have to move forward.”
Just because it was a learning experience does not mean it was particularly fun. Not having two crucial weapons was as frustrating then as it is beneficial now.
“It was frustrating,” Demarcus Harrison said. “At the same time, it was kind of new to everybody because it was a whole new team. We had a lot of freshmen.”
While losing those key players was tough at the time, the team is stronger now because of it. Roper had to step up to replace Coleman’s production. Other players like Harrison were asked to play more minutes than they originally thought.
Meanwhile, the two scholarship student-athletes in street clothes sat, watched, and learned. Clemson is getting more intelligent players than they had a year ago as a result.
“After a while, we just took it in stride,” Coleman said. “We realized there was nothing we could do about it. We were already out. We just needed to look forward to how we could improve ourselves to help our team when we could get back on the court.”
Now Rooks is in the same boat, relegated to watching and learning as his hip heals. Preparing for something a year in advance can be maddening for a player, particularly when that player can see others doing today what he cannot for another few months.
But Blossomgame says such an attitude is not helpful. He chose to dwell on the aspects of the game he could improve during a season he admits was long and, at times, unbearable.
“People think redshirting is bad, but not necessarily,” Blossomgame said. “You get a year of experience under your belt. You get to get bigger in the weight room. You learn more from watching the game.”
Dealing with unexpected adversity is always difficult, but dealing with a familiar kind of unexpected adversity can make it easier to cope. Brad Brownell hopes his team can deal with Major Injury 2.0 well because of what they learned navigating the first season of it.