Taking longer to Blossom

Taking longer to Blossom

Basketball

Taking longer to Blossom

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By William Qualkinbush

Nobody needs to tell Jaron Blossomgame his college career has gotten off to a rocky start. He is well aware of the detour he has taken.

Two years ago, he was an undervalued role player on an elite AAU team whose potential thrilled the Clemson coaching staff. Then a broken leg brought his freshman season to a screeching halt.

Now, as a redshirt—a rarity in major college basketball—Blossomgame is experiencing the adjustment period he was sure he would encounter in 2012-13. As a second-year player going through a first-year process, the Georgia native is frustrated but optimistic the grind has a benefit.

“My production levels are pretty low,” he said, “but I’m still getting adjusted to the speed and physicality. It’s a lot different from high school.”

Blossomgame is attempting to rediscover his game in time for a pair of home tilts inside the Atlantic Coast Conference this week. The first one—against Florida State on Thursday—will test his ability to play in a confident way against talented lengthy players.

The going has been tough for Blossomgame thus far. He has started 12 of 13 games but ranks eighth on the team in scoring with 4.2 points per game. He also averages 4.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game.

For a starting power forward in the ACC, these numbers are generally expected to be higher. Brownell still sees Blossomgame as his best option—the primary backups to the redshirt freshman (Ibrahim Djambo and Josh Smith) combine for 24.6 minutes per game together—but acknowledges the former four-star prospect still is not at peak performance level due to the effects of the injury.

“I don’t think he would make excuses for himself or anything like that, but I don’t think he runs quite as well as he used to,” Brownell said. “He’s still pretty explosive off a two-foot takeoff, but he seems to wear down a little bit and he seems to not run quite as well. I think there’s just some rust from not playing as much.”

Blossomgame’s teammates expected him to need some acclimation time. Little by little, they see the progress being made by the Tigers’ starter at the four spot.

“He’s been through a lot, especially with that injury,” forward K.J. McDaniels said. “He’s worked hard every day just to come back and play. I’m happy he’s there.”

Blossomgame can see it too, although he feels the frustration of a player mentally ready to bust out of a funk but still somewhat limited physically. Nowhere is that more apparent than in his jump shot.

Considered a reliable perimeter option as a prospect, Blossomgame is making shots at a 37.1 percent clip—good enough for seventh on the team among players with at least 20 field goal attempts. He has made only three three-point shots in 15 attempts and half of his ten free throws.

“You have guys running at you and stuff,” Blossomgame said of his jump shot. “When you finally do get an open shot, you have to knock it down, so it’s a little bit of pressure on you to produce.”

Brownell is showing patience with the youngster, but with the Seminoles and Blue Devils looming, he hopes the list of ways Blossomgame impacts the Tigers expands quickly.

“He does rebound and he does some things defensively that are pretty good, so he continues to get some good minutes,” Brownell said of Blossomgame. “But he needs to help us a little more offensively.”

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