With four days in between games, Clemson’s basketball team can finally try and catch its breath and breathe a little bit as it finally gets the opportunity to adjust and really soak in what happened to star forward Donte Grantham last weekend.
The Tigers had very little time to adjust to what it was going to be like without Grantham on the basketball court as they had a quick turnaround before playing second-ranked Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.
Grantham tore the ACL in his right knee during 17th-ranked Clemson’s win over Notre Dame last Saturday and the magnitude of it all had not had a chance to properly set in, though Brad Brownell admitted on Thursday he could feel there was something different in the building.
“Obviously, the first game back was quick,” the Clemson head coach said. “You could feel a little bit … it was a little different at practice. Not having Donte’s length and presence around practice in the couple of days leading into Virginia, and then it was a little different in the locker room.”
It was also different in the game. It was obvious the Tigers (16-4, 5-3 ACC) were missing their second-leading scorer and rebounder as well as their team-leader. When Clemson’s offense began to struggle late in the first half, there was no one there to rally the troops and keep them composed as the Cavaliers’ suffocating defense wore down the team both mentally and physically in the second half.
“It was different in warmups when talking with the staff. He was kind of the bebop guy that got everybody going a little bit,” Brownell said. “He tried some, but I don’t think it was kind of (the same) … There is a little bit of an adjustment period, but you better not take too long.
“I’m optimistic now that we have gotten past a game, we realize this is who we are and let’s go play.”
Brownell is right, Clemson cannot afford to feel sorry for itself too long or the ACC is going to eat it up. The Tigers travel to Georgia Tech for a Sunday game and then have less than 48 hours to get ready for a North Carolina team that has already beat them with Grantham.
In his first game starting for Grantham, freshman Aamir Simms made the best of his opportunity. Playing close to his hometown, his scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting, while grabbing six rebounds in 25 minutes.
“Aamir had a good solid first game,” Brownell said. “If we can get consistency from him just like that, then we do not need to do more than what he just did and we will be fine that way.”
Now it is just Clemson adjusting to what it’s going to be like the rest of the season without Grantham. At least now they have finally had a couple extra days to plan and adjust strategically and personally to what it is like not having No. 32 and his energy out on the court with them.
“As a staff, we are certainly analyzing different things,” Brownell said, “and when you play a game or two more, you are going to get more and more data and hopefully make better adjustments. But the first game was pretty quick. It was a quick turnaround for all of us. I think just in terms of it all sinking in, and on a personal side of it too, dealing with Donte’s injury (is taking time).”