When Gabe DeVoe and Donte Grantham saw Clemson’s name pop up on the Selection Show on Sunday, they looked at it proudly.
Though they knew they would be selected into the 68-team field as an at-large selection, to see Clemson on the screen made it real for the first time.
“It is kind of unbelievable, honestly,” Grantham said. “Like when I was a kid, you’d dream about being in the NCAA Tournament. You play it out on the court. You fill out the brackets when you are a kid.”
Now Clemson (23-9) is in the bracket for the first time since the 2010-’11 season as a No. 5 seed. The Tigers will play No. 12 New Mexico State in the opening round on Friday (9:57 p.m. eastern time) in San Diego.
“It was very exciting (to see Clemson), knowing this is my first time in my four years,” DeVoe said. “Growing up and wanting to play college basketball, it has been a very special moment for me.”
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell, who has coached Wright State and UNC Greensboro to the Big Dance as well, said Selection Sunday was a little different for him this time around, but it was an enjoyable one because he knows how hard his team has worked for it.
“We have kind of known for a while so it is kind of a different feeling. But, it is obviously very rewarding,” he said. “I’m just happy for our players. Our players deserve this with everything they have dealt with all season. The way they play and the way they handle things, they have been great.”
The Tigers have dealt with a lot this year. From the terrorist attacks, when they were playing basketball in Spain, to Grantham’ season-ending knee injury, when he tore the ACL in his right knee against Notre Dame on Jan. 23.
They also had to overcome all the negativity surrounding the program. Last year, they saw reports Brownell had been fired and then in the preseason they were picked to finish 13th in the ACC by the media.
“All the hard work we put in when we were in Spain, in the off-season, and during the season (paid off),” Grantham said. “We fought and continued to believe in ourselves when everybody did not believe in us and talked bad about our team. We just stayed together. To see where our hard work got us is unbelievable, and we still have work to do.”
Brownell says he is glad his players will have this year to remember and all the special memories it brought them.
“They have given us maximum effort and really everything they had all year,” he said. “You just want those guys to have special memories and to have great experiences. This is what this is. This is a reward for not just a season of hard work, but an off-season of hard work last year. I’m excited for them.
“Hopefully, we will go out there and continue to play well.”