OMAHA, Neb. — Before the season began, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell called seniors Donte Grantham and Gabe DeVoe into his office for a little heart-to-heart.
The two players were not in any trouble, he just needed to talk to them about expectations and goals for the upcoming season.
Obviously, after the way the 2016-’17 season had ended, Brownell wanted to make sure he and his seniors were on the same page.
“He really talked to us about how championship teams are driven by the players,” DeVoe said. “We really took that to heart and made it a priority throughout the season.
“I really tried to keep that going throughout the team and keep them in the direction we wanted to go.”
After Donte Grantham went down with a torn ACL on Jan. 20, in a win over Notre Dame at Littlejohn Coliseum, DeVoe became the sole leader on the court and he embraced it.
In the 16 games that followed, including Friday’s 80-76 loss to Kansas in the NCAA’s Midwest Regional Semifinals at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, DeVoe scored 24 or more points eight times.
Against the Jayhawks, he single handily kept the Tigers in the game by scoring a career-high 31 points. It was a Clemson record for points scored in an NCAA Tournament game.
He did all of this after scoring 22 points in both the first- and second-round wins over New Mexico State and Auburn in San Diego the week before.
Couple those two performances with Friday night’s, and DeVoe became the first player in Clemson history to score 20 or more points in three straight NCAA Tournament games.
“He’s everything. He’s a great player. I love him to death,” center Eli Thomas said. “He had a really great season as a senior. I wish him the best of luck in his career.”
Before Grantham was injured, the two had the Tigers off to the school’s best start in 20-plus years. Clemson was 16-3 and was tied for first place in the ACC.
When Grantham went down, the Tigers stumbled for a few games, but eventually found their footing before the ACC Tournament.
Clemson went on to finish tied for third in the ACC standings, advanced to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 21 years.
“Obviously the exposure we’ve gotten in the last couple of weeks have been terrific,” Brownell said.”Confidence in our players to know that we can get to this point and play with these kinds of teams. We do it on a regular basis in our league, but to go out to San Diego and play the way we played, we played tremendous out there. And so I think those are big things.”