Life is a little bit different these days around the Clemson basketball offices.
Head coach Brad Brownell has a new contract. He has an expanded operations staff. The facilities are some of the best in the country and the program is coming off one of its great seasons in the last 25 years.
“There are a lot of positive things going on,” Brownell said. “I am very excited about our team, certainly the seniors.”
In a day when college players transfer or hit the professional ranks a year after enrolling in school, it is rare that four players survive in a program as long as Clemson’s four seniors have. Though Shelton Mitchell, Marcquise Reed, Eli Thomas and David Skara transferred into the program, they have all been at Clemson going on at least three years.
Last year, all four started at least seven games during the Tigers’ run to the Sweet 16 Round of the NCAA Tournament, the program’s first in 21 years.
The Tigers still have some holes to fill. Gone is Gabe DeVoe and Donte Grantham. Both were productive players and team leaders as well. Though Grantham tore his ACL last January, he stayed around the team and traveled with them as they made their way to a No. 3 finish in the ACC Standings.
With Grantham done, DeVoe turned up his game and by seasons end he became the Tigers’ best scorer and shooter. He lite up New Mexico State, Auburn and Kansas in the NCAA Tournament, scoring over 25 points in all three games.
Grantham and DeVoe finished the year tied for second in scoring at 14.2 points per game.
“We lost a couple of great players,” Brownell said. “Donte and Gabe were two elite players and really had big senior years, which is what you want out of your guys. We are optimistic that our seniors will do the same this year with Shelton, Marcquise, David and Eli.
“They are guys that are proven players and have been in our system. I think they are still pretty hungry and that is what is really important.”
Reed, who was All-ACC second-team last year, led the Tigers last season with a 15.8 points per game average and shot 84.5 percent from the foul line and 34.5 percent from three-point range. He also averaged 4.7 rebounds per night.
Despite playing with a bum knee all season, Mitchell averaged 12.2 points per game, shot 39.9 percent from three and 85.7 from the free throw line. He also led the team in assists and averaged 3.0 rebounds.
Thomas led Clemson with 8.1 rebounds per game, while scoring 10.7 points. He also had 79 blocks and 22 steals to earn a spot on the All-ACC Defensive Team.
Skara is perhaps the most underrated of all the players. Though he is not much of scorer, he does the little things no one notices but his coaches, like playing lockdown defense, going after loose balls and coming up with key turnovers and stops in crucial situations.
“Are the guys still willing to work at the level you need to work after experiencing some success? I think right now our guys have proven that we are,” Brownell said. “But, we are still trying to figure out the best way to play a little bit with this team. We will have to modify a few things and change a few things and that is what this time of the year is for.”
Clemson will play an exhibition game at UNC Wilmington at 5 p.m., on Oct. 27, to help raise money for hurricane relief. They will then play Barton College in a preseason game on Nov. 1 at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson. The game against Barton will tip at 7 p.m.
The Tigers open the regular season on Nov. 6, when they host The Citadel at 7 p.m. at Littlejohn.