The Clemson women’s basketball program has struggled for a number of years, with its last NCAA tournament appearance coming in 2001-’02 season. The program has won just nine games in the ACC since 2013, posting its last winning season in conference play also in 2001-’02.
At one point the program was a tournament staple appearing in the NCAA tournament 14 out of 15 seasons (1987-2002) under the direction of Jim Davis. Everyone surrounding the program is eager to get back to that status from the administration to first year head coach Amanda Butler.
Fall practice tipped off this past week and in an exclusive interview Butler told The Clemson Insider that her team is excited to turn over a new leaf and has shown tremendous buy in since she took over the program on April 12 of this year.
“There has been lot of eagerness and they put in a lot of work which its rewarding for us as a coaching staff because they put in a lot of their own work and asked us for more work,” the Lady Tigers’ new coach said. “It was a really good indication of what they want as players.”
Butler brings a wealth of experience to the table coming off as successful tenure at Florida where she traveled to the NCAA tournament four times and posted a 190-137 record in 10 seasons.
From day one, Clemson director of athletics Dan Radakovich has shown Butler that his administration is committed to the success of the women’s basketball program. Butler noticed the attention to the women’s program on her first tour of Littlejohn Coliseum when her tour guides showed her the women’s basketball facilities.
In fact, at the team’s first meeting of fall practice Radakovich visited and spoke to the team about his commitment to the program and how excited he is to see success in the near future. It was the first time Butler could recall in her coaching career a member of the administration opening her first meeting of the new season.
“I have had great leadership everywhere I have been, but never had an athletic director spoke at my opening team meeting in the fall,” Butler said. “I made sure the team understood that, but they understood that’s really how he feels that he wants us to do well.”
The Lady Tigers return some key pieces and add some fresh faces to the roster as well. They add graduate transfer Simone Westbrook from Florida, who averaged eight points and 2.4 assists per game in 2015-’16 before tearing her ACL and missing her senior season due to injury.
Often times piecing together a team with new players and a new coach proves difficult, but Butler has been impressed with how quickly her team has adjusted to a new system and new teammates.
“Sometimes it’s hard when you have transfers, but everybody is learning at the same speed right now. It is a great advantage for our newcomers because they don’t feel as if they are coming into something that’s up and running but are a part of creating something new,” Butler said. “It’s helped us get ready faster and everybody on our roster is going to be needed to help us this year.”
Senior Danielle Edwards led the team in three-point field goals a year ago and averaged a team high 31.1 minutes per game. Leadership from seniors like Edwards as well as Westbrook and Aliyah Collier has eased the transition for Butler and her staff.
“Our seniors have really taken to heart what being a senior is all about and have really embraced it,” Butler said. “It’s hard to have a new coach come in your senior year and to really be bought in to a completely new way of doing things.”
The Lady Tigers tip off the 2018-19 campaign with an exhibition game against Lander on Oct, 28 ar Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.