Tigers already have Thomas coming into form after being slowed by injuries in the first month
While one of Clemson’s top players is getting back into form, another could be available when the Tigers travel to Columbia Saturday afternoon to take on rival South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena.
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said to the media on Friday that guard Marcquise Reed has an outside chance of playing some against the Gamecocks. Reed missed the last three games due to a knee injury he suffered on Dec. 4 in the Tigers’ win against St. Peter’s at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Tigers are 2-1 in the three games without Reed.
“He suited up yesterday and did mostly non-contact work,” Brownell said. “He did do a little bit and we had him in on a few defensive things that are probably three-quarter speed. Today he is going to try and do a little bit more and we are going to see how he responds.
“He has improved a lot in the last two or three days. It is probably more of a game-time decision, so it will be based on the way he practices today.”
Reed is averaging 19.4 points per game, which leads the Tigers and ranks in the top 5 in the ACC.
If Clemson gets the senior guard back it will be a big boost for a team that is just now seeing center Elijah Thomas get things rolling. The senior was banged up the first month of the season and missed two games due to an ankle injury and a deep bone bruise.
However, Thomas scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Clemson’s win over Charleston Southern this past Tuesday. This followed a 15-point and 9-rebound performance in a win against Radford last Saturday.
He also had 18 points and 8 rebounds in a loss to Mississippi State back on Dec. 8.
“He just needed two or three weeks of consistent practices to just work himself into shape,” Brownell said. “He needed to get his confidence going and just get comfortable in the offense again.”
It has also taken some time for the rest of the team to get used to having Thomas in the paint again. Brownell pointed out that players can get used to not having a guy that good down low so they kind of forget they have him back at times.
“You are not looking inside quite as much, and now all of a sudden he is out there everyday in practice and the head coach is saying, ‘hey we have to make sure we are looking inside.’ Now, instead of ball reversal, it is a catch and look inside,” he said. “So, the team is getting better at finding him because we have been at practice for two weeks and hearing that message.”
Brownell says Thomas is moving up and down the floor better and is guarding better. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound center is starting to come into his own, again.
“He just needed time. He is starting to do that, and he is doing all the things he needed to do to be a good player,” Brownell said. “I’m comfortable and confident he is starting to play his best basketball.”
Clemson tips off against South Carolina at 2 p.m. on Saturday.