They all came to Clemson in different ways.
Marquise Reed’s, Shelton Mitchell’s, David Skara’s and Elijah Thomas’ journey to today’s home finale against Syracuse is not the normal path a group of seniors will take during their college careers.
Reed came to Clemson from Robert Morris, where he was the Colonials’ leading scorer as a freshman. Shelton Mitchell came from Vanderbilt, where he started 11 of 31 games and helped the Commodores advance to the NIT during his freshman campaign.
Skara played in 63 games in two seasons at Valparaiso, helping the Crusaders win the Horizon League his freshman season. He scored a team-high 12 points in the conference championship game, while earning All-Tournament honors. As a sophomore, he helped the Crusaders advance to the semifinals of the NIT Tournament.
Thomas came from Texas A&M, where he left his home state of Texas to complete the most unusual senior class in school history. Walk-on Lyles Davis is the only senior to speed all four years at Clemson.
Clemson will honor all five seniors prior to and after Saturday’s Syracuse game as they play their last game at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“They are special,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “Several of them have been very good players and have produced at a very high level. It is a unique class because guys did not start here. Lyles is the only one that started here and obviously his story has been a good one. From a young guy that probably could not do a whole lot his first year to helping us to where he now is running our scout team and has earned a scholarship.
“Obviously, he grew up bleeding Clemson Orange and that’s always good to have guys like that in your program. Then the other guys were in different situations.”
This year’s group of seniors have had a lot of success during at Clemson. They were key contributors in last year’s Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Tournament.
Their 25 overall wins match the school record for wins in a season, while their 11 ACC wins are the most by any Clemson team in a season.
“It has been fun to watch them play and work with them. I am very proud of how they have conducted themselves here,” Brownell said. “We have won a lot of games, and those guys will be accounted for three seasons and we have been in postseason all three years, so it has been a group that has really produced at a high level in our league, and obviously part of Sweet 16 team.”
Today, the Tigers (18-12, 8-9 ACC) have an opportunity to help their NCAA Tournament hopes with a win over Syracuse. They are looking to becoming the first group of seniors since the 2010-’11 seniors to advance to the NCAA in back-to-back years. Of course, those group of seniors went four straight years.
“I think that is part of the reason why I transferred here,” Mitchell said. “We kind tried to turn the culture here and put Clemson kind of on the map. Having the chance to go to the NCAA Tournament two straight years, that was definitely the plan.”
Now the plan is to beat the Orange at noon today, to assure there will bigger things to accomplish down the road.
“Hopefully, there is more big-basketball for us. There is immediately, but we would love for it to continue,” Brownell said. “But this is a group (of seniors), I am very fond of and proud of and have enjoyed coaching for sure.”