Clemson basketball could not have been selected to represent the United States of America at a better time.
The Tigers will represent the USA in the World University Games in Italy this summer. Clemson will compete against teams throughout the world from July 3-14 in Naples.
Why is this a good thing for Clemson basketball?
The Tigers are already replacing four seniors in Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell, Elijah Thomas and David Skara, and recently have lost forwards Javan White and Malik William to transfers. With a young team, and a couple of transfers and freshmen that will be added later, getting to play this summer will benefit Clemson as it tries to rebuild its roster.
Clemson is just the fourth school picked to play for the U.S., in the World University Games. Northern Iowa was picked in 2007, followed by Kansas in 2015 and Purdue in 2017.
It’s already benefiting the program. Because they have switched over to USA Basketball Legislation, Clemson is able to practice as it gets ready for the summer games.
“I could not think of better timing for that to happen for us,” Clemson assistant coach Dick Bender said. “We have made the switch over to where we are actually under USA Basketball Legislation, which basically the difference between that and the NCAA rules is there is no time limitation to what we do.”
That means the Tigers can practice whenever and however long they would like to practice. Instead of being under the NCAA’s four-hour limit right now, Clemson can practice eight hours a day if it wanted to.
“What that has helped us do is watch more film with guys and have a more normal practice session in kind of preparing for these games. We’re also trying to do some individual work on the side so you can fit all of that in along with an accelerated weight training and things of that nature,” Bender said. “It has allowed us to be able to spend hours wise more time with our guys, which they need right now.”
The Tigers, who finished the 2018-’19 season with a 20-14 record, return Aamir Simms, Clyde Trapp, Trey Jemison, John Newman and Hunter Tyson from last year’s team. Simms is the lone starter that returns.
Transfer student Jonathan Baehre, who sat out last season, is now in the mix full-time as well.
The redshirt junior is a versatile frontcourt player who can play multiple positions. In his two years at UNC Ashville, Baehre averaged 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He scored 28 points and had 14 rebounds in an NIT loss to USC in 2018.
Baehre had three double-doubles in 2017-’18.
“We are getting him kind of integrated on what we do,” Bender said.
As for the rest of the team, Bender says they are really excited about this group of players. He says they are better than what most people realize because of the amount of time they got to play last year.
“They have always had a really good work ethic when it comes to listening and learning and being caught up to speed, but now that it is their opportunity to play, it is even better,” the Clemson coach said. “So, I am very excited about that.”
Simms and Trapp have been the two shining the most thus far in practice, especially when it comes to scoring. Last year, Simms averaged 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last year, while Trapp, who did start seven games, averaged 6.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per outing.
“They were not necessarily guys that were called on to score last year, but now the fact that they have the opportunity to do that they are being much aggressive,” Bender said. “They look like different guys, but believe me, they still have improvement to do and we still have a ways to go.
“So, we are really excited about this World University Games experience. It is an opportunity to win a gold medal for our country, but more importantly the amount of time we get to spend with these guys is going to really help with their improvement.”