To say getting the opportunity to play in the World University Games is a Godsend, is an understatement for the Clemson men’s basketball program.
With so many changes that have occurred inside the program since the end of the year, the Tigers, who will represent the United States in the event, will need all of the two-week trip in Italy to bring everyone together, giving them all a chance to get to know one another.
“It is going to be a special trip for us in that way,” head coach Brad Brownell said Thursday to preview his squad’s trip to Italy. The Tigers open play in the World University Games on July 4 (2 p.m., EST) against Finland in Naples, Italy.
Since Clemson’s 2018-’19 season ended in the second round of the NIT on March 24, a lot has happened inside the program.
Of course, the Tigers lost four starters to graduation in guards Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell, forward David Skara and center Elijah Thomas. Then forward Javan White stunned everyone when he decided to transfer out of the program. And, as expected, guard Malik William soon followed.
Then came the controversy that centered around former assistant coach Steve Smith, which ultimately led to his contract not being renewed. Longtime basketball administrator, and most recently the director of recruiting, Lucas McKay, left the program in April to take an assistant coach job at the University of Missouri Kansas City.
Finally, Clemson lost potential starting forward Jonathan Baehre to a torn ACL he suffered in practice late last month.
In the meantime, the Tigers have moved on.
Clemson recently welcomed its freshman class to town, hired Anthony Goins to replace Smith on the coaching staff and Philip Pearson to replace McKay as the director or recruiting.
Brownell brought in transfer guard Curran Scott, a graduate from Tulsa, who averaged 8.9 points per game while playing in 32 games and starting 26 of them last season. The Tigers also landed former Texas and Alabama graduate Tevin Mack, who led the Longhorns in scoring in 2016-’17 (14.8 ppg) and averaged 9.0 points per game for the Crimson Tide last season.
The two, along with returning guard Clyde Trapp and forward Aamir Simms, give the Tigers experienced leadership and two scorers, which is what they needed after losing Reed, Mitchell and Thomas.
“I would have liked to have had a little more time in terms of practice with the new guys, just because you are still trying to figure some things out,” Brownell said. “We are going to do it on the fly.”
However, this trip is the experience Brownell knows his new team needs in order to learn how to work together and communicate, especially since they open the 2019-’20 season at home against ACC foe Virginia Tech on Nov. 5.
“The best thing about (the trip) is at the beginning of next year we will have game footage and experience and we will kind of know where guys are a little bit,” he said. “Who needs to work on what and maybe we will know a little bit more about what guys play better together.
“So, it is certainly a good advantage for us to utilize this time and certainly something I know we all look forward to.”