Clemson basketball fans don’t have to wait until November to see their 2019-’20 men’s team. They’ll get a sneak beginning Thursday in the World University Games in Italy.
The Tigers are representing the United States in the World University Games and will begin pool play at 2 p.m. (EST) against Finland at Pala Barbuto in Naples, Italy.
“It is certainly a unique summer for us,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said last week before the Tigers headed to Italy. “I am really excited about this group. We have only kind of all been together, maybe not even quite a week yet. We have kind of been putting the pieces together all off-season.”
The 2019-’20 Tigers are almost completely a new team. Clemson lost its top three scorers and four starters from last year’s team that went 20-14 and advanced to the second-round of the NIT. Also gone is reserve forward Javan White, who transferred in April from the team.
Even worse for the Tigers is they lost guard Clyde Trapp and wingman Jonathan Baehre for an extend length of time to torn ACL’s. Baehre tore his knee on May 20 and has since had surgery, while Trapp tore his in practice last Friday, the day before leaving for Italy.
That leaves junior forward Aamir Simms as the only player with a ton of experience. Sophomore’s John Newman at guard, Hunter Tyson at forward and Trey Jemison at center are the next three with experience, but they all played in limited roles last season.
“A lot of guys have been waiting,” Brownell said. “There is almost a time when you have to wait your turn a little bit and when you do get your chance that is something that is really special and I think those guys want to make the most of it, so there is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement on our team.”
Though it had limited players for a time, Clemson has been practicing for a while, getting as much work as it could get done before it got the rest of its roster on campus last week.
“The older guys that have been here have been working for a month, so I know they are really ready to go and are excited about the trip and the opportunity to represent our country and do something special by playing in the World University Games in Italy,” Brownell said. “I think it is certainly something special and something you don’t get to do very often.
“At the same time, we have slowly gotten more players here, freshman finishing (high school) and getting to campus and intergrading those guys in and getting some transfers on campus and then obviously finishing our recruiting with Tevin Mack late. It has been a lot. It has been busy, but I am really excited about this group.”
Mack, a graduate transfer from Alabama who signed late last month, will play in the World University Games, as will Tulsa graduate transfer Curran Scott. Texas Tech transfer, Khavon Moore, will also play in Italy, according to a team’s spokesman. However, the Macon, Georgia native has not received a waiver of eligibility from the NCAA to play in the 2019-’20 season.
Freshmen guards Chase Hunter, Alex Hemenway and Al-Amir Dawes will also play in the World University Games. Hunter and Dawes were 4-star players coming out of high school.
“I like the way they are practicing. Our energy level and effort are really good,” Brownell said. “I think guys are super excited, not only about the trip, but just about the opportunity to change their place in the program.”
Clemson will play in Pool C and will play pool games Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Medal Bracket play will begin Monday and run through Thursday July 11.