Clemson basketball returns to Littlejohn following gold-medal win in Italy
As the Clemson men’s basketball bus pulled alongside Littlejohn Coliseum Saturday night, about fifty or so Tiger fans braved the pending thunderstorms in the Upstate of South Carolina to give them a heroes’ welcome home.
It was probably the first and, quite possibly, the only time the chant U-S-A! U-S-A! was followed by Clemson’s cadence count. But that was the reception this group of Tigers received when they got off the bus following a 10-hour flight from Italy and a two-hour bus drive from Charlotte.
Team USA, as they were called back in Italy, was back in Clemson as Gold Medal Champions at the World University Games. The Tigers won the gold by beating Ukraine, 85-63, in the Gold Medal Game.
“I don’t know if you saw the video (after we won) but I was ecstatic. I was speechless. I could not do nothing,” forward Aamir Simms said as tried to explain his emotions following the game. “I had an unbelievable amount of energy in my body. As you could see, I was dancing with the flag and smiling like I am right now from ear-to-ear.
“It was just an indescribable moment and it is something I will never forget and that will be with me for the rest of my life.”
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell will not forget it either, as his young team, made up of almost entirely new players, went 6-0 at the World University Games on their way to winning the gold.
“It has been a great two-week experience, and certainly culminating with the gold medal,” he said. “Our guys really put that as something they wanted to try to accomplish. The deeper we got into the tournament, the more we felt like it certainly could become a reality. It took us a couple of games to kind of get used to the rules a little bit and just get comfortable playing together.
“We had some different rotations and had to learn some things about our team, but it was an incredible two-week experience.”
Growing up, Simms always dreamed about experiencing what he and the Tigers did on Thursday, winning a gold medal while representing the United States of America.
“This is not the Olympics. This is right below it, but at the same time, the feeling of putting that gold medal around your neck is pretty unimaginable and something I definitely thought of as a kid. It feels amazing to finally accomplish that.”