Clemson head basketball coach Brad Brownell knows it is not a coincidence his program has seen an uptick in recruiting following its facility upgrades, specifically the $63.5 million renovation of Littlejohn Coliseum – a project that began May 2015 and was completed in October 2016 – which included the addition of a new practice court, locker rooms and coaches offices collectively known as Swann Pavilion.
In their 2020 signing class, the Tigers inked two players — both top-100 national prospects according to the 247Sports Composite in P.J. Hall (No. 52) and Olivier-Maxence Prosper (No. 95) — a year after signing a pair of top-130 prospects in Al-Amir Dawes (No. 108) and Chase Hunter (No. 127). The Tigers also added a couple of former top-100 prospects through the transfer market as part of the 2019 class (Khavon Moore and Tevin Mack).
Brownell believes the Tigers’ commitment to improving their facilities has really paid off on the recruiting trail over the past couple of cycles.
“I think our recruiting is on an uptick and has been for the last couple years,” Brownell told The Clemson Insider. “I don’t think it’s a secret that it’s coincided with the renovation of Littlejohn and then really the addition of the Swann Pavilion. It’s made a tremendous impact. When we bring kids on campus and take them through the facilities, I think it’s really pretty impressive and I think it shows recruits that Clemson is serious about basketball. …
“There’s no question this day and age that facilities are a big part of all this. Kids are examining everything, and if you’re lacking in that area, it’s going to be used against you by other schools, but it’s also just a glaring weakness.”
As Brownell alluded to, not only do the facility enhancements impress recruits but he believes they also help Clemson guard against negative recruiting from other schools by showing recruits that the school does care about basketball and is willing to pour resources into the program.
“At the end of the day, we don’t have anything that somebody else doesn’t have,” Brownell said. “We’ve just gotten more on par with other like-minded competitors, and there’s still probably a few things we’ve got to keep pushing forward on. There are folks that probably have a few more bells and whistles than we do in certain areas and all that. But what we were able to get done three or four years ago has made a huge impact.
“It’s not just the facility itself. Seeing it is one thing, and that’s really important. But also it just speaks to hey, there is a commitment level here, we do care about basketball. Everybody sells against us that they’re just a football school and people don’t start going to the games there until January and Clemson doesn’t really care about basketball. Those are things we’ve been able to disprove.”
Clemson’s run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2018 – its first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 1997 and fourth appearance in school history – has certainly aided the Tigers’ recruiting efforts too.
“The Sweet 16 run helped as well because it’s validation that you can have success here, that you can achieve as a team, you can achieve high-level things,” Brownell said. “Obviously we’ve knocked on the door several other times of making the NCAA Tournament. We’ve been very close several times to finally be able to do that, and then not only just get to the tournament, but to be able to play as well as we did, win the games, win the games the way we did and play well in a Sweet 16 and have a chance to advance. Some kids obviously saw that, and that wasn’t that long ago. So, we’ve been able to sell that, talk about it. Some of the kids, especially in the last recruiting class or two – Al and Chase, P.J. for sure because of him being an in-state kid – saw that, witnessed those games, and that resonates.
“I think you combine that with a really nice arena and then first-class practice facility and weight room and player lounge, locker room, all those things, it really helps.”
Although Clemson did not make the NCAA Tournament last season, the Tigers managed to knock off three top-10 teams at home (Duke, Louisville and Florida State) in front of some recruits amidst a great atmosphere in Littlejohn.
“Those are significant wins, there’s no doubt about it,” Brownell said, “because number one it shows your players that you can achieve things, you can play at a high level, but then also it speaks to recruits and coaches and AAU folks and all the people that we’re dealing with in the recruiting game that this is an electric atmosphere and that this is a great place to play and you can have an incredible experience here, and to showcase those games on ESPN or wherever they are and ACC Network.”
Brownell expects the ACC Network, which was launched last August, will benefit the Tigers in certain cases as well.
“I think the ACC Network is going to begin to help as well in certain avenues because we haven’t had that compared to some of the other leagues and that’s going to offer more games that people can see,” he said. “And for people just a little bit further away, I think that’ll be a significant addition in terms of marketing our program and being able to tell folks that we’re recruiting that they’ll be able to watch their sons play on a regular basis.”
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