Possibility of having season suddenly canceled again has haunted Clemson all year
It has been almost a year since the entire world was shutdown, including the sports world.
For the Clemson men’s basketball team, it felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic firsthand, as they, along with Florida State, was removed from the floor just minutes before last year’s ACC Tournament Quarterfinal matchup in Greensboro. A few moments later, recently retired ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced the rest of the tournament was canceled.
The Tigers then joined the Seminoles back on the floor as Swofford presented FSU with the ACC Championship trophy due to it winning the regular season championship.
Suddenly, the season was gone. It is postseason aspirations were gone. Just like that, everything they worked and hoped for was gone. Worst of all, Clemson had no control over it. It is a moment senior Aamir Simms has not forgotten.
“This semester alone, I have probably thought about it every other day,” Simms said. “I am thinking, ‘Man! What if that happens again.’”
So far so good.
The ACC pulled off the women’s tournament last week without any hiccups and on Tuesday the first day of the men’s tournament went off well. Now it is time for Day 2, when Clemson (16-6, 10-6), the No. 5 seed this year, will play No. 13 Miami (9-16, 4-15 ACC) at 2:30 p.m., today at the Greensboro Coliseum.
It will mark the Tigers’ first day back in the Greensboro Coliseum since that fateful day on March 12, 2020.
“I was talking to JB (Jonathan Baehre) the other day and we were like, ‘What if we get there and the same thing happens.’ That would be a bummer because we remember what it felt like watching (last year’s seniors) be really emotional and caught up in the moment with tears and stuff like that,” Simms said. “I would hate for that to happen to me, JB and Clyde [Trapp] as well.”
Head coach Brad Brownell remembers how disappointing the whole experience was and how he felt for his team, who was coming off a win from the day before against the Hurricanes.
“You are excited. You win your first-round ACC Tournament game, and you are playing a second-round game against Florida State. A team that we beat the last time we played them, and you don’t get a chance to compete right at the end of the year when you are most excited to play,” the Clemson coach said. “Then you had an off-season that is completely different, a summer that is completely different and a school year where you have to really make incredible sacrifices in order to play.
“These guys have done that and also came together as a group really well. There is tremendous leadership from these older guys, and they had a really special season. So, it has been a memorable twelve months. It has not all been great, but by in large, what these guys have been able to do and the way they have been able to do it, I am just incredibly proud of them.”
Like Simms, Brownell also worries about how the pandemic could cause this season to suddenly come to an end in a similar fashion as it did last year.
“There has been a fear all year of positive testing, but now that fear is even heightened because of all the work you have put in and how well you have to play to put yourself in a position to have success,” he said. “You want to be able to see that through. So, every time we are all nervous, concerned, anxious, all of those things.
“That makes it hard. I have talked to you guys on how I have had more one-on-one meetings with players than probably ever before. Just checking on them, mentally as much as anything. Some of it basketball and some of it off the court. Home stuff or anything that could be going on. There is just a lot. There is probably added stress that they feel. Unfortunately, they don’t get to get away and blow off much steam. There is no release other than the games.”
And that is why the players are coaches have not forgotten what happened last year and what it felt like. It is a feeling they do not want to experience ever again.
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