Strong backcourt keys Tiger hopes
Clemson doesn’t have much history of sustained basketball success, but its chances of continuing last year’s taste of prominence increased greatly with the decisions of Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell.
The two dynamic guards could’ve easily chosen to forgo their final season of college eligibility and headed overseas to turn pro. Reed is 23 years old. Mitchell has dealt with multiple knee surgeries. Both players earned their degrees in May, making a reasonable case for moving on to the next stage of their lives.
“It’s not like they had to come back to finish their education and get their degrees,” coach Brad Brownell says. “They had already accomplished that, which was a pretty significant goal for these guys. And they had already played in the Sweet 16. They’d already done a lot of really good things. So now, do you want to go start your professional career, start working toward your next lifelong goal? Or do you want to try to come back and do even more?”
Reed and Mitchell chose the latter option, and it means Clemson should be a force once again after last year’s breakthrough in Brownell’s eighth season.
Clemson looks potent and poised for more after snapping a six-year NCAA Tournament drought and advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997.
Losing explosive scorer Gabe DeVoe hurts, but the Tigers have a formidable offensive nucleus with Reed and Mitchell joining frontcourt weapon Elijah Thomas.
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Brad Brownell
2017-18 RECORD (ACC): 25-10 (11-7)
2017-18 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Kansas 80-76 in the Sweet 16
G Gabe DeVoe (14.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.1 apg)
F Donte Grantham (14.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
Thomas is back for his senior season after averaging 10.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last year.
The Tigers had to work through the second half of last season after star Donte Grantham was lost to a blown-out knee. But the positive from that was the development of Aamir Simms, who had to play more minutes as a freshman.
Thomas and Simms should form an imposing duo. Simms was a physical specimen when he arrived at Clemson, and with added confidence he looks like a future star.
Brownell secured a big coup on the transfer market by snagging Oral Robers graduate Javan White from LSU’s clutches. White gives Clemson a 6'10", 230-pound presence who averaged 10.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season. Incoming freshman Trey Jemison holds intrigue.
Reed led the Tigers in scoring last year with a 15.8-point average while pulling down 4.7 rebounds a game and handing out 3.3 assists. He can stretch a defense to create space for others to make plays. Mitchell averaged 12.2 points and 3.6 assists per game, and his ability to break down defenses off the dribble both in the halfcourt and in transition will create plenty of headaches.
The return of David Skara, who announced plans to play overseas before reconsidering and returning for his final year of eligibility, gives Brownell his best defensive player from last year.
Combo guard Clyde Trapp and wing Anthony Oliver showed flashes last season as freshmen, and the return of Reed and Mitchell will allow them to continue developing in backup roles.
The rare air of the Sweet 16 will be extremely hard to improve on, and Brownell knows that. But it’s absolutely realistic to think this team can build on 25–10 and 11–7 in the ACC, records that no one expected entering last year. If it’s true that success in the college game is all about guard play, Clemson finds itself in good hands with Reed and Mitchell ready to go through their third season in the ACC. This is a veteran team that is hungry for more, and Clemson fans should prepare for more excitement.
Postseason Prediction: Two & Out
ACC Prediction: 7th