July 9, 1998
CLEMSON, S.C. – Seldom in college basketball history has a first year coached been more familiar with his inherited roster. Somehow the term “rookie head coach” is not appropriate when analyzing the experience factor of first-year Tiger mentor Larry Shyatt for 1998-99.
Shyatt replaced Rick Barnes as Clemson’s 20th head coach last April and was welcomed to campus with open arms by nine returning lettermen and an enthusiastic community. His press conference resembled a welcome back reception.
As associate head coach, Shyatt was a driving force behind Clemson’s run of three straight postseason appearances, including back to back NCAAs between 1994-95 and 1996-97. His last game in his first tour of duty at Clemson saw the Tigers drop a double overtime decision to Minnesota in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Shyatt has worked on a daily basis with eight of the nine returning lettermen for 1998-99, and in fact spent two years with five of the Tiger veterans. His year away from the program, when he led Wyoming to a 19-9 record, was basically a sabatical season. His experience in Tigertown between 1994-95 and 1996-97 was paramount in his selection as Clemson’s to replace Barnes, who accepted the University of Texas head coaching position on Easter Sunday.
“It certainly is an advantage to know the players and what they can do,” said Shyatt when reviewing his “new players.” “Having a familiarity is a plus, especially when it comes to the player’s families and background. It will be more of a learning experience for our new assistant coaches.
“I am not going to go back over all the films this summer and form new opinions on our returning players. I will look at films to review the teams in the ACC, but I will give everyone a fresh start. We will try to evaluate who we are starting October 17th (first day of practice).
“We all must shart that passion to improve. That can and should separate us from the rest.”
Last year Shyatt spent his rookie season as a head coach as the top Cowboy in Laramie, WY. He guided his young team to a 19-9 record with much of the same philosophy that brought Clemson to a number-eight final ranking in 1997. Wyoming advanced to the NIT, its first postseason appearance in the 1990s and its highest win total since 1987.
“I am a coach who basically adjusts his offensive style to the type of players we have in a given year. Some years we will be more perimeter oriented and up tempo, other years we will be more of a halfcourt type of team. Defense will remain a constant highest priority with our team.”
This won’t be a preseason devoted to a lot of the basics of the game, which was the case in 1995-96, Shyatt’s second season as a Clemson assistant, a team that featured seven first-year freshmen. Shyatt’s 1998-99 Clemson roster features five seniors, nine returning lettermen and five players who have been starters for the course of a season at some point in their career.
“We certainly want this to be a special season for our seniors,” said Shyatt. “The seniors have a chance to become the first class in Clemson history to go to the NCAA Tournament all four of their years. There are only 17 other senior classes across the country who have a chance to do that.
“I have experienced success with senior dominated teams. At Providence in 1994, we won the Big East Championship and that team had five seniors who were at the forefront.
“This senior class at Clemson is special to me because they came here when it was not easy to choose Clemson. These guys were not high school All-Americans. Terrell McIntyre was not a top 250 player coming out of high school. These guys have already left a mark because they have proven that Clemson can sustain a run of success, can go to the NCAA Tournament on a consistent basis, not just have a good season every four or five years.”
The foursome of Terrell McIntyre, Harold Jamison, Tony Christie and Tom Wideman has fueled a resurgence of this program to a level of consistency Clemson basketball has never seen before. All four have been key components in bringing Clemson to the NCAA Tournament each of the last three years, the first time in school history the Tigers have been to the Big Dance three years in a row.
The run of success has brought the expectation level of the Clemson program to another level. Clemson was ranked in the top 10 of the nation in every preseason poll last year, and thus the 18-14 season was seen as a disappointment by many, the Clemson players included.
“This team has outstanding character and is a pretty cerebral bunch. In a way last year could be a great motivation for our team. There is an old expression, ‘you don’t know what have until you don’t have it any longer.’ We were a couple of plays away from a berth in the Elite Eight two years ago then lost some heart-breakers last year.
“This year’s team has seven guys who experienced that run in the NCAA Tournament two years ago, they know what it takes and I know they want to get back there. Last year’s experience has shown them there is a fine line between greatness and being a good team. We were so close to absolute greatness with nine losses by five points or less last year.”
The 1997-98 Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament, had a fourth-place finish in the ACC standings, had 18 victories, including four wins over top 25 teams, including state rival South Carolina. If Clemson had the same season in 1994, there would have been a parade in downtown Clemson. But, this class has risen the expectations, expectations that brought an average of 11,151 fans to home games last year, an all-time Clemson single season attendance record.
While this is an outstanding corps group that Shyatt has “inherited” there will be two common denominators missing from those three NCAA Tournament teams. Greg Buckner, arguably one of the top five all-around players in Clemson basketball history, has graduated to the NBA. He averaged 16.3 points per game last year and led the Tigers in scoring all four seasons. He was a starter in 122 consecutive games. The Tigers have benefitted from the true team concept during this contemporary era of excellence, but Buckner was the “go-to guy” in many of Clemson’s 74 victories over the last four seasons.
“Greg Buckner has certainly been a great leader for us the last four years,” said Shyatt. “He had to be a starter and a leader for us from day one his freshman year. That is difficult to replace, but we have some talented players returning who are anxious to contribute in his absence.”
Clemson also must also replace Iker Iturbe, one of the top passing frontcourt players in Clemson history. Iturbe averaged 5.8 points per game and started 20 of the 32 games a year ago. Iturbe was a starter for three of the last four Clemson teams and his leadership also will be missed.
“We are going to miss both Iker and Greg. They were great leaders last year and early in their careers. They brought great competitive qualities to our program. Versatility was something they both brought to us. But, their loss providesopportunities for the returning players.
Like Barnes before him, Shyatt is a team oriented coach and that is a common thread throughout his basketball philosophy. Clemson had nine players participate over 15 minutes per game a year ago. With the returning depth, Shyatt will have many options regardless of the situation this year.
“Teams find go-to guys as they practice and play. I would prefer to be a balanced team and reduce the individual offensive load. The best way to do that is to put more emphasis on the things we can control.
“I would prefer us to focus on how hard we play, what kind of condition we are in, how we defend the fast break, how we defend in the halfcourt, and how well we block out and become a better offensive rebounding team.
“I have not brought any magic dust from the west, but we obviously must improve our team free throw shooting. We shot 61 percent as a team last year and with nine losses by five points or less that was a factor over the course of the season.”
Shyatt also welcomes three newcomers to the Clemson program, 6-2 guard Will Solomon, 6-5 guard Dustin Braddick and 6-8 frontcourt player Chuckie Gilmore. All three could provide pivotal play in Shyatt’s first year at the helm.
The leader of the Clemson backcourt and the Tiger team for that matter is diminutive point guard Terrell McIntyre. An All-ACC player (second and third team, respectively), the last two years, McIntyre has been the glue that has held the Tigers together for the last three seasons.
This was never more obvious that last year when a foot injury limited his playing time and effectiveness for much of the season. His impact on the Clemson team is similar to General Motors impact on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In a victory over a top 20 Florida State team in January, Clemson was +36 when he was in the game and -15 when he was out of the lineup.
“Terrell McIntyre will have to be a more vocal leader, one in which I am not sure he has been in the past,” said Shyatt, who personally recruited McIntyre out of high school. “Without Greg Buckner, we will ask a little bit of everything from Terrell. Last year his injuries showed us the importance of depth. I would like to think we can give him the rest he deserves this year and that will be important over the long season.
“He is an outstanding player in all areas. I want to see him shoot in the 90s from the foul line and see him get his assist/turnover ratio near 3/1 because he is capable of doing that in both areas.”
McIntyre first injured his left foot in the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 13th. The Tigers were ranked 17th in the nation at the time and had just beaten a top 25 Maryland team. In that Maryland game, McIntyre had produced 21 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and four steals. But the injury reduced his normal 33 minutes per game playing time and thus the effectiveness of the Clemson offense and defense.
Despite the physical maladies, McIntyre averaged 13.9 points and 5.3 assists per game for the season. The native of Raeford, NC ranked among the ACC leaders in three-point goals, steals, free throw shooting and assists for the second straight year.
Even though he is barely 5-9, McIntyre is a player capable of a quadruple double, as he proved with a 12 point, seven rebound, six assist and seven steal performance in the clutch victory over Georgia Tech on March 1 last year, a game that was virtually a playoff game for an NCAA bid.
“Boogie earned some attention early last season as one of the top point guards in the country. This year is a great opportunity to establish that he is one of the truly special players in this country. But, every night he is going to have to go out and prove it. I think he will be hungry to prove himself this year as one of the best.”
Heading into his senior season, McIntyre already ranks among the best in school history. He is currently 16th in school history in scoring (1212 points), 16th in scoring average (13.32), 12th in double figure scoring games (65), 10th in playing time (2950 minutes), 13th in games started (77), second in three-point goals (160), eighth in steals (137) and fourth in assists (252). A duplication of his junior year figures will make him Clemson’s career leader in steals and three-point goals and put him in the top five in scoring.
Often injured Johnny Miller is another senior guard will plenty of Division I experience with NCAA Tournament caliber teams. A transfer from Temple, Miller was a member of two NCAA teams with the Owls, and provided the Tigers with many clutch shots off the bench last year. Like McIntyre, Miller was slowed by injury last year and actually had three knee operations over a 10-month period. He had a cyst removed from behind the knee after last season that was as big as a baseball. Hopefully this will end his physical problems and allow him to have a productive senior year.
“Johnny Miller has had to face a lot of obstacles over the last couple of years. It has made him tougher and mature. If healthy, he can give us a great scoring punch and quickness defensively. He might be more comfortable at the off guard this year.”
Miller had 73 three-point goals as a freshman at Temple, a total that broke Mark Macon’s Temple and Atlantic 10 freshman record. The native of Pennsylvania averaged4.3 points per game and had 53 assists in 15.7 minutes per game last year. His 11 points in 14 minutes sent Clemson to victory over Maryland in December, and his three-point goal in the final minute at NC State was pivotal in Clemson’s drive to the NCAA Tournament. He had a 16-point, 12 assist performance against Western Carolina.
A third returning player with multiple letters at the Division I level is junior Vincent Whitt. A 6-6 guard who is known more as a scorer than a shooter, Whitt averaged 5.5 points per game last year and is a 5.0 scorer for his first two years combined. The native of Greensboro, NC has 189 rebounds in 16.4 minutes per game over his first two years, including 66 off the offensive boards.
“Vince is one of our quickest players. Because quickness is one of our weaknesses, he is very valuable to us. He plays with that eye of the Tiger. If there is anyone who can be the team catalyst or the team spark, it can be Vincent Whitt. I say this in the intensity category, without putting any scoring pressure on him.”
Whitt showed his capabilities in the victory over South Carolina last December. With McIntyre in street clothes due to the foot injury, Whitt scored a career high 17 points and had seven rebounds. He made 8-10 free throws, many in the clutch.
Two rookies will challenge for playing time in 1998-99. Will Solomon is a 6-1 guard from East Hartford, CT, who signed with Shyatt’s program without ever meeting the Tiger head coach.
Solomon visited Clemson just prior to Barnes departure. But, he liked what he saw with the Clemson program the University and its quality of education and Clemson’s returning players for 1998-99.
From the same area of Connecticut as Tiger senior Tony Christie, Solomon averaged 26.4 points per game as a senior when he ranked second in his conference in scoring. He scored 22 a game as a junior. “Last year proved how important it is to have a combo guard ready for action. Will has the ability to fill this role.
Dustin Braddick is a 6-4 guard from North Charleston High School in South Carolina. He averaged 15.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists in leading his team to a 25-4 ledger last year. He is a two-time All-State player who scored over 1000 points and had over 500 rebounds in his career. “Dustin has the versatility we have been accustomed to with Greg Buckner and Iker Iturbe in recent years. His all-around abilities excite our coaching staff.”
Clemson has had a reputation as a physical team in recent years and that will not change with Larry Shyatt on the seen. A look to the roster shows that Clemson has no less than six players who stand at least 6-8 and those six players average 250 pounds. Five of the six are returning lettermen, four of the six have at least two letters.
Harold Jamison and Tom Wideman are a pair of seniors who provide leadership on and off the court. Both have been starters since their freshman seasons and are prime reasons Clemson has had outstanding post defense and rebounding the last three years.
Jamison has been Clemson’s top rebounder and field goal percentage leader for three straight years, a statistical double that no Clemson player in history has duplicated….not Dale Davis, not Elden Campbell, not Horace Grant, not Sharone Wright.
Last year, Jamison averaged 9.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He led the ACC in offensive rebounds per game, in fact, he had 20 more offensive rebounds than defensive rebounds. Jamison shot .592 from the field, including 7-8 in the NCAA Tournament against Western Michigan when he had 14 points and 10 rebounds. His 13 points and 13 rebounds were also keys to the win over South Carolina. He had 11 offensive rebounds against the Gamecocks, most by a Tiger since the days of Dale Davis.
Entering his senior season, Jamison is 15th in Clemson history in rebounds and third in field goal percentage. His 126 offensive rebounds in 1997-98 rank fourth in Clemson history.
“Harold Jamison will be counted on to continue his contributions in terms of post defense and rebounding. I am not a guy who puts a lot on numbers, but I would hope that a goal for him would be to reach double figures in rebounding, which is very hard to do in this era of basketball.
“The sand is just about out of the bottle for Harold. He has improved every year, but we want him to be a scoring force on the inside like we all know he can. We need to take advantage of his ability to get from one end of the floor to the other. He might be the best big man in the country when it comes to running the floor. He is in great shape, and this is a way he can create mis-matches early.
“He needs to improve at the foul line because he is going to shoot a lot of free throws. He shot more than any other player last year (154). “
Wideman ranks 25th in Clemson history in career rebounding with 474. A starter in 74 of the 94 games over the last three years, the academic All-America candidate averaged 4.4 points per game a year ago. He is one of the top post defenders in the ACC and is a .521 field goal shooter for his career, including .533 last year.
“Tom Wideman has great balance in his life. He is what you strive to be on and off the court. He is a Clemson guy, a team guy and that is why I have great respect for him. He wants to finish his career with a great senior year. He can be more of a threat as an offensive rebounder and continue to do the little things that separate great teams from the rest. He has always been our most consistent post defender because he has a strong body and knows the game.”
The native of Marietta, GA is one of the top student-athletes at Clemson. A District III Academic All-American last year, Wideman has been on the Dean’s List five of his first six semesters at Clemson and he was recently selected as Clemson’s representative on the ACC student-athlete advisory committee.
Tony Christie is a returning starter at small forward. The native of Hartford, CT started 25 of the 32 games last year and averaged 8.0 points per game, fourth highest on the club. An outstanding perimeter player offensively and defensively, Christie made 54-130 three-point goals last year, third highest total ever by a Clemson forward. The .415 percentage was the top figure by a frontcourt player in the ACC last year.
“Tony Christie is coming off a tremendous season from three-point range. We would like to have him expand his game and score inside, which will help his outside game. He is capable of driving to the hoop and scoring effectively. But, he is a versatile player who can defend on the outside at 6-6.”
Christie has started 39 of the 84 games he has played over the last three seasons and has a 6.5 average for that period of time. He had his finest year yet as a junior when he had 10 double figure scoring games, including a 19-point effort at Florida State when Clemson won by29 points, the largest margin of victory in an ACC road game in school history.
Andrius Jurkunas red-shirted last season due to a knee injury. A starter for the 1995-96 Clemson team, Jurkunas made 51 three-point goals that year, hitting a .421 clip. He averaged 8.4 points per game that year and led the team in blocked shots. His play was limited to 278 minutes in 1996-97 due to a knee injury.
“Andrius could be the wild card on this team. He has a great savvy for the game. When he shoots, I think they are all going in the hole. We need to take advantage of his ability to shoot from the outside at 6-9. I am excited to see a healthy Andrius Jurkunas because he is capable of helping us in so many areas. He can be a shot blocker defensively, yet hit the three-point shot offensively.”
Mohamed Woni is a junior who gave Clemson many productive minutes off the bench, especially at the end of the season. Woni, a native of the Ivory Coast who speaks five languages and is a design major, averaged 3.7 points and 2.8 rebounds a year ago when he shot .523 from the field. A 77 percent free throw shooter for his career, he made 8 of his last nine free throws and 18 of his last 29 field goals last year. He had eight big points in just 17 minutes in the win over Georgia Tech that sent Clemson to the NCAA Tournament.
“Woni is one of the finest people I have been around in college basketball and has the work ethic to step it up another notch. The last fourth of the season he came alive offensively. We are excited about his ability to shoot the intermediate to deep shot. He has picked up some weight in the off-season and could be one of the surprises of the next two years.”
Adam Allenspach is the only sophomore on the Clemson team. Last year he started 10 games, including six in ACC play, but averaged just nine minutes per game. The native of Florida who was born in Chicago, averaged 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. He did lead the team in blocked shots despite his limited play.
“Adam will play more quality minutes this year. I was surprised to see that he averaged only about nine minutes a game last year. He is still a maturing physically, but I am excited about his future. He has as positive an outlook on improvement as anyone in this program.”
Chuckie Gilmore is he only rookie among the large group of large Clemson players. The 270-pounder is a native of Fayetteville, NC and 71st High School who averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. He led 71st to a 28-1 season as a junior and the club was ranked second in the state most of the season. He was chosen to try out for the United States Junior team this past summer.
“Chuckie has a future that is ready to explode. He too is both a terrific person and has a tremendous future in Tigertown.”
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