By Philip Sikes // Athletic Communications
We may be on the eve of the official start to the 2014 football season, but that doesn’t mean there’s been a shortage of news and hard work behind the scenes within the men’s basketball program.
Coming off a 23-win season and a berth in the NIT semifinals, I caught up with head coach Brad Brownell this week to discuss his team’s offseason. Specifically, I wanted to get his thoughts on how several players have progressed this summer. For those that don’t know, Brownell and his staff are strong proponents of individual workouts, and take full advantage of the time afforded to them as coaches under NCAA regulations.
“We’ve put in a lot of time on offensive skill work,” said Brownell, who recently signed a new six-year deal with the Tigers. “Some guys did more shooting, some more ball-handling. We made strides with a lot of guys.”
What was the focus with some of the veterans?
Austin Ajukwa — “He had to work on his body, physically. But he’s up to 205, 210 pounds now. He worked on his ball-handling and shooting and made good strides.”
Damarcus Harrison — “We want him to be a more consistent shooter. He can be a bit streaky at times, so we continue to work with him technique-wise.”
Jordan Roper — “He had a health scare last summer that hindered his development a bit, but he’s done a good job working on his decision-making. He needs to be able to play some point guard this year.”
Josh Smith — “He has gotten himself into better shape, so he can play better for longer. He’s lost about 15 pounds, which has given him more bounce. He worked out with more confidence than he’s ever had.”
There’s also the case of two players whose careers have been impacted by injuries thus far, Jaron Blossomgame and Patrick Rooks. Both were cleared full-go by the end of the first summer session, and Brownell thought both did some positive things this summer.
“Jaron has had an outstanding summer,” he said. “He’s been very committed. He has to shoot more consistently, and he will. But we’re most pleased with his attitude and competitive spirit by getting guys in the gym to work out and get shots up.”
Rooks, a sharpshooter from Charlotte who sat out last season after hip surgery, has been brought along at a slower pace.
“Pat is finally healthy, which has taken a while,” Brownell said. “He showed some signs of progress in the final few workouts.”
News & Notes
• Rod Hall and Landry Nnoko, two of the team’s veteran leaders, were extended major invitations this summer. Nnoko is in Los Angeles currently through August 4 as a counselor at the adidas Nations Basketball Experience. Former Tiger and current Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker once camped at the same event during his time at Clemson. Hall recently received an invite to the CP3 Elite Guard Camp, hosted by Los Angeles Clippers great Chris Paul in his hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C. Hall is scheduled to attend from Aug. 7-10.
Brownell — “Very good exposure opportunities for both. K.J. (McDaniels) obviously made the most out of going to the LeBron and Durant academies last summer. Rod will get to compete against some of the better point guards in the country. He’s a guy who is sometimes a bit underappreciated. Landry had to take some time off to have his knee worked on. He’s fine and has had a good summer. This camp will go a long way to challenging him against top competition.”
• Three newcomers have been on campus this summer, including Donte Grantham, who was here for both summer sessions. Because of a prep school season at Hargrave Military Academy, Grantham is “a little further along” than freshman classmate Gabe DeVoe according to Brownell. The two were joined by San Francisco transfer Avry Holmes, who will redshirt the 2014-15 season.
Brownell — “They’re all good players. I look for Donte to contribute immediately. He’s a skilled player who can shoot and pass. Gabe is still adjusting to how fast things happen at this level, but he makes shots and has range. Avry is going to be really good for us. He’s really hit it off with our players, and we’re excited to have him in the program.”
• Numbers have been assigned to the newcomers. Holmes will wear #3 for the Tigers, DeVoe #10 and Grantham #15.
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