Men’s Basketball Preview

Men’s Basketball Preview

Nov. 5, 2001

For the past few seasons, both Clemson and its opponents knew what to expect from the Tiger offense. If it wasn’t Will Solomon draining three pointers or driving from the outside, it was Adam Allenspach fighting for baskets on the inside. That inside and outside balance was what Coach Larry Shyatt was striving for each of the last two years.

But with the loss of both players to the professional ranks, Shyatt’s club will evolve from the star system to a more balanced approach. With the influx of five new freshmen combined with the maturation of the last year’s crop that featured two ACC All-Rookie team members the 2001-02 season will feature a fresh look and plenty of excitement. “We have two different types of balance right now,” said Shyatt, who is entering his fourth season as Clemson head coach. “We have balance in terms of depth because we recruited to our needs. We have six players capable of playing inside, all of whom are healthy as we speak, and that is encouraging compared to the last two seasons. We have three primary ball handlers, which is important in our league. We have not had that luxury the last couple of years.

“Last but not least, we have better athletes. The only commodity we don’t have is experience. We can be more difficult to defend because we have more depth, more talent and the newest lineup in the league.” “We were all very hopeful last season that we would balance in our game, and we had that for the first 10 games when Adam was healthy. There’s no question that with the addition of five new players and a roster with eight first or second-year players, we enter the fall practice not knowing who to rely on in certain situations. But, we have some talented young me who are eager to fill our rolls.

The cast of returners is led by junior point guard Ed Scott, who started every game last season and played exactly 1000 minutes. For the first time in Shyatt’s tenure he has appointed a captain in the preseason and the junior from Eastover, SC fills the bill perfectly. “Edward is an outstanding role model for our young players.

Sophomores Tony Stockman and Chris Hobbs will take on increased responsibility this season. The duo was named to the ACC All-Freshman team, the first time Clemson has ever had two selections in the same year. Clemson was the only team with two representatives on that team. Jamar McKnight, the only senior on the club, will give the team an experienced athletic wing player. Juniors Tomas Nagys and Ray Henderson will anchor the interior along with Hobbs.

The Tigers received an unexpected blow in the preseason when sophomore Dwon Clifton was diagnosed with a congenital cardiac abnormality that will keep him out for at least a month for testing and could possibly end his basketball career. Clifton was coming off a solid freshman season in which he started 17 of the last 18 games. “We are only concerned with Dwon’s long-term health at this time,” said Shyatt. “We have talked with Dwon and his family and will do whatever is best for him.”

Much of the buzz about the 2001-02 season stems from Shyatt’s five-man recruiting class that has been rated among the nation’s best by many experts. The freshman class bolsters the team’s depth as well as upgrades its athleticism.

“It’s a class that has been ranked among the top 15 in the nation. Hopefully it is a group that will soon make a difference in our program and move us to the upper echelon of the ACC. That will take a combination of both their improvement and, of course, some of the better, older players in our league moving on,” said Shyatt.

The incoming freshmen are big men Steve Allen, Sharrod, Christie and Olu Babalola and guard/forwards Chey Christie and Jemere Hendrix. It is the largest incoming class since the 1995-96 season, a year that included the debut of Terrell McIntyre, Tom Wideman, Harold Jamison, Andrius Jurkunas and Tony Christie, Chey’s older brother. That class led the Tigers to three NCAA Tournament berths, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 1997.

“They have a distinct advantage to any Clemson freshmen in that they were here most of the summer. They attended classes and that should help them with their confidence when the fall begins. There won’t be as big an adjustment period in the classroom and on the court.” Two players in the group standout. Chey Christie and Sharrod Ford both played for the United States team in the Global Games in Dallas, TX in July. Christie averaged 15 points a game, shot 61 percent on three-point shots and made the all-tournament team. Ford shot 75 percent from the field, best on the United States team.

The team will need contributions from everyone to compete in the always-tough ACC. Duke and Maryland will look to repeat their Final Four seasons with most of their rosters intact. The team will also face stiff non-conference competition including a visit to Penn State, a Sweet 16 team last season, SEC rival South Carolina, and a trip to the Virgin Islands to play in a six-team, three-game tournament prior to Thanksgiving.

The depth at Shyatt’s disposal will once again allow the Tigers to focus on an up tempo attack. The Clemson offense set school records for made three-point field goals in a season (248) and per game (8.0) while averaging 74.1 points per game, the most since 1993-94. The Tigers scored 80 points or more 11 times last season, including 108 in a non-overtime game against Georgia Tech.

“I think it’s the most exciting team we’ve had since the McIntyre-Wideman-Christie-Jurkunas-Jamison era because you’ve got a whole group that fans will be able to follow for the next four years. If I was a marketing expert, I would probably think this would be the absolute best time to market Clemson basketball, not only because of the significant youth and excitement and talent of the younger players, but also because of the development of a world class annex, the new Littlejohn Coliseum. I hope it is the beginning of a new basketball movement at Clemson University.”

Louis Garmendia is a graduate student from Mt. Pleasant, SC and works in the Clemson Sports Information Office.