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New Arena, Season, Same Leader

New Arena, Season, Same Leader

Note: The following appears in the November issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication’s content, join IPTAY today by calling 864-656-2115.

As a sophomore last season, Nelly Perry averaged nearly eight more points per game than in her freshman campaign. She evolved into one of the most improved players in the ACC, averaging 14.3 points per game, the 12th-highest figure in the league.

The phrase “sophomore slump” is not in Perry’s vocabulary, as she recorded one of the best offensive seasons for a second-year player in program history. Last season, Perry led the team in minutes per game, field-goal attempts, field goals made, free-throw attempts, free throws made, points and points per game.

“Last season, I gained a new level of confidence and I embraced my role,” explained Perry. “I knew I would have a bigger role than my freshman year and I seized it.”

Perry’s new level of confidence showed, as she scored in double figures 18 times and poured in 20 or more points six times. In an ACC contest against Boston College, Perry scored a career-high 33 points, the most by a Tiger since 2008.

Throughout ACC play, Perry stepped up her game and rose to the occasion to lead her team. She scored 23 points at Virginia Tech, 22 points at home against Georgia Tech and ended the season with a 23-point performance versus Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

Despite Perry’s impressive numbers, she still believes that she has to get even better in order to help her team improve on last season, when a young squad struggled to find ways to win close games down the stretch. The Tigers let numerous ACC contests slip out of reach in the fourth quarter by relinquishing leads in the final minutes. In some of those games, Perry scored at will and poured in point after point, but her scoring total did not matter if the game ended in a loss.

“Stats don’t matter to me. I just want to win. We could have won the Boston College game, the Pittsburgh game, the Wake Forest game and the Georgia Tech game, plus many more. We should have won all those games, but we didn’t. I also look back at the games in which we struggled…those drive me as well.”

The beauty of sports is that each season is a completely clean slate in which each team begins with zero wins and zero losses. This season, there are five new freshmen on the roster that will be brought into the fold, along with two new assistant coaches on staff.

Even with the new additions, Clemson returns all four of its leading scorers from last season, all of whom were underclassmen last year. Along with a new season, another new beginning awaits…a brand-new Littlejohn Coliseum.

Starting in May 2015, Clemson’s historic basketball arena underwent an $63.5 million renovation and was finished this fall. The rebuilt Littlejohn Coliseum feature a new interior layout and design. The playing arena has been completely redone, with a new floor, massive videoboard and 8,500 new arena seats. Additionally, the facility, which includes the Swann Pavilion, incorporates all aspects of the men’s and women’s basketball program operations, making the state-of-the-art arena one of the nicest basketball facilities in the ACC.

With the season underway, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams have already begun practicing in Littlejohn Coliseum and specifically in the Swann Pavilion practice facility. Perry and the rest of her teammates open their season on November 11 against Coastal Carolina at noon, while the men’s team takes on Georgia later that day at 7 p.m.

“I feel refreshed,” said Perry. “It’s a new arena, new season, new school year and a new beginning. We all feel really good about this coming year.”

Furthermore, as a student-athlete who will soon spend every day in Littlejohn Coliseum, Perry is extremely thankful to the Clemson athletic department and administration who have invested in both the men’s and women’s basketball programs by expending time, money and resources to build a new facility.

“I feel like the administration is trusting the process by putting all this time, money and effort into our new facilities,” stated Perry. “My favorite part of the new Littlejohn Coliseum is the Swann Pavilion practice facility. It’s calming. You can go in there and shoot alone or with a partner. You can put on music. It’s awesome.”

Just as the renovation of Littlejohn Coliseum was a process that took time to complete, so is the rebuilding of the program. Perry understands that leading a team back to the top of the ACC does not happen overnight, but rather through every member of the program believing in the blueprint and helping to shape the foundation and culture.

“We’re growing and developing a sisterhood,” added Perry. “We want to push each other by challenging and encouraging each other. Another goal of ours is to focus on taking each day one by one and making the best of it. You cannot win without improving your culture, and we did that during the offseason.”