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The Hometown Kid

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The Hometown Kid

Ben Winterrowd

Exactly 60 miles or one hour and 15 minutes, barring traffic on the ever populated I-85 highway, is the distance and time between PJ Hall’s childhood home and Littlejohn Coliseum. When PJ was growing up in Spartanburg, he fell in love with basketball and baseball, with basketball becoming a priority as he continued to develop into a prominently ranked recruit, not just in the Palmetto State, but across the USA. Little did he know that a place so close to home would cultivate a bond of family and love for years to come.

There’s just something in these hills.

Growing up in the Hall household was competitive on many levels. PJ’s father, Jerome, played basketball at nearby Wofford College and his mother, Melanie, was a dual sport athlete at College of Charleston playing basketball and volleyball. PJ’s older brother Chris played basketball at Anderson University, while his sister, Thayer, was a standout volleyball player at the University of Florida. To say the family is athletic is a massive understatement.

“Everything was a competition,” PJ said, smiling and laughing. “We used to race to try and get the best seat in the car when we left the house.”

Even the coveted end seat at the kitchen table was reason to compete. Chris, being the oldest, always got the end seat. Even now, PJ gets stuck in the middle seat, and at 6-10.5 and 238 pounds, he’s the largest human being in the family.

PJ continued along these lines, reminiscing, “The oldest always got the middle cinnamon roll, which was a huge deal obviously. When Chris went off to college it became Thayer. It took forever for me to get that! I was a junior in high school!”

Competing for seats or cinnamon rolls, family means the world to PJ, and he treats those he meets and develops relationships with like family. This held true when PJ was deciding where he wanted to attend college and continue his basketball career. Selecting Clemson was the obvious choice for the kid from Spartanburg.

“Going through the recruiting process was obviously a lot,” said Hall. “Luckily, I had an older sister who was a highly touted recruit in volleyball, so I was able to see that firsthand. I was really looking for that family environment, somewhere where I could go and fit in immediately. I’ve always been a social person and so getting along with the guys on visits was big to me. I remember coming here on one of my first officials, and it immediately felt like a smooth fit, and I meshed with the guys easily. As I came back more and more, I felt like I was already a part of the team.”

“Only being an hour away was special too, being that hometown kid, but I knew more and more that it was the obvious choice that I wanted to come here.”

As a freshman on the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament team, PJ had a limited role but was crucial to the team’s success and learned a lot from All-ACC player Aamir Simms in the process.

“Aamir [Simms] was a huge role model for me during my freshman year,” recalled Hall. “He taught me how to go out there and work every day. Just keeping a steady head. There were some highs and some lows in that season. He really mentored me in the process of working every day.”

PJ was a top 40 recruit in the country and one of the best and highest ranked recruits in Clemson program history. With that came high expectations.

“That freshman year was tough. I came in as a big recruit and I wanted to contribute right away. As I had little playing time, I had to find ways to get in there and contribute. I overcame getting COVID that season and games where I barely played. It was special to continue to fight and go along with those guys.”

“Whenever you have to fight for your position and your time to get on the floor, you’re growing in that aspect. That’s what can really train you as a player and get you to be mentally tough.”

Little did PJ know that developing mental toughness would be a precursor for the next year and a half. PJ hurt his foot during his sophomore season. He played through a painful stress fracture in his foot for much of the year before requiring offseason surgery. As a man of faith, PJ turned to the Bible and his family.

“The biggest thing for my mental toughness is having God as someone to lean on. Jesus Christ Lord and Savior. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without Him. Whenever I’m down and at my lowest points, I’ve always found myself turning back to the Bible. Sometimes you get astray from that and you say, ‘Maybe it’s time to knock the dust off’ and that’s when you know you might have been in the wrong if there is dust on the Bible on the bedside table.”

Even with a solid foundation, he was not prepared for what happened after recovering from his surgery.

“The foot was hard to deal with my sophomore year, but I told myself that I was going to come out on top of it. I wasn’t really all that down on my foot because I had been dealing with it for so long. The knee was so sudden, and that was like my world fell apart.”

Fifteen minutes into his first full practice during the summer, PJ dislocated his kneecap and tore his PFL tendon.

He described that moment in one word. Devastating.

“I’ve always told myself that when you’re down and getting close to that 10-count, get up. Find a way to get up. Get up and find some stability. When you are sad or struggling, get up and develop a pattern of stability in your life. That was my biggest thing, continuing to find that strength and get out of that hole.”

He attributes getting out of that hole to those closest to him: teammates, coaches, and family.

“Hunter Tyson was huge for me. Having him as my roommate and as one of my closest friends on the team, it was special to have him around all the time. He was someone I could go and talk to. I had a loss in my family at that time, and everything felt like it was getting piled on at once.”

Being from right down the road also provided PJ something not everyone has – a mom within driving distance.

“I’m a big momma’s boy. So going home multiple times and having my mom there and to not necessarily talk about stuff, but just hear her voice and know things are going to be all right. I’ve got a girlfriend that I love to death, and she was big for me, too.”

PJ recalled a time during the early stages of his junior season where Head Coach Brad Brownell helped him tremendously.

“I had a lot of support around me, including Coach Brownell. There was plenty of times that he brought me in just to make sure I was okay.”

PJ reminisced about a conversation he had with Coach Brownell following Clemson’s loss to Iowa in November 2022.

“I was completely out of it mentally. He brought me into the meeting room after the loss. I played eight minutes and had 0 points and 0 rebounds. He said, ‘You’ve got to find a way to get yourself out of this and find a way to become yourself again.’”

“As I left the room, I realized he was right. If I’m going to feel bad for myself then I’m never going to get out of this. After that, it was get up and fight.”

PJ finished his junior season in strong fashion, turning in a career year. A determined PJ Hall showed his own personal version of grit and growth as he helped lead the Tigers to a record year in the ACC. Clemson won a school best 14 league games and finished with 23 wins. He was named to the All-ACC Team as a Third Team member and finished top three in scoring during ACC play.

Even after earning an offseason invite to the coveted NBA Combine in Chicago and drumming up lots of draft interest, there was just something that didn’t sit right with him. He didn’t like the way the season ended.

PJ announced he was returning to Clemson for his senior season on May 25. He reflected on his decision to return.

“I really love it here. I didn’t want to leave. It would have had to have been, you know, ‘We’re taking you in the first round’ or something of that nature and even that might not have gotten me out of here. I wasn’t ready to become an adult and move out.”


“I love college and I love Clemson.”

This bond between PJ and the basketball program and the community of Clemson has been forged through highs and lows, growth and development, and constant support.

As much as PJ loves college and Clemson, the team, students, school, and community return the affection tenfold.