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Tigers Hope To Have Big Impact On ACC

Tigers Hope To Have Big Impact On ACC

Aug. 7, 2000

2000-2001 Clemson Men’s Basketball Outlook “There is safety in numbers.” Your mother taught you that axiom of life before you went school, be it elementary school or off to college. That basic tenet, with a little alteration, can be adapted to the game of basketball.

Clemson Coach Larry Shyatt hopes the word safety translates to the word victories in 2000-01. Throughout the 1999-00 season, Shyatt quite simply did not have numbers, that is numbers of players to compete for victories for much of his 30-game schedule. With four preseason operations and many other injuries, at times Clemson had more scholarship players on the sidelines than on the court.

Many October and November practice sessions featured just six healthy scholarship players. The only scrimmage competition was provided by walk-ons. Shyatt’s true team started practice on February 4th, the first day he had all 10 of his scholarshp players healthy. The Tigers showed improvement over the course of the season, gaining four ACC victories after January 27, four more than ACC media thought Clemson would have when the question came up after an 0-5 league start.

But, 2000-01 is a new season, and with it the forecasts for a healthy season. As of this August writing, Shyatt enters the academic year with 12 scholarship players, most of which are healthy, or at least on the road to a healthy beginning of the season.

“Going into this season we have at least two healthy scholarship players at each position,” said Shyatt. “We will have a competitive situation at each position when we start practice. We made our improvement last year when we had competition in practice and competition for playing time. It made a huge difference.”

Clemson returns nine lettermen and four starters from last year’s 10-20 team that defeated South Carolina for the sixth straight year, Georgia Tech, Florida State and NC State, twice.

The contingent of returnees includes All-America candidate Will Solomon and starting center Adam Allenspach, the only senior on this year’s squad. Forward Chucky Gilmore and guard Edward Scott are two more returning starters for 2000-01.

Shyatt must replace Andrius Jurkunas, who was a part of three NCAA Tournament teams and an NIT Finalist at Clemson. The May 2000 Clemson graduate left Clemson as the school’s career leader in three-point goals by frontcourt players. In fact, only Terrell McIntyre and Chris Whitney have more three-point goals than Jurkunas in Clemson history.

A strong game from the 6-9 forward usually meant a Clemson victory. Shyatt can translate that into a formula for success this year. The Tigers will need players to step up and take the pressure off of Solomon, who at times had to do everything from scoring to passing to defending to rebounding to selling programs.

“We have two returning experienced players at important positions, one inside and one outside,” continued Shyatt. “Will was a first-team All-ACC player as a sophomore, the first Clemson sophomore to do that in 25 years. Adam is a solid player on the inside with three years of experience under his belt. He was among the league leaders in rebounding.

“But, we need that third and fourth consistent double figure scorer who will make a difference in the other areas as well. Will was required to do too much last year. His scoring average may go down a little, but hopefully his field goal percentage will go up because he will be surrounded by healthier teammates.

“This year, it is our goal to make our opponent concerned with more offensive threats. On a given night, I think we will be capable of having five or six double figure scorers. That was not the case last year. We must be more balanced.”

Certainly, Clemson will be more experienced. Shyatt had seven new players on his roster last year. Now he enters a season in which players return who accounted for 83 percent of the playing time, 86 percent of the field goals, 85.5 percent of the points, 82.5 percent of the rebounds and 81 percent of the assists.

While the Tigers look to be improved, so will the rest of the ACC. The top six teams in the 1999-00 league standings return 27 of their 30 starters. Eight of the ACC’s top 10 scorers return and nine of the league’s top 10 rebounders are back. Five players who have been first-team All-ACC in their careers, including Will Solomon, return.

For the first time in a number of years, ACC underclassmen did not leave a year early for the NBA. “The ACC might be the strongest it has been in many years because there was not an exodus to the NBA or to graduation. But, we are eagar to close the gap. “

Backcourt The leader of the Clemson backcourt and the entire team for that matter is 6-1 guard Will Solomon. The native of East Hartford, CT had one of the most outstanding seasons in Clemson basketball history in 1999-00, and it resulted in his selection to the All-ACC first-team, the first Tiger in 10 years to be ranked among the top five players in the league, the first sophomore or freshman to do it in 25 years.

Solomon averaged an ACC best 20.9 points per game, a figure that ranked 16th best in the nation, the highest ranking for a Clemson player in 30 years. He received notoriety from far and wide for his ability to score from the outside (93 three-point goals, and a 40 percent accuracy rate in league play) and his ability to penetrate and score in the lane against taller opponents.

A strong competitor in every phase of the game, Solomon had a higher scoring average in ACC games than in non-league games last year. A model of consistency, he was the only ACC player to score in double figures in every game last year. He improved his scoring average by 14.9 points over his freshman year, the biggest one-season scoring average jump in ACC history.

But, for most of the season, it was Will Solomon against the world. He scored almost a third of Clemson’s points, the highest percentage by an ACC player in nearly 10 years. He led the Tigers in scoring and assists, something that has been done just twice in the last 30 years by a Clemson player.

“Will Solomon had an incredible season for us last year,” said Shyatt. “It was really his first year as a full-time college player. He did more than just score, he led us in assists, playing time, had a strong year on defense and was a strong rebounder at 6-1 (11 rebounds in win over South Carolina).

“Obviously, he was at his best when he had a healthy teammate in the backcourt. He was at his best when Edward Scott was running along side of him. With Edward healthy and Tony Stockman joining the program, I expect to see a more efficient Will Solomon. Edward and Tony should help Will’s assist/turnover ratio and that should have a direct effect on our won-loss record.”

Scott had an injury plagued freshman year, a phrase that could be applied to many Clemson players in 1999-00. But, when he was healthy in the second half of the season, he showed an ability to run Clemson’s offense with maturity. He finished the season averaging a turnover every 14.5 minutes of play, the second best minutes/turnover figure for a Clemson starting point guard in history. Only Terrell McIntryre’s 16.74 figure in 1996-97 is better.

“There is no doubt that we were at our best when Edward Scott was healthy and on the floor. Ed’s effort and willingness to compete with severe injuries for the sake of his teammates will be remembered for some time.” Scott averaged 6.5 points per game, fourth best on the team. He started 21 of the 30 games and played in 24 overall. An ankle injury kept him out of six games and limited his effectiveness in six others.

Scott showed his scoring potential at Penn State when he scored a season high 18 points and made four three-point goals. He had 10 points, six assists and just one turnover in 38 minutes at NC State, a key to Clemson’s sweep of the Wolfpack last year.

Another player who will see significant playing time in the backcourt is freshman Tony Stockman, one of the most highly recruited players in years to sign with the Clemson program. Co-Mr. Basketball in the state of Ohio, Stockman averaged 25.5 points and 5.4 assists per game for Medina High School in Medina, OH last year.

Stockman was an 84 percent free throw shooter and finished his career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1211 points. He participated in the Capital Classic after his senior year and was also selected to the Wendy’s Big Four Classic.

Shyatt, a native of Ohio, is excited about his freshman guard from the Buckeye State. “Tony Stockman has tremendous vision. If you had to rank what he does best, it would be his passing and ability to put pressure on the defense through his creativity. His scoring ability would be second, but he is an outstanding shooter. He is a player who likes to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.”

Pasha Bains is a third returning player with starting experience in the backcourt for Shyatt. Bains played in 22 games, four as a starter last year, after transfering from Wyoming. The native of Canada led the team in free throw shooting and averaged 5.7 points per game. His 19 points against George Washington and 16 against Virginia showed what he is capable of doing offensively. “Pasha played on the Canadian Junior National Team this past summer and was a double figure scorer. That experience against international competition will make him a much improved player for his sophomore year.”

Walker Holt is a fourth returning letterman in the backcourt. The native of Greensboro, North Carolina played in 26 of the 30 games and actually started a game at Maryland. He tallied 34 points for the year and had a 20/12 assist/turnover ratio.

Three players on Shyatt’s roster would be considered guard/forward players. Their ability to play multiple positions is certainly a plus for the 2000-01 Tigers, giving the Clemson coach many options.

Dustin Braddick is a two-year letterman at 6-5 who has the ball handling skills of a guard, but has the defensive acumen to give forwards fits. “Dustin is a tough defender. He was in and out of the lineup early last year because of injury, but showed heart and toughness playing through pain last year.”

Braddick averaged 4.9 points a game and pulled in 4.3 rebounds a game in 24 contests, nine as a starter, last year. He was at his best in a 14-point, seven-rebound, effort in Clemson’s victory over Georgia Tech.

Newcomers Dwon Clifton and Jamar McKnight are agile 6-5 players who should bring Clemson an athleticism the team has been lacking in recent years.

“We need to improve our perimeter shooting and our ability to create off the dribble. We must be able to put more pressure on opposing defenses and show improvement when it comes to ball handling and passing. We feel we have addressed these needs with the three perimeter players we have joining the program this year.

“Dwon Clifton has tremendous explosiveness and athleticism, something we have lacked in recent yars. We have not had a big guard who could take people off the dribble and, at the same time, have great range. He could also become a great defender because he moves his feet well for a 6-5 player.

“McKnight also excites us with his athleticisim. His moves are fluid and he plays with a mature approach. He could help us at the three, two or even the point. He will give us a versatility that we had with Iker Iturbe and Greg Buckner a couple of years back.”

Clifton averaged 21.1 points and 8.4 rebounds a game his senior year of high school and was a first-team Associated Press All-State selection. His senior year he led Westchester Academy to a 28-2 record and the state championship.

McKnight averaged 20 points and six rebounds a game for Northwest Community College in Mississippi in 1999-00. He connected on 79 percent of his free throws, 52 percent of his field goals, including 39 percent from three-point range. He was named an all-state and all-region team member.

Frontcourt Clemson has five players, including four returning lettermen and two starters, who would be considered pure frontcourt players. Obviously, some of the aforementioned backcourt players can see playing time at forward positions.

Adam Allenspach and Chucky Gilmore are returning starters at center and power forward, respectively, while Ray Henderson saw significant playing time at both positions during his freshman season. Tomas Nagys saw time as a small forward and power forward last year, but has gained 25 pounds of muscle for his sophomore year. Chris Hobbs is a first-year freshman in 2000-01 who should also see significant playing time inside.

“Our interior is an intriguing group because we have players who can score inside and out. Adam Allenspach have shown they can hit the mid-range jumpshot. Plus, we have the size and strength on the inside that has been a characteristic of Clemson teams the last few years. Gilmore, Henderson and Hobbs give us a “Bruise Brothers” trio that should again make us one of the better rebounding teams in the South.” Clemson outrebounded the opposition by 4.5 rebounds a game last year, seventh best in Clemson history.

Allenspach is Clemson’s only senior and only three-year letterman. The native of Parkland, FL was second on the team in scoring with an 11.4 average and ranked eighth in the ACC in rebounding with a 7.1 figure. A fine outside shooter, Allenspach shot 74 percent from the foul line last year, best by a Clemson center in 41 years. The 7-1 player had offseason back surgery that limited his play over the summer, but he should be ready to go for the start of preseason practice in October. “Hopefully, the back surgery will solve a recurring problem Adam has had for some time. He is one of the top outside shooting big men in the country and is ready for a breakout season.”

Chucky Gilmore started 23 games at forward last year and averaged 3.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Gilmore led the team in blocked shots with 25 and was second in offensive rebounds with 59. He was voted the team’s top defensive player last year. Like Allenspach, Gilmore had offseason surgery. In his case it was to repair a knee injury suffered in a spring pickup game, but he should also be ready to go for the start of practice in October. “Chucky plays with the highest intellect on our team. He made strides offensively over the season and we hope that improvement will continue.”

Ray Henderson showed much promise in limited time last year. The 6-8 sophomore battled knee injuries, a groin injury and a chest injury in his rookie year, allowing him to play just 12.4 minutes per game. But, in that limited playing time he showed an innate ability to score via some head-turning post moves not seen in Tigertown since the days of Sharone Wright. Henderson led the team in field goal percentage with a 53 percent mark and he averaged 3.9 points per game in that limited playing time. He closed the year with 20 points in just 42 minutes in a pair of games against Duke.

“Ray has worked hard in the weight room with our strength coach Jeff Watkinson in the offseason. He lost about 25 pounds the first month after school ended. His body is going through the same metamorphosis that Harold Jamison went through his freshman year. Hopefully that change will translate into improvement on the court this winter as we need Ray’s talents at both ends.”

Chris Hobbs missed 90 percent of his senior year at East Chapel Hill High last year due to a torn ACL injury. But he worked in Clemson this summer to get into condition to face the riggors of the ACC schedule.

“Chris has the ability to catch and shoot. We think he will help us this year at both interior positions. He comes to us with an outstanding academic, family and basketball background. His ability to come back from the injury will dictate how much time he can compete.” Hobbs averaged 20.1 points and 11.8 rebounds a game when he was first-team All-State.

Tomas Nagys was a 210-pound small forward last year who averaged 2.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. A near 70 percent free throw shooter, he also led the squad in charges taken with 12, even though he played just 7.7 minutes per game.

Nagys is another player whose body has undergone significant change. He will begin practice as a 235-pound forward after an offseason working with Jeff (Watkinson) and through competition as a member of the Lithuanian Junior National Team. “Tomas got bounced around on the inside last year. The added strength will make him a more complete player. Like Pasha, the international experience this past summer will make him a more mature player.”