Outlook for Clemson Men's Basketball in 2019-20: Reason for Optimism

by Austin Silvey @SilveyESP

#0 Clyde Trapp (Clemson Guard) // Photo by Austin Silvey

As the Clemson Men's Basketball team comes off what most fans would call a "disappointing" season, the new-look Tigers are preparing for a trip to Italy.

It was announced back in August of 2018 that Clemson would represent the United States in the World University Games in Italy. The games are schedule for July 3-14.

Since this new offseason began, there has been a lot of turnover on the men's basketball team. It started back on March 28 when it was announced that Javan White (Grad Forward) would be transferring out of the program. He would be followed by sophomore forward, Malik William on April 16, who also announced his attentions to transfer.

Nestled in between those two transfers was the announcement that former player and coach, Terrence Oglesby, would be moving to Carson-Newman to become their new assistant coach.

The losses didn't stop there though. On May 3, it was released that Clemson would not renew former assistant coach, Steve Smith's expired contract (as of April 30, 2019) due to things he said in an undercover video meeting with Christian Dawkins in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Last but not least, perhaps the biggest loss for Clemson this offseason came on May 20. During a team practice, junior forward Jonathan Baehre suffered a torn ACL. Baehre was Brownell's "secret weapon" for this upcoming season and was going to play a huge role for this team. He sat out all last year due to NCAA rules after transferring out of UNC-Asheville.

It hasn't been all doom and gloom for the Tigers this Spring. In the midst of some losses, Clemson has gained four new transfer players, a new assistant coach and a new director of recruiting as well.

- May 9, 2019 - Clemson adds Curran Scott (6-4, 208) as a grad transfer out of Tulsa. He appeared in all 32 games last season (26 starts) and averaged 8.9 points per game and 2.5 rebounds. He shot 40.7% from the floor and 39.4% from three-point range. Before going to Tulsa, Scott attended Charlotte University. He will be available for the 19/20 season.

- May 10, 2019 - Clemson adds A-10 All-Rookie Guard, Nick Honor (5-10, 190), from Fordham. He appeared in all 32 games his freshman season, averaging 36.1 minutes per game, 15.3 points, and shot 37.3% from the floor, 33.2% from distance and 81.6% from the foul line. Honor will have to sit out the 19/20 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

- May 21, 2019 - Clemson officially announces the addition of Khavon Moore (6-8, 215), a transfer wing out of Texas Tech. Moore was a highly regarded four-star player in the Class of 2018 but dealt with some injury issues that kept him sidelined for the overwhelming majority of his freshman year with the Red Raiders. He is not immediately eligible to play in the 19/20 season but is filing a waiver to the NCAA.

- June 10, 2019 - Late Monday night, grad transfer Tevin Mack (6-6, 225) from Alabama, announced via his Instagram that he would be going to Clemson for the 19/20 season. Last season he averaged 9.0 points per game and 3.3 rebounds. Before his time with the Crimson Tide, Mack played at Texas for his first two seasons. His second year there he led the Longhorns in scoring, averaging 14.8 points per game. Mack is a former four-star recruit out of Columbia, SC.....June 21, 2019 - Brownell officially announces addition of Tevin Mack

- June 11, 2019 - Brad Brownell hires Anthony Goins as Assistant Coach. Goins was previously at Quinnipiac University as part of Baker Dunleavy's staff.

- June 13, 2019 - Brad Brownell hires Philip Pearson as Director of Recruiting. Pearson brings in 20 years of coaching experience working with multiple D1 programs.

- June 28, 2019 - Reports surface saying that junior guard, Clyde Trapp, suffered a torn ACL;

**OFFICIAL RELEASE: Following an MRI on Friday, it was confirmed that junior guard Clyde Trapp suffered a torn ACL during practice on Friday, June 28. There is no timetable yet for Trapp’s return. Trapp will not travel with the team to Italy for the World University Games.

“This is tough and unfortunate for Clyde and our team. Clyde is a very hard worker and was putting together a strong summer. I know he will continue that momentum when he returns to action.” - Brad Brownell

On top of the two immediately eligible grad transfers, Clemson has also brought in three new recruits from their 2019 class, including Al Amir-Dawes (Guard / 6-2, 175), Chase Hunter (Guard / 6-3, 180), and Alex Hemenway (Guard / 6-3, 170).

The Tigers lost four starters from last year's team who were also key contributors to their Sweet Sixteen run a couple years ago. The Clemson team in 2019 is going to look and feel a lot different than any other team in the Brownell era.

Clemson currently has only one true 'big man' in sophomore center, Trey Jemison (7-0, 254). After losing Javan White to transfer, Eli Thomas to graduation, and Jonathan Baehre to injury, Brownell and company are going to be extremely shorthanded in the paint this year.

Junior Forward, Aamir Simms (6-7, 248) is a guy I would expect to see move his game closer to the paint and play more with his back to the basket in an effort to help Jemison out down low.

It is fair to point out that not bringing in any true post-presence players from the transfer portal seems a bit odd due to the lack of depth in that area. But perhaps this is even more of an indication of the change in style of play coming this winter.

In an interview back in early April on a Clemson sports station (105.5 FM), Brad Brownell stated that he "anticipates the team playing faster next year....we will pick up full-court more."

The roster next year may lack size in the post, but it may well be the most athletic & quickest assortment of players that Brownell has had in his time at Clemson. There are multiple guys who can handle the ball, shoot from long distance, and drive to the basket. The only question is can they mesh and mold these guys together in a way that translates into wins on the court? The trip to Italy this July provides them with an early opportunity to try.

So Why the Optimism?

Since Brad Brownell has been at Clemson, he has taken two overseas trips with his teams. Prior to the 2013-14 season, the Tigers travelled to Italy to play some of their professional teams. It was a trip that helped build good team chemistry.

"With the experience going to Italy, I just feel like these guys really bond well with one another and will listen to each other once they establish hierarchy within the team." -- Brad Brownell

Clemson ended up going 23-13 (10-8) that season which included a 1-3 record vs ranked teams, a 1-1 record in the ACC Tournament, and a semifinal run in the NIT. The two seasons prior to that, the Tigers went a combined 29-33 (13-21) with no postseason births. The three seasons after that they had a combined record of 50-45 (24-30) with one postseason birth (2017 NIT; lost first game at home vs Oakland).

The second overseas journey came before the 2017-18 season when the Tigers traveled to Spain to play four games against teams with various levels of talent. Brownell had the same approach to this trip as the one a few years prior.

"The results aren't as important as the players coming back with a better sense of each other."

Brownell and the Tigers went on to have a historic season. They obtained an overall record of 25-10 (11-7) and made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament -- Clemson's farthest run in the tourney since the 1996-97 season. The 25 wins were the most overall in a season since 2006-07; best overall winning percentage (.714) since 2008-09 (.719). The 11 wins in the ACC were the most in a single season in Clemson history; it is the most conference wins since 1951-52 when they won 11 games in the Southern Conference.

Clemson also finished third in the ACC and went 3-3 vs ranked opponents that year.

Now, going into his 10th season as the Tiger's head coach, Brownell prepares a new team for a trip to Europe; his third trip overseas.

"We are beyond excited to represent our country at the World University Games. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our program and for Clemson University."

This tournament will provide unique obstacles and levels of competition for a young and unfamiliar team. It presents specific opportunities for this team to connect, grow, learn and adapt.

They are allotted practices, that no other NCAA teams get, just to prepare for the games. That in itself allows extra time to build a connection with new teammates and start learning each other's game and mannerisms. It will help bring the younger guys along quicker as well as they are also having to adapt to a whole new environment and lifestyle.

The team chemistry building that these trips provide is well documented and understood. The most interesting aspect to this trip that will help the Tigers in the upcoming season lies within the rules of the game.

(video via TigerNet)

In the World University Games, the tournament will be played under the current Federal International Basketball Association (FIBA) rules. These include four ten-minute quarters, a 24-second shot clock, and an extended three-point line (22' 1-3/4"). With that said, on June 5, 2019, the NCAA instituted a new rule effective immediately. They are moving the three point line from it's previous distance of 20'9" to the FIBA line.

Essentially, Clemson will get a chance to practice for and play in games with the deeper three-point line which should help them grow more accustomed to it with actual in-game reps -- not just practice.

Another aspect that should benefit the Tigers is the shorter shot clock. With the roster composed of mostly guards and wings, Brad Brownell and most fans expect a team that will play faster and get up and down the court quicker in transition. The current NCAA shot clock is 30 seconds long. Clemson will be working with six less seconds in these tournament games, thus forcing them to practice and prepare to play a quicker style of basketball.

The timing of this trip and the rules of this tournament feels like the stars are aligning for this Clemson basketball team. It is setup for them to build a unique bond, create team chemistry, develop leaders, and adapt to new rules and a new style of play that they will most likely utilize throughout the regular NCAA season as well.

Whether or not this tournament benefits them in regards to wins this season is yet to be determined. But the history speaks for itself. Either way, the 2019-20 Clemson Men's Basketball team will look different from year's past...and I think that could be a good thing.

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