CLEMSON — – Opportunity is there. They all agree on that.
Clemson’s guard depth was already thin following the graduation of seniors Demontez Stitt, a four-year starter at point guard, and Zavier Anderson, who logged more minutes than any walk-on in program history and earned a scholarship by season’s end.
It got thinner Monday when sophomore Cory Stanton, expected to play significant minutes this season, announced he was transferring to a program closer to his Springfield, Tenn., home.
So the four freshman guards who’ve just arrived on campus know playing time awaits: they just have to pounce.
“We’re here,” said 6-foot-2 guard Devin Coleman, a Wynnewood, Pa., native. “We’re at an ACC school, there’s definitely excitement that we’re stepping into something new, something positive at an ACC program, so we’re all excited.
“If they need us to step in and fill those roles, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Brad Brownell’s first full recruiting class is guard-heavy: Charlotte forward Bernard Sullivan is the only big man in the group, although Birmingham, Ala., native K.J. McDaniels is 6-foot-5 and could play small forward.
The new guards’ mission is clear: shore up depth behind seniors Andre Young and Tanner Smith.
“It’s definitely what all freshmen want,” says Miami-area native T.J. Sapp. “To get to play right away. We still don’t want our teammates to leave, we still want them around, so it’s still hurtful to see people leaving. But for freshmen it’ll be beautiful to have the chance to get on the floor right away.”
Each freshman fills a distinct role. Sapp is apparently being groomed as a point guard, a distributor who can also score with ease.
“Right now I’m working on being a pure point guard,” he said. “I know how to get people in certain places, put people in certain places to get them the ball. I’ll open up as a point guard, but if I need to go back to being a scoring guard, I’m sure I’ll have that attribute with me.”
Coleman is a scorer who averaged 16.2 points per game as a senior; he’ll likely begin his career as a shooting guard, but will also work on his point guard skills.
“I want to just get out there and play whatever position I need to play, do whatever (coaches) ask me to do,” he said. “Whether that’s score 10 points or dish out 10 assists.”
North Augusta native Rod Hall, a late signee who stands 6-foot-1, is known for his defense, but can also score, averaging 21.9 points per game as a senior.
“I like defense, trying to shut people down,” he said. “It frustrates them, knowing they’re not going to be able to do whatever they want to do. I’m going to be right there, trying to stop them.”
And McDaniels could work at both shooting guard and small forward; he’s a two-time NACA (National Association of Christian Athletes) All-America pick who averaged 18.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.4 blocks and 3.4 assists as a senior for Central Park (Ala.) Christian Academy.
They have one thing in common: they’re all probably going to play.
“I think we have a good chance to get on the floor,” Hall said. “With (Stanton) leaving, all the freshmen have to step up. You never know when we’ll have to get on the floor.”