Clemson survived Sunday without Milton Jennings at South Carolina, and that’s probably the best way to put it.
As the Tigers’ senior forward watched from the Upstate – serving the second of a two-game suspension following last week’s arrest on marijuana possession charges – his team held on for a 64-55 win over the Gamecocks, a good win for a young team with only one upperclassman – senior forward Devin Booker – on the traveling roster.
The Tigers improved to 5-2, but without Jennings, they’ll be hard-pressed to survive the ACC’s winter grind.
Following his third suspension in 13 months, the former five-star signee and McDonald’s All-American is getting one last, final chance to finish his college career on a high note.
Last February, Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Jennings was on “thin ice” following an academic-related suspension. Friday, he said he wasn’t ready to give up on his senior.
Jennings has battled temper issues, but by all accounts, he’s a good person, although he might never live up to the massive hype that heralded his arrival at Clemson. This season, he is averaging 10.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game while displaying an improved outside shot (hitting seven of 15 3-pointers).
He has been smarter, too, with 11 assists against five turnovers – a stat that has troubled him over his career.
He might never be a star, but Clemson needs him to set a solid example for a roster that is playing 10 freshmen and sophomores. Wednesday, the Tigers had only an hour of shootaround to prepare for a night without him, and it showed.
Sunday, sophomore swingman K.J. McDaniels picked up slack with 16 points, seven rebounds and five blocks, contributing the athleticism that Jennings can provide. Booker had 13 points and eight rebounds while playing out of position at the power forward slot.
Meanwhile, big men Bernard Sullivan, Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith combined for no points and one rebound in 42 minutes of play.
The best thing for Jennings – and Clemson – would be a solid end to his final season of college basketball. Brownell is giving him one more chance – and one chance only – to do that. We’ll see if he takes advantage.