Unexpected third-year challenge: Brad Brownell's Tigers younger than ever

'The competition and enthusiasm is good. But I'd much rather have four seniors and three juniors, and we know who can do what'

2012-13 Clemson men's basketball freshmen Adonis Filer (from left), Jaron Blossomgame, Landry Nnoko, Josh Smith & Jordan Roper

Photo by Mark Crammer

2012-13 Clemson men's basketball freshmen Adonis Filer (from left), Jaron Blossomgame, Landry Nnoko, Josh Smith & Jordan Roper

Never did Brad Brownell imagine that his third season at Clemson would look quite like this: two seniors, no juniors, 11 freshmen and sophomores on the Tigers' roster.

Normal progression? No.

Reason for alarm? Also no.

Cause for a bit of short-term heartburn and anxiety. Well, yeah.

"I'm anxious from the standpoint of having a team, and wondering what a team with so many new guys is going to look like," said Brownell recently. "That's definitely fair to say. When you have a team with 10 or 11 freshmen and sophomores, you really don't know what it's going to be like.

"The competition and enthusiasm is good. But I'd much rather have four seniors and three juniors, and we know who can do what; and the freshmen are coming in playing six minutes if they're lucky. That's when things are good.

"This is not an ideal third year, from that standpoint. But having said that, there's a lot of excitement about it, too."

As strong as his anticipation of sophomore growth and freshman impact is Brownell's eagerness to see what kind of steps Devin Booker and Milt Jennings will make as seniors.

"I'm interested to see what Milt and Devin can do," said Brownell. "They're two guys who've worked their way through the four-year process. You've watched them go from not playing much, to getting some time late in games when it didn't matter, to playing in games when it did matter, to starting, and now having the chance to be the main guys. Those are always good stories that are fun to watch.

"There's a lot of optimism and enthusiasm on my part to see what we have, and how all our guys respond."

His biggest worry? How quickly will things fall into place.

"I'm worried about how we'll play early again this year," he said. "We have a very difficult schedule, with a lot of big games early, with a lot of guys who are inexperienced.

"I'm still trying to figure out what everybody does well, and how to put them in positions to be successful."

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