CLEMSON — Brad Brownell isn’t ready to cut ties with Milton Jennings.
Clemson’s third-year head coach made that much clear Friday, standing behind the senior forward following this week’s arrest on marijuana possession charges.
Brownell said Jennings will not play Sunday at South Carolina but will return next Saturday against Arizona. Jennings missed Wednesday’s loss to Purdue; this is his third suspension in 13 months.
“He’s not a distraction to his teammates, our coaching staff, and we’re not ready to give on Milt,” Brownell said. “He has more things to learn. He feels upset and disappointed for his most recent actions. I’m proud of the improvements he’s made and what he’s been able to do the two years I’ve been here with his academics, and I’m proud of how much he’s improved as a teammate over the course of the last two years.”
In a statement, Jennings thanked Brownell for the opportunity.
“This was obviously the biggest mistake of my life,” Jennings said. “I want to apologize to my family, my coaches and teammates and to Clemson University. I didn’t want to let anyone down, but in the end, I hurt so many people. Not many people get a second chance, but it shows that Coach Brownell believes the utmost in me. I’m going to come out and play as hard as I can and finish my senior season out on a good note.”
Jennings is the Tigers’ No.3 scorer, averaging 10.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He and forward Devin Booker are the only upperclassmen on Clemson’s roster. Brownell praised his progress since arriving as head coach over two years ago.
“He used to be, I thought, a little bit of a selfish guy,” Brownell said. “We still make mistakes, this was a selfish act. He’s going to pay the consequences not just through basketball but through the university, but this is a kid who our staff has spent a lot of time and effort working with. He can still do a lot of good things at Clemson and we want to see him graduate, see him do that. We feel like we’re a part of his success and future success and we feel he’ll finish his career in a positive manner.”
Jennings was a five-star recruit when he signed with Clemson four years ago. He watched from the bench Wednesday in street clothes and appeared to be engaged with teammates, taking part in timeout huddles and talking amicably with referees.
“I feel like Milt is a really good kid who’s made a lot of progress over the course of the two and a half years I’ve been the coach here,” Brownell said. “He’s made some mistakes and we’ve disciplined him accordingly for him. Some of the mistakes are more maturity issues in terms of frustration or lack of poise. To be honest with you in most programs he would not have been suspended for losing his temper. We’re trying to set higher standard with that here, so he was. He’s made tremendous progress in the last two and a half years.”