When Brownell tells players to 'keep their heads up,' he's not talking about morale

Coach says young players coming to the college game have 'always been able to get to the basket'

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell talks with Clemson guard Adonis Filer during a time out in the second half.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell talks with Clemson guard Adonis Filer during a time out in the second half.

Brad Brownell keeps telling his young Tigers to keep their heads up.

He's not talking about morale, however; coming off a trademark, grind-it-out 15-point victory over Virginia, the Tigers have reason to be feeling better about themselves.

Brownell is talking about vision - the ability to assess what's happening on the court and make decisions on the run. The Tigers' freshmen and sophomores are getting better at one of the game's essential skills, though they still have a long way to go, Brownell says.

"In pressure situations, young guys tend to revert back to what they're comfortable with, and for a lot of these guys right now that's to put their heads down too much and feel like they've got to get to the basket," Brownell said. "They're going to drive, and when they do that, they don't see open teammates because they're really just seeing what's in front of them.

"When you play good defensive teams, you're not going to get to the basket and you're not going to get the first drop-off pass. You've got to be able to see the second and third pass against really good team.

"Our guys haven't had that experience much. And we haven't coached them well enough for them to get to that point yet."

Brownell said it's not unusual for young players to go through an adjustment period at the college level.

"When you think about it, most of these young guys haven't had that kind of failure," he said. "They haven't played against good enough competition, and they've always been able to get to the basket, or maybe make one read and drop it off.

"Now when you have to make the second and third read, it's like a quarterback in certain situations. And you're doing it at full speed. Because against better players, to get by somebody you have to be going full-speed. Some of it's instinct - at full-speed, you tend to keep going, and you want to slow down to make decisions."

Brownell said sophomore forward K.J. McDaniels is a prime example of a player working to put the pieces all together.

"K.J. is a guy who has to improve in that area tremendously," Brownell said. "His first thought is to get the ball to the rim. Teams understand that, and they play him accordingly. That's the next step in his development as a player."

Brownell said McDaniels has had to work both on driving and getting to the rim, and then in looking for and executing passing options.

"The first thing is to get him to be able to do that, and he's improved that," he said. "Last year, he'd do it a little bit, but not consistently. Now he's better able. He's stronger and he handles it better, and he does a better job of getting to the rim. Now, the third step is when he gets stuck, anticipate it who to pass it to and court awareness. He's not at that place yet, and that's something we're continually working on.

"K.J.'s not the only one on the team. Jordan Roper's that way and Adonis Filer and Demarcus (Harrison) are that way. The best guy on the team at making decisions at full-speed is Rod Hall."

Brownell said that 'buying in' to what the coaches are teaching is part of the process, as well.

"I've told our guys that experience is sometimes the best teacher," said Brownell. "You can talk to them and you can show them, but until they go out there and fail trying to do it their way, sometimes they're less likely to believe you. When you struggle and it's a big game and everybody's watching you, then maybe next time you think 'this is something I need to be working on.' That's part of the process with young players.

"We've practiced it extensively, trying to get them to understand that they have to share the ball. You have to drive knowing that you're going to be stopped, and then looking for other passes. And then when the pass comes, you've got to make some shots."

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