Brownell era complicated to judge through three seasons

The Clemson Sports Blog

Clemson's Jordan Roper shoots free-throws in the second half.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson's Jordan Roper shoots free-throws in the second half.

There’s no dressing up losing 10-of-11 games to close a season – Clemson basketball has the spring and summer to look in the mirror on that one.

Going into next season, the Tigers could lose up to 45 percent of the scoring (if Damarcus Harrison does leave for a two-year mission) – off of the worst offensive team in over 40 years of Clemson basketball.

The scoring woes this season shouldn’t have been all that surprising though, losing over 50 percent of the points from the previous year via Tanner Smith, Andre Young (graduated) and Devin Coleman (torn Achilles), and ESPN top-100 recruit Jaron Blossomgame not being healthy coming in after suffering a broken leg in the offseason (6-7 205; 24 ppg and 8.8 rpg average in senior year).

Excuses? Maybe.

Brad Brownell has lamented the spot his program has been in, losing its top scorer going into each season and the top-two, the last two. The trend continues next year with Devin Booker’s exit.

For what they’ve lost offensively, the defense has picked up the pace, averaging the best points allowed and better each season under Brownell since 1950.

In that span, two guards inherited (Donte Hill and Noel Johnson), one Brownell brought from Wright State ( Cory Stanton) and another from the 2011 class (T.J. Sapp) have transferred.

On the recruiting scene, just Booker out of the top recruits predecessor Oliver Purnell signed before opting for Depaul really lived up to projections, while the jury is still out on Brownell’s prized prospects (especially top-100 forward Bernard Sullivan – 1.8 ppg/1.3 rpg this season). Purnell signed 12 classified as “top recruits” by Statsheet in seven cycles, with five averaging at least nine points or five rebounds over a career.

The 2010 cycle saw only Stanton signed after the coaching change late in the spring signing period. Sullivan was the top-rated in 2011, with K.J. McDaniels also receiving a 90-plus grade from ESPN. Two three-star guards are on board so far for next season (Austin Ajukwa, 6-5 175, Columbia SC; Patrick Rooks, 6-3 175, Charlotte NC).

Comparing different eras in both Clemson and ACC basketball history, Brownell’s squads have averaged a 4.1-point scoring margin, after an 8.9 average in Purnell's final year.

In Purnell’s first three seasons, the scoring margin was 1.2, improving from 0.3 in Larry Shyatt’s last year. It took until year five, with future NBAer Trevor Booker, to break .500 in ACC play and make the NCAA Tournament (the first for the program since 1996-97 in each, which they would repeat the next two years with Booker).

Year: PPG/PPG Allowed (Brownell) Year: PPG/PPG Allowed (Purnell) Brownell/Purnell Avg. Margin
2010-11: 68.5/61.4 2003-04: 65.7/70.9 7.1/-5.2
2011-12: 64.5/60.6 2004-05: 71.7/69.3 3.9/2.4
2012-13: 61.5/60.1 2005-06: 74.3/67.9 1.4/6.4

The troubling difference in the comparison for Tiger fans is the trend of the numbers – up under the previous staff and down each season under Brownell going into year four. That season, Purnell’s team went 25-11 on a run to Madison Square Garden as a NIT runner-up. With three NCAA Tourney teams added next year in the ACC (Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame), a NIT-run doesn’t look all that bad.

Encouraging signs for ’13-14…

- Clemson's second-leading scorer is back for the first time in three seasons with McDaniels, who rides an 18-game streak with a blocked shot. He improved by seven points per from his freshman-to-sophomore seasons.

- Adonis Filer and McDaniels averaged the top plus/minus per 40 minutes on the team this season, with 1.6 and 0.4 respectively.

- Jordan Roper made over 40 percent from the perimeter, knocked down 10 of them in the Tigers’ final five games and had at least one in nine-straight to close the year. He also led the Tigers in steals (35), the first freshman since 2003-04 to do so (Vernon Hamilton, 50).

- After ups-and-downs all year, Rod Hall had a 5-to-1 assist to turnover ratio in the final four games, playing 34 minutes per.

- Returning big men Sullivan, Josh Smith and Landry Nnoko – in admittedly limited playing time – all hit 70 percent or better of their free throws respectively this season.

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Comments » 2

lhaselden writes:

Nice article, very encouraging. I hope the our young guys can continue to improve.... and we should not lose our top 2 scorers at the end of next year! No Seniors. Unless of course we lose someone with a transfer or jumping to NBA... I do not see a jump to the NBA next year happening, but who knows.

wlw4281 writes:

in response to lhaselden:

Nice article, very encouraging. I hope the our young guys can continue to improve.... and we should not lose our top 2 scorers at the end of next year! No Seniors. Unless of course we lose someone with a transfer or jumping to NBA... I do not see a jump to the NBA next year happening, but who knows.

What do you see in this arcticle that is encouraging? Brownell top players are all Purnell's recruits. We still can't hit a free throw, and second half scoring droughts got worse as the season went on. We need to remeber before he arrived we were the 3rd highest winning percentage team in the ACC, what do see that encourages you?

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