With no seniors on the roster, Brad Brownell is looking to grow up a two-year team

'I think this team is going to be really close...I feel a great bond developing. Now we need for some guys to develop as leaders'

Clemson men's basketball head coach Brad Brownell

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson men's basketball head coach Brad Brownell

Brad Brownell knows it's too early to tell exactly who will end up being the Clemson men's basketball team's mainstay scorers this season.

But he's pretty sure that whoever they are, they'll be back a year from now to lead the 2014-15 version of the Tigers, as well.

Next year's anticipated experience is the flip-side of a situation that Brownell has never encountered in more than two decades of coaching: there will be no 'senior leadership' for the Tigers this season, simply because there are no seniors on Clemson's roster.

"I've never coached a team with no seniors - it's unique, or unbelievably rare," said Brownell at Clemson's basketball media day on Wednesday. "It's a little bit of a challenge because guys that are older provide some stability and give confidence to younger guys.

"Confidence is the big thing - when things aren't going well, who do they look to? Not having that puts a little more onus on Rod (Hall) and K.J. (McDaniels) and Devin (Coleman), even though he's only played a year."

Brownell pointed out that the Tigers have just two players - Hall and McDaniels - who have played two seasons at Clemson.

"We have other juniors, but they're the only ones who've actually played for two years," he said. Ibrahim (Djambo) is a junior, but he's new. And Damarcus (Harrison) has only played one year here."

Over time, Brownell believes his Tigers will develop into a close-knit team, and that leadership will emerge. He said the Tigers' trip to Italy in August served as an important bonding experience.

"I think that because the guys on this team are so close in age, they really get along and like each other," Brownell said. "They're doing more things together off the court.

"Last year was difficult because we had two seniors (Milt Jennings and Devin Booker) who were so much older than all the other guys, they didn't have much in common and they didn't spend much time together in other areas.

"I think this team is going to be really close, partly because of having made the trip to Italy. I feel a great bond developing. Now we need for some guys to develop as leaders, like K.J. and Rod.

"There's a big difference between coaches directing everything and players monitoring themselves, coaching themselves and helping each other. Those are the teams that are most successful."

Brownell noted that since he's been at Clemson, there has been little continuity from one team to another because of attrition and roster makeup.

"Our best players have been our two older players every year I've been here, so we're never bringing back our two best players from the year before," he said. "Hopefully that will happen for us this year. The guys who produced the best the year before will be returning, and that gives you confidence.

"It's a unique situation, but I'm looking forward to it."

The Tigers held their first full-squad practice on Sunday - almost three weeks earlier than under the previous NCAA timetable. The extra practice time will be beneficial, but must be managed carefully, Brownell said.

"I think it's probably good for us," he said. "There are some concerns, because basketball season is already really long, and now we've added another three weeks to it. But I do think it helps with the adjustment of the players, because you don't have to cram so many things in so quickly. You can give them a few days off, consistently every three or four days, and I think that can help with the adjustment.

"Plus, as a coach you're not quite as rushed to get everything in before the first game. It's challenging to get it all in: press offense, man offense, zone plays, man plays, changing defenses, sideline, late-game. There are so many different things you're trying to do. This may help a little with that."

The Tigers, who a year ago lost Jaron Blossomgame and Coleman to injuries, have already suffered an injury blow with the loss of freshman shooting guard Patrick Rooks, whose hip surgery will force him to miss the season.

"Losing Patrick hurts, because he's a terrific three-point shooter," Brownell said. "He's was 8-for-16 on three-pointers in Italy. He was a guy that we recruited to take threes, and that's exactly what he does. It doesn't take long to scout him.

"But these things happen - but they've happened a little too regularly for us."

Despite the loss of Rooks, Brownell expects the Tigers to be a better shooting team this season.

"We've spent a lot of time on it," Brownell said. "During our spring workouts, and then heading into Italy, I bet two out of every three workouts were all shooting.

"We charted it, we stat-ed it, and we spent a lot of time on it because we know that was a major problem with last year's team. We didn't shoot the ball well, and it was a problem we just couldn't overcome."

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