ACC Operation Basketball: Brad Brownell, Tigers putting together the pieces

'Landry Nnoko is a guy who is slowly emerging as our starting center right now'

Clemson's K.J. McDaniels spins toward the basket as Miami's Trey McKinney-Jones defends.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson's K.J. McDaniels spins toward the basket as Miami's Trey McKinney-Jones defends.

Clemson men's basketball coach Brad Brownell talked about his Tigers and preparations for the 2013-14 season during the ACC's Operational Basketball media gathering at Charlotte on Wednesday.

On Clemson's projected starting lineup: "I don't know if I can give you a starting lineup. I certainly feel good about K.J. McDaniels. He's worked hard the last couple years to make himself into a high level player. He's a terrific athlete, an improved shooter, and a a driver. Jordan Roper, who came with us today, is a guy who played very well for us in Italy. He a good freshman year. He can shoot the ball from three, very quick. He's a guy who is kind of going back and forth between a one and a two.

"Landry Nnoko inside is a guy who is slowly emerging as our starting center right now. He's 6-10, 245. He's a little inexperienced, but is a guy who defends pretty well for his position. I feel good about him.

"Then we have a bunch of others, Damarcus Harrison, Adonis Filer. Rod Hall is a guy who started a bunch for us last year at point guard, and is a very seasoned player in terms of experience, a glue guy that makes other people better. We have a little bit of experience in the backcourt, but are very young in the front court.

"There's a physicality that you're going to face at this level that you don't see until you actually get to the heart of the ACC night-in and night-out when you're playing big, strong, athletic players in the front court.

Josh Smith is another sophomore that didn't play a lot more, but at 6-8, 250, has the size physically to bang around in there. We signed a post player, Ibrahim Djambo, who at 210 or 215 is a little thin, but is a guy we feel good about. He's a face up, stretch four, a little like Milton Jennings. He can shoot threes - he just needs some experience.

"We'll see how it all shakes out during the course of the fall here, as we assemble our team for our first game in November."

On developing leadership on a team without seniors: "Probably our junior class. K.J. McDaniel, Rod Hall are the two guys that come to mind. K.J. in my mind is an encourager, a guy that is very supportive of his teammates, tries to make people feel good. He's very supportive. Rod is a little bit quieter, but a guy who leads by example and is trying to become more vocal. He's certainly a tough minded, physical player that has the respect of our team because of his unselfishness, his smarts, and his ability to just grind things out, tough things out. I think those two guys are probably the guys who are most likely to be considered leaders in our program.

On picking up on last year's possession-by-possession defense: "I'm concerned with defending the paint and rebounding. When we had two older players in there in Devin and Milt, and Devin was a very good rebounder in traffic. He was a guy who could get tough rebounds for you against physical players. Those guys did a good job that way.

"I was proud of the way we defended last year. I thought we defended at a pretty high level. We just didn't shoot the ball well enough. Whether we can defend at the same level, I don't know. I'm optimistic we can. I think the rebounding is a little bit of a cause for concern right now."

On the Tigers' offensive improvement and development: "The thing that excites me the most is that I think we'll be a better shooting team. We'll make more perimeter shots. We didn't shoot the ball well last year, we didn't shoot free throws well. We put a lot of time in, done extra shooting. We're still doing it. It's what we're going to have to do to be successful this year. We're going to have to make more shots.

"We have Devin Coleman that can shoot the ball, that will be very encouraging. Some other guys, Damarcus Harrison is an improving shooter. If those guys are a little more relaxed, comfortable as older players, shoot the ball a little bit better, that's the best way we have an opportunity to improve our offense.

On K.J. McDaniels' shot-blocking ability: "None of that came from the coaches. He did that all on his own. He's a highlight reel waiting to happen all the time. He's a great leaper, incredible offensive rebounder, runs the floor in transition, blocks shots. What he does you can't coach. He just does it naturally. He's a great physical athlete that's improving his basketball. That's the thing that excites me the most, is his ability to do other things on the basketball court. Our fans are spoiled with that guy. He provides entertainment all night every night."

On how he'll measure success with this year's team: "I don't know. Everybody is going to look at wins and losses. I need to see how this team grows, how we handle adversity, what individual players on our team make, what kind of strides they make, what kind of identity we begin to develop. This is a group that could be together for a couple years. You want to begin to lay the groundwork with this group for some things that are going to help you in the next couple of years.

"I'm going to see how we handle a lot of different things. We haven't talked about a lot of specific goals with our team. We're just trying to work hard, develop a strong identity and a bond together that's going to allow us to be successful moving forward."

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