Progress made, Brad Brownell says Tigers looking to take 'the next step'

'It's been a very good year. I think we have rejuvenated our fan base a little bit and I'm very excited with where we're going'

Clemson's Rod Hall walks to the locker room after the Tigers lost 65-59 to SMU in the NCAA NIT semi-finals at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Rod Hall walks to the locker room after the Tigers lost 65-59 to SMU in the NCAA NIT semi-finals at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Clemson's basketball success this season was unexpected, at least to everyone except Brad Brownell and his players.

In it for the long haul, Brownell and Company entered the season expecting to improve as the season progressed. Where that would carry them, only time would tell.

Twenty three wins, including 10 in the ACC, and one of the nation's most dramatic vaults in RPI tell the story not of a program that's arrived, but of one that is getting there by following its own blueprint for success.

"The good news is we have all young players," Brownell said Tuesday night after the Tigers' season ended with a loss to SMU in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. "This is a process; it's a tough process. But certainly the experience of the last two weeks has really helped us.

"I think the experience of the season, the grind of the season for our team to stay in and fight, really until the last game or two for an NCAA tournament bid hopefully bodes well."

Brownell didn't have to bother arranging a Senior Day this season, since the Tigers have no seniors. More help is on the way with the return of sharpshooter Patrick Rooks, who missed his freshman season with a hip injury, and highly-touted signees Gabe DeVoe, a Parade All-America guard from Shelby, N.C., and wing Donte Grantham, from Martinsville, West Virginia and Hargrave Military's post-grad program.

In signing players the caliber of DeVoe and Grantham, Brownell notes that the Tigers are merely keeping pace with the rest of the ACC.

"We certainly feel very good about where our program is and what we are doing," Brownell said. "But we're in a monster league. We have got IBM and Coca Cola and all those people in our league and they are not going away. They reload with McDonald's All Americans every year, and we have got to continue to take the guys that we recruit and build them up and get them to play hard and get stronger.

"We have made a lot of positive steps. We have some young men in our program, Rod Hall, (Landry) Nnoko and K.J. McDaniels, who made huge strides this year and have become good players. Now, if you're going to take the next step, you need more guys to be great players, and certainly K.J. was that this year. We just need a little more consistency from a few more guys.

"But we also know that there's a lot of other programs in our league that are going to up the ante with coaching changes and new enthusiasm, and there are programs within our league that are doing things every day to be the best they can be. So you've got to really work at it in this league, but it's been a very good year. I think we have rejuvenated our fan base a little bit and I'm very excited with where we're going."

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