Overall Rank: #23
Conference Rank: #4 ACC
2007-08: 24-10, 10-6, 3rd
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Clemson has slowly been getting better and better under Coach Oliver Purnell. The team has won 49 games over the last two years and that success, despite a disappointing first round loss to Villanova in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, will not end any time soon. The Tigers have a slew of scorers and a defensive scheme that is difficult to stop and anything but another NCAA trip will be disappointing.
But of the five players who averaged double digits in the scoring column, two are gone. Cliff Hammonds was a great leader on and off the floor. Not only did he rank second in scoring and first in assists, but he was also the team’s best defender on the perimeter. James Mays added 10.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest and was the point man in the press defense. Sam Perry and Matt Morris did not play as big of a role as Hammonds and Mays, but Perry was a part-time starter who gave the frontcourt some experienced depth.
This is not a great class by Atlantic Coast Conference standards, but there are a couple of interesting prospects, most notably the 5-9 Andre Young and the 7-2 Catalin Baciu. Young will likely see quality minutes this year as a back-up point guard, but he also has ability to do a little bit of scoring. Tanner Smith and Bryan Narcisse will add some depth on the wings. Smith’s versatility could earn him some playing time right away and Narcisse is a great athlete who can help on the defensive end. Baciu could make the biggest impact. He may need some time to develop his overall game, but the Romanian is a solid scorer around the basket and a great shot blocker.
Who to Watch:
K.C. Rivers is the star of the team. The 6-5 senior wing led the squad with 14.7 points per game last year and should lead the way again this time around. Rivers is a great three-point shooter and, while he does not get to the basket too often, he does have a solid mid-range game. Like Rivers, Terrence Oglesby also shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc and hit over two per game. Oglesby’s freshman campaign was certainly deemed very successful, but he has to start doing more than just shooting the three-pointer if he wants to become a solid starter as a sophomore. Demontez Stitt has the job of getting the ball to Rivers and Oglesby. Stitt started 20 games as a freshman and dished out 3.0 assists per contest. His turnover numbers were understandably high, but that will get better with experience. Stitt is very quick and does a solid job leading the break. He is not the best scoring point guard around, but Stitt’s outside shot got better as his freshman season progressed.
The backcourt has plenty of scorers and the frontcourt has one as well. Trevor Booker averaged 11.0 points and a team high 7.3 rebounds as a sophomore. At 6-7 and 240 pounds, he is undersized for the traditional big man in the ACC, but Booker gets the job done. Raymond Sykes has more size and will likely step into the starting position at the five. He is not a great scorer, but he will do the dirty work around the basket and could be in for a surprising year now that he will see more playing time. David Potter, while also undersized, is an experienced forward who will play a significant role off the bench. Jerai Grant only averaged 8.3 minutes per game as a freshman, but he is a long and athletic player who will fit very well into the Tigers aggressive defense.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Demontez Stitt, Sophomore, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Terrence Oglesby, Sophomore, Guard, 10.5 points per game
K.C. Rivers, Senior, Guard, 14.7 points per game
Trevor Booker, Junior, Forward, 11.0 points per game
Raymond Sykes, Senior, Center, 4.4 points per game