2007-08 Clemson Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #20
Conference Rank: #3 ACC
2006-07: 25-11, 7-9, 8th (t)
2006-07 postseason: NIT
After a 17-0 start, it looked like Clemson was finally going to end their NCAA Tournament drought last season. But alas, a 4-10 finish left the Tigers once again in search of their first berth since 1998. If anybody is going to take the next step, this is the team. The Tigers return four starters and nine of their top ten point scorers. Maybe they will not have another 17 game winning streak to start the season, but as long as the team can finish, they will be dancing in 2008.
Vernon Hamilton is the big, big loss. The point guard averaged 12.3 points and 3.4 assists during his senior year and his leadership will be missed. A.J. Tyler has opted to transfer after seeing limited minutes off the bench and Chris Poole has wrapped up his collegiate career.
The newcomer that can make a huge impact is Demontez Stitt. The 6-2 point guard is the reigning North Carolina Mr. Basketball and will at least see plenty time off the bench. Stitt is a smart and quick player, but he will be very dangerous once his outside shot develops some consistency. Shooting guard Terrence Oglesby will light it up from long range with consistency. He is a flat out shooter who can handle the ball as well. With a limited amount of depth on the perimeter, Oglesby should be in the mix at the shooting guard spot. Jerai Grant will have a little time to gain strength and get used to life in the ACC. The 6-8 forward has a big wing span and he will be a quality rebounder and shot blocker sooner or later. The bloodlines are not bad either. He is the son of Harvey and nephew of Horace.
Who to Watch:
For now, Cliff Hammonds will run the point. He is the typical do everything guard and averaged 11.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and a team high 4.1 assists last year. Despite not really being a point guard, Hammonds will take great care of the ball. If Stitt is eventually ready to run the show, Hammonds can easily move over to the two spot and Coach Oliver Purnell will certainly employ that lineup at times even if Stitt is not going to start this year. K.C. Rivers led the team in scoring as a sixth man last year and he should be stepping into a starting role this year. The 6-5 wing will do most of his damage from long range, but he started to look to get to the basket more as a sophomore. Julius Powell has been inconsistent at best, but the 6-7 wing has plenty of potential to put up big scoring numbers on any given night. When Powell was hurt part of last year it allowed David Potter to earn some minutes as a freshman. He showed flashes of potential and should be ready to see some more minutes on the wing this year.
The Tigers have a dynamic, and often vastly underappreciated, frontcourt duo in James Mays and Trevor Booker. Both averaged double-digit scoring and over six rebounds per game last year. Mays can step outside and hit the mid-range jumper and returns for his senior season after flirting with the NBA Draft. He is a solid defender and the Clemson pressure defense is built around his long arms. He averaged 1.9 steals per game and as long as the team continues to pressure the ball, Mays will get plenty of steals and deflections. While Mays will wander around the perimeter at times, Booker is under the basket. Booker had a tremendous freshman campaign and has already proven to be a quality interior scorer and a prolific shot blocker. Sam Perry will not do a lot of scoring, but the 6-5 small forward is the glue guy. He does the dirty work and mixes in an occasional thrilling dunk. His minutes did not reflect it, but he started 28 games last year. If Stitt is the answer at point guard, it is Perry who will get crunched out of the starting lineup, but his heart and hustle will still get him playing time. Raymond Sykes will be the main big guy off the bench. He is long and lean and fits in nicely with Clemson’s full-court style. He is not going to score like Mays or Booker, but is a serviceable option when those guys need a rest.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Cliff Hammonds, Senior, Guard, 11.6 points per game
K.C. Rivers, Junior, Guard, 14.0 points per game
Sam Perry, Senior, Forward, 3.6 points per game
James Mays, Senior, Forward, 12.2 points per game
Trevor Booker, Sophomore, Center, 10.4 points per game