Key Departures: Aamir Simms (Grad); Clyde Trapp (–>Charlotte); Jonathan Baehre (Grad); Olivier-Maxence Prosper (–>Marquette)
New In Town: David Collins (<–USF); Naz Bohannon (<–Ytown St); Ben Middlebrooks (#149); Ian Schieffelin (#154); Joshua Beadle (#168)
State of the Program:
Brad Brownwell is about as consistent as they come in terms of style and philosophy, as he has hung his hat on a slow pace, pack-line defense style his entire career. What has plagued his time at Clemson is the offensive execution, which becomes even more difficult when you’re at a football school trying to recruit against the likes of N. Carolina and Duke. Last year they got to only the 3rd tournament in 11 seasons under Brownwell and enter this season having lost 2 starters including their go-to offensive weapon Aamir Simms. Everything they did a year ago went through Simms, and even when he had good games it still wasn’t guaranteed success. The good news is Brownwell was able to avoid a mass exodus out of the program and retained 3 starters and 6 guys who played roles in last season’s success. He also was able to bolster that group with a couple of transfers and a decent recruiting class, which sets up Tigers to once again be a tough out because of their defense and gives them an opportunity to try and improve on the offense that let them down a season ago.
Leading the incoming group is former All-AAC selection G David Collins (SR) via USF. Collins was up and down in his 4 seasons with USF and ended with a Senior campaign as the main playmaker, averaging over 3 assists per game to go along with his 12.5 ppg. He is a big, strong guard who excels at attacking the basket but has been very inconsistent from deep, going from 41-31-26-37% in his 4 year progression at USF. He will undoubtedly be a contributor for the Tigers, and could even vie for a starting spot if he can defend at a high level and make good decisions offensively, two things he struggled with at USF. The other transfer is All-Horizon selection F Naz Bohannon (SR), who is a bit undersized at 6’6” but plays with high energy and excels on the offensive glass. He doesn’t shoot well from outside but uses his size and strength to clean up boards and finish to and through contact inside, and will surely be called upon inside for the Tigers for both rebounding and a scoring option inside, as Clemson will need all the help it can get on that end. The leader of the FR class is big man Ben Middlebrooks (#149), who comes in as a stretch big prospect and at 6’10” has a ton of upside. He is not the most explosive athlete but his jumper looks like it will translate to this level and give Clemson a unique weapon down the road. What you worry about in this system is how well he will defend and rebound as he lacks quickness and explosiveness which could lead to him becoming a liability defensively. He will need some time to develop on that end but could be very good down the road for the Tigers. Next up 6’8” F Ian Schieffelin (#154), who is a little smaller than Middlebrooks but is more athletic. They both profile as similar players as both can stretch it out to 3, Schieffelin just has the edge on athleticism while Middlebrooks’ size gives him an edge as a prospect at the next level. I would expect Schieffelin to be more ready to play immediately and for him to have a shot at reserve minutes this season with an expanded role to come down the line. The last newcomer is 6’3” CG Joshua Beadle (#168) is a lanky athlete who excels when attacking downhill, and has good handles with the vision to create for others. His jumper will need to come along so he is at least threatening to defenses but he has great potential given his length and athleticism if he can adjust to this level, especially defensively under Browning. Don’t expect too much this season but remember the name.
Overall we know what to expect from Brownwell and the Tigers and that’s hard-nosed defense and an offense that struggles to score more than 65 points. They should still beat up on the bottom of the Conference, but a lot of other programs improved while Clemson is hoping to hold on after losing their star player in Simms. I expect some regression purely because of the loss of Simms and no clear guy who can step into that void, or even a couple of guys who I would easily see elevating their games. They should be similar to who they were a year ago, that just doesn’t look like it’s going to be enough to have the same success as a year ago as the rest of the Conference should be improving with an influx of talent coming in up and down the Conference. There’s just not enough juice here for me to get behind the Tigers and I expect them at best to be heading to the NIT in March.