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Blossomgame and the Brownell Presser

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Reacting to the news coming out earlier this week.

Just Because
Just Because
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As most if not all of you have seen, Jaron Blossomgame declared for the NBA draft. He will take advantage of the rule which allows players to go through the combine and workout process before an official declaration in late May. As long as he doesn't sign with an agent (or receive benefits), Jaron could return if his draft grade feedback is not of his liking.

Much will depend on how he shows the ability to play and guard the 3 position as he is undersized for an NBA four. Now, the small ball prevalence and the desire for "stretch 4's" in the NBA has never been higher and these things will increase Jaron's chances. Clemson fans should not expect him to return and will hopefully be pleasantly surprised if he does. We certainly wish him the best as he has given great service to the University and overcome some serious physical setbacks to reach his remarkable current level.

Secondly, Brad Brownell spoke to the media and discussed many of the things that I brought up in the "Brownell Dilemma" article last week. He mentioned the facility and internal support issues that he has navigated. He also alluded to the shortcuts some folks in this business take for quicker results (shady recruiting, academic fraud, etc.) and that doing it the right way is often harder and takes longer. All this is very true and valid.

He stopped short of casting a negative light on the Purnell regime, but reading between the lines, you can sense there were problems the general fan wouldn't know about which had to be addressed when Brad got to Clemson. For all of OP's success -- and he was very successful by Clemson basketball standards -- the balloon was very likely about to pop. Rick Barnes faced a similar scenario when he left for Texas as his core recruiting class was about to leave and he hadn't been able to recruit well enough to replace it.  However, much of this will be looked upon as an equivocation of a tenure of mediocrity by the pessimistic fan.

Now, Brownell is never going to openly bash a player in his program,  so he has had to speak delicately about some of the issues he faced. If you have some time, you should look at the starting backcourts of the other ACC schools and ask yourself if Avry Holmes and Jordan Roper would start together for any other program in the league. You might come up with two, at the most, and that would be it. Here is where the biggest issue with getting from around .500 to the NCAA tourney can be found. You must to have a true playmaker at the guard position to get over the hump.  It has to be a guy who can either work out of a clear-out set (like a 1-4 low or a 5 out set), or be able to use a high ball screen to attack and create a shot for himself or a teammate.

Who was the last guy in the program with this capability?  Demontez Stitt, and it is no shock that Stitt's senior year was the last NCAA tourney appearance for Clemson.  Brownell has struggled to get that type of guy into his program to this point. Rod Hall was a warrior, and Jordan Roper probably should have been a Southern Conference player but did some very good things at this level, but those guys lacked the package of shooting AND attacking ability required for the task.  Again, the pessimistic fan would say, "Well, it is Brownell's fault for not signing and developing a guy like that."

Personally, I was refreshed by Brownell's mention of Jim Larranaga and Miami. This is a program I think compares to what Clemson can accomplish.  Miami has made great use of transfers and now Clemson has taken that approach. This is the very best way to avoid the AAU cesspool that often makes recruiting the high school player problematic for someone doing it the right way. A transfer will know the truth about D1 basketball and the days of handouts and false promises are usually long gone.

The transfer rule builds in an automatic redshirt year which also helps that player be more of an impact player when he becomes eligible.  Unlike football, redshirting in basketball is a rare due to the scholarship and roster limitations.  Clemson should not, and will not, abandon high school recruiting, but it would be foolish for Clemson to simply remain on the losing end of transfer situations and never pursue them. Avry Holmes was certainly an impact guy in year one and all but offset the loss of a multiple year starter in Rod Hall. It is hard to imagine Ty Hudson or another freshman being able to do that.

It was no surprise that Brownell vehemently defended his program and its progress. He is absolutely correct in saying how the different the discussion would be had K.J. returned and that team made the NCAA tourney as it likely would have. He spoke as a man believing he has the backing of the administration. Football is king at Clemson and always will be, but there is no doubt it is a very fun time when the Tigers are relevant in basketball. One of my greatest memories growing up was sitting in a packed Littlejohn to see Dale Davis, Elden Campbell, and the 1990 squad take out Duke, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina.  I was there when the Tigers took on Vince Carter and the Tarheels and the atmosphere was electric.  Who can forget the house nearly coming apart at the seams when Trevor Booker threw it down over Singler and Zoubek of Duke as the Tigers routed the Blue Devils in 2008? Brownell needs this next team to generate some of that energy in the new Littlejohn.