If you are anything like me, you have been longing for the return of live sports action to our nation. The Basketball Tournament (TBT) offered a little bit of that and featured a team comprised of several former Clemson players called Power of the Paw. Gabe DeVoe, Marcquise Reed, Elijah Thomas, Donte Grantham, and Tevin Mack were all members of this year’s TBT squad. Unfortunately, the Power of the Paw (POP) team fell to Armored Athlete 98-91 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score.
This tournament, in my opinion, is a glorified AAU type of deal with slightly more sophistication offensively from the teams. Much like AAU, it is much more about the horses you have than the strategy and coaching involved. The Armored Athlete team, though a higher seed, was experiencing heavy roster turnover due to COVID-19. I thought that this would be something the POP could exploit with so many of the guys having played together at Clemson. The starting 5 featured Marcquise Reed, Gabe DeVoe, Donte Grantham, and Eli Thomas who were starters on the 2017-2018 team. They obviously couldn’t.
After watching the game, I left feeling more like Brad Brownell has been punching above his weight class than I did before. The guard play for Armored Athlete overwhelmed the POP for much of the game. Scott Machado and John Roberson terrorized Marcquise Reed and Gave DeVoe on both ends of the floor, creating numerous turnovers and getting to the paint with relative ease off the bounce and using high ball screens. Meanwhile, the former Tiger guards had a hard time getting by defenders and creating space for themselves or their teammates. Now, this one off game is in no way a ton of evidence, but just based on what I was seeing, I got a better understanding for why the former Tiger contingent hasn’t been able to break through at the highest level.
Guys like Machado and Roberson are higher level Europe players. In my opinion, only Elijah Thomas really looked the part before his minutes were limited due to the time/score situation. Donte Grantham had a good stat line with 20 points on 8-10 from the floor, but his impact was minimal until the second half desperation run. Of course, he’s the one guy who has at least found G League work from the Clemson contingent. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of action for the posts on offense in this game as both teams fired away from the perimeter if not getting to the rim.
Power of the Paw’s one big run to try to make a game of it largely featured other players on the roster that didn’t go to Clemson. DeVoe hurt his ankle on defense and wasn’t the same after that. The team lacked a lot of the defensive DNA you would normally associate with Brownell’s Clemson teams. They had Coach Brownell on the broadcast for a short bit and he even called them out on their defensive effort level during the call.
Even though you really can’t take a ton away from something like TBT, I found it interesting to see how some of the best Clemson players in the last decade fared against this level of competition. Furthermore, I came away feeling like Brownell and his staff had coached them up a great deal to make them more formidable as a team during their time at Clemson.