Ahem, I need to put out some content and Clemson basketball seems like a place where I can fill in some knowledge gaps. Sit back and relax. I’m going to talk about the 2020 basketball squad a good bit over the next month or so until I can dust off my hate articles and give you soccer updates.
A quick roster overview is a good place to start the 2020/2021 Clemson basketball discussion.
Point guard is the obvious place to start, and the Tigers have three solid, experienced options in Al-Amir Dawes, transfer Nick Honor, and Clyde Trapp.
This is an overview, but, needless to say, having three good, experienced point guards is a luxury never before seen in Brad Brownell’s tenure at Clemson. Dawes and Honor both have the potential to put up big numbers and any given day, and Trapp should be back to his hyper-athletic, rim-attacking self without the giant knee brace he lugged around in 2019 after rehabbing an ACL tear.
Brownell can play Dawes, Honor, and Trapp separately in a three-guard rotation or together in different combinations.
In addition to Dawes and Trapp, who are both combo guards that can play the 1 or 2, Clemson brings back solid fire power at the shooting guard (2) and small forward (3) position this season. Chase Hunter and Alex Hemenway are the obvious choices at the 2 spot, but don’t be surprised to see either on the wing in a 3 guard lineup.
Hemenway is the best shooter Brad Brownell has recruited to Clemson, including Gabe DeVoe. Hemenway shot an incredible 47% from 3 last season, hitting on 20 of 42 attempts in limited action after an early season ankle injury put him on the shelf for 16 games. Hunter was limited to nine games because of a lingering foot injury, but started the first four games for the Tigers in 2019.
The key wing piece for the Tigers is John Newman III. All that’s missing from Newman’s game is confidence. He’s a lock down wing defender and an athlete capable of putting anyone on a poster if they try and jump with him at the rim. I expect Newman to have a breakout season in 2020.
Khavon Moore, who transferred from Texas Tech and was granted immediate eligibility to play last season, has already decided to transfer again and shouldn’t be expect back.
A player to watch in 2020 is Hunter Tyson. In 2019, the 6’8”, 210 pound forward played mainly as a power forward out of necessity. I’ve always considered him a wing player. With the addition of top 100 recruits PJ Hall and Olivier-Maxence Prosper to the roster, Hunter should be freed up to play some minutes on the wing in a big lineup.
Speaking of guys that can play the 3 or 4, Olivier-Maxence Prosper is an interesting new addition to the Tigers squad. He’s an uber-athlete working on his overall skill set. As of now, I think he’s best suited at the 4, but as he improves his game, he’s another guy that could move out to the wing and give the Tigers some crazy length on the perimeter.
Clemson is loaded with talent and depth at guard and on the wing. It’s a little different story in the paint. The Tigers have ample talent but are short on bodies, especially at center.
I’m not worried about the 4 spot. I expect incoming 4* recruit PJ Hall to come in and establish himself at power forward from the jump. He’s got prototypical power forward size at 6’10, 235, and an advanced skill set to match. He can beat you up in the post on one possession and then spread you out and drill a 3 on the next possession. Throw Tyson and Prosper into the rotation and the Tigers are in good shape at power forward.
This brings me to the center spot. Clemson has no depth at the 5, but if you’re not going to have depth you want a guy like Aamir Simms as your starter. Simms is a bit short for a traditional center at 6’9”, but he’s got wide shoulders and 240 pounds of muscle to make up it.
This season hinges on Simms and his ability to not only replicate his 3rd team All-ACC season from a year ago, but surpass it. He’s a match-up nightmare for most centers in the ACC. He’s strong enough to hold his ground against the vast majority of traditional 5’s on defense, and skilled and athletic enough to destroy them on offense. If you put a smaller, quicker player on Simms he will take him into the post and bury him and bully him on defense.
When Simms needs a break, it’ll be up to PJ Hall to hold down the fort with the off-season’s defection of Trey Jemison. Hall is more than capable of spelling Simms, but that takes him out of the power forward spot, and puts him in the strange position of being a starting power forward (in my opinion) and back up center. In fact, Clemson’s lack of bodies at center may keep him from starting at the 4, at least initially.
This brings me to the wildcard on the Clemson squad. Jonathan Baehre’s Clemson career has gone about as wrong as a two year stint could go. He transferred in from UNC Asheville, tore his ACL in his sit-out year, struggled with his rehab, and then tore the same ACL again after playing in just two games. To further complicate matters, he looked like a guy struggling to come back from an ACL tear in the two games we saw him in last season. I don’t expect anything out of Baehre in 2020/2021, but he’s going to give it another go at least. He came into Clemson as an athletic, shot blocking 5 and if he could provide Aamir with any sort of relief this season, it’s a huge bonus.
Roster Wild Card
Losing former 4* wing/power forward Khavon Moore to transfer a few weeks ago was surprising, but could give the Tigers a chance to shore up the center position with a grad transfer. It’s late in the game, but this is a weird off-season. If Brad can find a way to entice a center to come to Clemson and back up Aamir or find a center capable of starting and push Aamir to his more traditional 4 spot, the Tigers could be an even bigger problem in the ACC.
I’ll talk more about this suddenly open roster spot in another article, but it could be the key to Clemson’s season...or it could be nothing.
This is it. No more excuses. Clemson has the pieces in place to win, and win now. The roster is experienced, talented, and has a star in Aamir Simms. If Brad is going to win consistently at Clemson, it has to start this season.