It is already time to start previewing the upcoming Clemson basketball season, which in a way is a sad moment as it means football season is nearing its end. After what I would call two less-than-super-fun football seasons, the gridiron Tigers have given us two months of very enjoyable undefeated football. As we turn our attention to basketball, we hope that they can win enough to stay in the NCAA hunt and entertain us at least until baseball season starts in mid-February.
To do that, Clemson will need the strength of the team, its front court, to shine bright and help mitigate potential deficiencies with the guard play. We begin our preview looking at the front court. PJ Hall and Hunter Tyson are likely the two best overall players and there is promising depth behind them.
2021/22 Stats: 21.2 minutes/gm, 5.7 points/gm, 4.1 rebounds/gm
The Tigers only lose one player from last year’s front-court. Bohannon was a graduate transfer from Youngstown State who played one year for Clemson. His productivity took a hit moving to the ACC, but he was still a valuable back-up who was very good on the offensive boards.
6 foot 10, 245 lbs.
Junior - Spartanburg, SC
2021/22 Stats: 27.6 minutes/gm, 15.5 points/gm, 5.8 rebounds/gm
PJ Hall is Clemson’s star player. The offense runs through him. He took 31.5% of Clemson’s shots while he was on the court. No ACC player had a higher percentage last season.
Even with the high volume, Hall was an efficient shooter 49.3%, especially inside the 3-point line (2P: 54.4%, 3P: 30.8%). He was Clemson’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder — interestingly, behind guard David Collins.
Defensively, he was one of Clemson’s few shot blockers averaging 1.3 per game. Unlike past Clemson big men, he didn’t have major issues with fouls as he averaged just 3.7 fouls called per 40 minutes. He did this while playing through a foot fracture that caused him to miss three games and have offseason surgery.
Unfortunately, he injured his knee this off-season so the Tigers will have to begin the season without their most important player. Coach Brownell said “we’re optimistic he’ll play at some point in November, but we’re not sure when.” Clemson plays a relatively weak non-conference schedule so if he returns in time for Penn State on November 29th he’ll only miss 2-3 games against top 200 teams. Clemson should be able to overcome that.
6 foot 8, 217 lbs.
5th Yr Senior - Monroe, NC
2021/22 Stats: 25.5 minutes/gm, 10.0 points/gm, 5.5 rebounds/gm
Hunter Tyson has improved slowly but steadily each season and finally became one of the team’s best players last year. Despite his 3-point percentage regressing from an unsustainable 43.2% (22/51) to a still solid 34.7% (26/75), Tyson became a bigger contributor across the board. He was the team’s second-leading scorer. He didn’t commit many turnovers, shot 46.6% from the field (2P: 54.2%), and was the team’s third-leading rebounder.
He broke his collarbone late in the season and missed eight games. Clemson’s season fell apart during that span as they lost the first six games he missed and went just 2-6 without him. Coach Brownell spoke about Tyson’s importance to the team:
“He’s just a phenomenal young man. He’s a tremendous leader. He really cares about the team, cares about winning, cares about Clemson, cares about his teammates. [He’s an] extremely hard worker. He is continuing to develop his game. Last year, you begin to see he can score around the basket with some moves. He is putting the ball on the floor more a little bit more now and going by people... He’s obviously always been a pretty good shooter... He’s really been a good voice in our program the last two years and our team really took a hit when he got hurt last year. That was a bigger loss than people realize. More than just the baskets and rebounds, his confidence and voice everyday. He’s consistent and he’s not afraid to be a leader.”
He will be even more important this season with PJ Hall slated to miss most of November. He will be counted on to be the team leader and best overall player until Hall returns. The Tigers need big years from their two star big men. Staying healthy will be a crucial part of that.
Hunter Tyson’s decision to use his COVID waiver and return for a 5th season gives Clemson a chance to make a run at the NCAA tournament.
6 foot 7, 230 lbs.
Sophomore - Loganville, GA
2021/22 Stats: 11.6 minutes/gm, 3.1 points/gm, 2.8 rebounds/gm
Schieffelin was a three-star recruit that chose Clemson over Virginia Tech and earned immediate playing time as a reserve. He was thrust into a bigger role when Hunter Tyson and PJ Hall were hurt playing over 20 minutes per game during that nine game stretch.
He wasn’t an efficient shooter (FG: 39.5%), but was ahead of most freshman we see at Clemson. His 2.8 rebounds per game may not sound like much, but on a per minute basis he was tops on the team (9.7 per 40 mins).
Even though he is clearly behind Hall and Tyson on the depth chart, he will be a key reserve and may start while PJ Hall is out. If so, he will need to play well enough as a starter to keep things afloat until he can return. Both Hall and Tyson have had their share of injury issues so Schieffelin may play a critical role at times and should at least be a valuable reserve when everyone is healthy.
6 foot 10.5, 242 lbs.
Sophomore - Fort Lauderdale, FL
2021/22 Stats: 6.4 minutes/gm, 1.2 points/gm, 1.1 rebounds/gm
The tall, powerful Ben Middlebrooks can bring a real defensive presence to the Tigers, but he has to find a way to do it without getting himself into foul trouble. He averaged 7.2 fouls per 40 minutes which obviously limits his playing time and put opponents in the bonus. When he is on the court and not fouling, he is a rim protector.
Although his playing time was limited, you could see his potential and why he earned offers from Notre Dame, LSU, Florida, and Virginia Tech. He may not be ready to be a huge contributor yet, but he should provide size and shot blocking off the bench, which will be especially important in the absence of PJ Hall to start the year. Middlebrooks is the Tigers best shot blocker with Hall out. Hopefully, he continues to get better and becomes the starting center before his Clemson career is over.
6 foot 7, 225 lbs.
Freshman - Suwanee, GA
247 Sports Composite 3-star, 152th recruit nationally
Godfrey joins Clemson from North Gwinnett High School — the same North Atlanta suburban school that gave Clemson football All-American left tackle Mitch Hyatt. In this excellent film breakdown video from 2021, RJ Godfrey shows himself to be a polite, eloquent young man. He describes himself as a “position-less player.” He says he enjoys playing point guard most, but the film shows him shining as someone who can catch it on the block, spin, and finish at the rim which is likely more in line with what we can expect from him at Clemson.
In high school, he averaged 16 points per game, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. He was the 5th ranked prospect out of Georgia and chose Clemson over an offers from Texas Tech and Ole Miss. True freshman seldom make a major impact at Clemson, and I don’t expect him to break the trend, but he is an exciting prospect that Clemson needs to retain, develop, and get the most out of.
6 foot 10 - 205 lbs.
Freshman - Grayson, GA
247 Sports Composite 3-star, 180th recruit nationally
Wiggins played with Ian Schieffelin at Grayson High School and will now follow his former teammate to Clemson. Coach Brownell described him as a skilled forward who has great size. Wiggins chose Clemson over NC State and Maryland, impressive offers, but he may take some time to reach his potential. At 6 foot 10 and only 205 lbs, he must add muscle to that frame before he is ready to get in the post in an ACC game. As a reference point, 5 foot 11 Clemson running back Will Shipley is also 205 lbs.
Despite that, he may find some time as a reserve, particularly if there are injuries. He reminds me of former Clemson forward Ibrahim Djambo who joined the Tigers from JUCO and despite his size was more of an outside player. Hopefully, Wiggins can find a similar niche early, but become a consistent contributor after some time in a college weight training program. With basketball being a spring semester sport, he may have already gotten a head start on that.