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Maryland | Virginia
Clemson has a really odd dilemma.Â Larry Shyatt is passionate about
Clemson. His family loves being there. He wants to coach Clemson, and not many
people do, frankly, at least not in the sense that they see it as a dream job
rather than a stepping-stone (Rick Barnes).
But Clemson may not have much more patience with Shyatt, which is really too
bad, because while he has not won, he inherited a terrible situation from
Barnes, who got while the getting was good, and left his pal Larry holding a
stinky diaper bag of a team.Â Top that off with an almost endless series of
injuries, and you wonder how they have won at all.
And yet even in the face of disaster, Shyatt, a bantam rooster of a coach (he
once infuriated Larry Bird so that Bird came to the other team's locker room to
find him, and his feud with UNC has hit high gear rather quickly), is laying the
groundwork for a pretty good team. The question is who will get to claim the
wins when they do come - and we believe they will.
Clemson can start building around cocky point guard Tony Stockman, a kid who
might infuriate opponents, but who would be great to have on your side.Â He
has a little bit of Corchiani and Price in him.Â He's going to be good, and
our guess is that he and Shyatt are very much on the same wavelength.
They can also count on Chris Hobbs, assuming his health is good. He
has an injury currently but should be ready to go.Â He's big and strong
and a leader.
Chey Christie wanted to go to Clemson because his brother did, and it's a
break for the Tigers, because he's talented and versatile. At 6-4, he could play
some forward in a pinch.Â Edward Scott has been a solid if unspectacular
guard, but if this is our team Stockman is the point guard, period.Â Still,
Scott is a useful player, and has
respect from his teammates.Â Â Dwon Clifton is a talented athlete,
but he didn't do that much last year.Â He could be a player if he has
Olu Babalola is an intriguing player. at 6-6 and 245, he has Barkley-esque
size.Â Don't' get us wrong, Charles is a freak and one of a kind. But
Babalola is supposed to be a good athlete, and that is definitely a powerful
build.Â You may remember Sam Clancy Sr. took Mike Gminski to the woodshed
with a build like that.
And Clemson got amazingly lucky when Notre Dame turned down Jamere Hendrix
and he had to find a new school.Â He's reputedly quite talented.
Toss in freshman Sharrod Ford,Â who has potential, Jamar McKnight, who
has some talent, Ray Henderson andÂ Tomas Nagy, and suddenly Clemson has
some potential.Â But there are a lot of variables.
First, how quickly the younger players develop. Potential is fine, but
Babalola, Clifton, and Ford are pretty key to how far this team goes. People
will have to establish roles and some will have to subordinate themselves. For
Duke, Maryland, or UVa, it's already pretty clear; at Clemson and Georgia Tech,
among others, it is not at all clear.
Secondly, how well the team rebounds.Â This was a huge weakness last
season, and they were pretty small to boot.Â But if Ford can rebound
competently and play defense, he has a niche he can build on.Â Â This
could be a place for Babalola to seize some minutes as well, and Christie or
Clifton could theoretically contribute as well, though they aren't really inside
players.Â Quickness never hurts rebounding, though.
Though Shyatt could use a 6-11 guy, he has size between Hobbs, Henderson,
Ford, and Nagy. Not great size, but some.Â But more importantly, this is
the most athletic team Clemson has had in years. That's not saying much - in the
Barnes years, the team basically had Terrell McIntyre, several big stiffs under
the basket, and a couple of competent athletic players to compliment them.
Really, since Cliff Ellis left, the talent level has not been great, though
Barnes certainly made it work.
What we expect to see out of Clemson now is much more of a running game, and
with Stockman as the lead man, you'd be foolish not to. We still remember that
dramatic moment of foolishness versus UNC, when he pulled up on a break and took
a very long 3 to break UNC's spirit when they were rallying, sealing an unlikely
upset for Clemson.Â With Christie as his sidekick, Clemson has an ACC level
backcourt. Hobbs will likely start, and that leaves two positions to fight
for.Â If Babalola and Clifton could both start,Â then the Tigers would
have a pretty athletic unit, one which, while not as wonderfully athletic as
UVa's, one which would be a quantum leap above what they have had lately.
Schedule wise, there are some gimmes, as is usually the case with Clemson.
With games against Morris Brown, Wofford, Coastal Carolina, App State, Elon,
Winthrop, Charleston Southern, Hartford, and Yale, and a possible couple of wins
in the Paradise Jam (Miami (FL), LaSalle, Eastern Michigan, and UAB
join Clemson and Morris Brown in the field), Clemson has an excellent shot at
picking up a couple of wins.
Penn State is the draw in the ACC/ Big 10/1 Challenge, and it could be a
critical game for Clemson.Â Penn State won't be what they were last year,
we don't expect, and if Clemson could get that, with some damage in the Paradise
As always, they play South Carolina, this year in Littlejohn where the
Gamecocks struggle.Â Dave Odom should be more at ease than Eddie Fogler,
So Clemson has the potential to win 10-12 non-conference games, and if they
can win a few in the league - last year they won 12 overall and 2 in the
conference - they could sneak in the NIT.Â From there, the future gets
considerably brighter, as this is a young team.