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ACC Preview #13- Clemson

The Tigers have work to do but Brad Brownell tends to acquit himself well.

Rutgers v Clemson
 INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 19:Al-Amir Dawes #2 of the Clemson Tigers goes up for a shot against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Mens Basketball Tournament held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 19, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Clemson has something of a dilemma: Brad Brownell may be one of the two best coaches they’ve ever had but (perhaps) a significant number of Tigers fans aren’t very happy with him.

But look at who Clemson has had in the past, going back to the ‘70s:

  • Tates Locke
  • Bill Foster
  • Cliff Ellis
  • Rick Barnes
  • Larry Shyatt
  • Oliver Purnell

Locke was an excellent coach but he wrecked the program by cheating. Foster wasn’t bad and got UNCC to the Final Four which was brilliant. Ellis got the Tigers to the Elite Eight but there were always questions about his integrity. Barnes has gone on to be a great coach but at Clemson he was unhappy and left after just four years, complaining about how tough the job was. Shyatt essentially failed and Purnell, other than a few wins in the NIT, never won a single post-season game.

A lot of people would argue for Barnes but we’re talking only about coaching at Clemson. He was good but strictly as far as X and O coaching goes, we don’t think Barnes as a Tiger was much better than Brownell, if at all, and we’ve never heard the incumbent complain about how tough the job is. And, unlike Barnes, he’s stuck around.

He’s been in Tigertown for 12 years now in fact, going on 13. And other than the Covid season, he’s on a four-year post-season run, highlighted by a phenomenal performance against Auburn in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Remember that? Clemson put on an incredible show, just destroying Bruce Pearl’s squad.

Yet as we say, a certain part of the fan base isn't enamored with Brownell. But give the man his due: his teams are always well coached and defend brilliantly.

They should be careful of what they wish for. Clemson doesn’t have an easy time getting quality coaches.

His problem is the same one Barnes identified, though he hasn’t whined about it: getting talent.

It’s possible that that could change in the NIL era. Clemson football players will get great NIL deals. What would happen if, say, Trevor Lawrence were back and told his potential sponsors that he’d be happy to strike a deal, but only if, say, Nick Honor gets a big deal too?

We have no idea what’s going to happen in this Brave New World, but Clemson should have opportunities.

But back to this season. Who’s not coming back?


  • Aamir Simms
  • Clyde Trapp - transfer, Charlotte
  • Jonathan Baehre - graduated
  • Johnny Newmann - transfer, Cincinnati
  • Olivier-Maxence Prosper - transfer, Marquette
  • Lynne Kidd - transfer, Virginia Tech

Simms is a huge loss. He was highly versatile, reliable and smart. He may be irreplaceable.

The transfers - what can you say? It’s the way the game is today. But Trapp and Newman were getting solid minutes even though Newman’s minutes were basically cut in half, at least partly due to a knee injury he suffered near the end of his sophomore year.

Trapp is doing what so many guys do and taking his final season elsewhere after graduating. Charlotte is coached by Ron Sanchez, a former Tony Bennett assistant, so he should have some idea of what to expect.

Prosper is off to play for Shaka Smart at Marquette after a disappointing freshman year and Kidd will stay in the ACC to play for Mike Young at Virginia Tech. He didn’t do much as a freshman either but he’s 6-10 and 235. He could have been useful this season for Clemson and probably will be at Virginia Tech now instead.

Jonathan Baehre is gone too and while he didn’t dazzle statistically, he did get 16.8 mpg which means his coaches trusted him with the role they assigned.

With all that gone, who's left?


  • Nick Honor - 5-10 senior
  • Al-Amir Dawes -6-2 junior
  • PJ Hall - 6-10 sophomore
  • Hunter Tyson - 6-8 senior
  • Alex Hemenway - 6-3 12 junior
  • Chase Hunter - 6-3 12 sophomore
  • Devin Foster - 6-2 junior

Honor and Dawes are a solid backcourt and they both shoot fairly well. Tyson does too: he hit 43 percent from the bonusphere last season. He came on nicely last season and could be ready for a huge breakout.

The other guys? Hall will certainly get a shot to replace Simms, or to attempt to anyway. He’s a wild card. If he’s significantly improved, Brownell will breathe easier.

Hemenway and Hunter may be rotation players but it would be surprising if they were more than that.

Normally we don’t spend much time on walk-ons but we were reading up on Foster and found this link that said this: “A 2019 graduate of Canton High School, Foster is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player to ever put on a Bulldog uniform. Over a brilliant four-year career, he helped reshape the culture of Canton basketball, leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back Hockomock Davenport Division titles and shattering the program’s 20-year scoring record with 1,306 points. As a senior, Foster led the Hockomock League with 21.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, earning overall league MVP honors while being named state player of the year by the Mass. Basketball Coaches Association.“

You don't see too many walk-ons called legends. No guarantees obviously but we’d keep an eye on him.


  • David Collins - South Florida, 6-4 senior
  • Naz Bohannon - Youngstown State, 6-6 senior

Both of these guys are going to play and play a lot. Collins is an athletic slasher who can also shoot while Bohannon will provide a dose of power and is an outstanding rebounder. We could see Clemson slotting him in as a undersized power forward or possibly just going small with him at center if Hall can’t rise to the occasion.


  • Josh Beadle
  • Ben Middlebrooks
  • Ian Schieffelin

Beadle is a still-thin point guard who will most likely be Dawes’ backup. He’s a borderline Top 100 prospect and seems promising and intelligent.

As for Middlebrooks, here’s how he sees his role: “Being able to come in and fill the role of a big, a power forward who is able to spread the floor. Able to shoot the ball, able to set picks, pick and pop, pick and roll, and be able to expose mismatches on the floor. I like to catch and shoot, be able to shoot the three a lot. If I have a slower defender on me, be able to go by them and score at the basket. Obviously, smaller guys, take them down low, get in the post and get easy buckets that way.”

Schieffelin may be a late bloomer. He’s 6-8 and about 230 and he’s clearly a smart player. He also shoots well.

So what’s up with Clemson this year then?

They have to answer a lot of questions obviously. Shooting and defense should be fine but they have to find someone to battle in the paint. The transfers are very likely to play a lot and the freshmen may be better than advertised.

They’re probably not going to be in the top third of the conference, but we could see them either moving up enough to surprise or slipping far enough where the angry fans will have to be dealt with in some way or another.

Fundamentally though, Brownell is a skilled coach and we never bet against that.