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ACC Preview #7 - Clemson

Clemson will be without PJ Hall for a while and that’s going to hurt.

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 25: Clemson Tigers forward PJ Hall (24) goes up for a dunk during the college basketball game between the Clemson Tigers and the Duke Blue Devils on January 25, 2022, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC.
Photo by Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When it comes to basketball, Clemson has always struggled in the ACC. There have been a few good seasons, including a run to the Elite Eight where only a miraculous shot by Tate George kept them from playing Duke for a spot in the Final Four (Christian Laettner hit his own buzzer beater to deny UConn two days later).

Clemson has made the NCAA tournament 13 times, which is 12 more than Northwestern. It ain’t bad. It pops Duke and UNC periodically, mostly at home of course. But it’s not ACC elite.

Brad Brownell loses Al-Amir Dawes and Nick Honor to transfer and both were key members of the rotation with Dawes leading the team in mpg with 29.7 and Honor getting 25.4. It’s not like they weren't playing. That’s going to hurt.

David Collins and Naz Bohannon, who exhausted their eligibility, are also gone. You’ll remember Collins for his terrifying hit on Wendell Moore last season. Bohannon helped inside.

They could probably use him now.

The thoroughly admirable PJ Hall, who turned himself into a solid player despite playing through a foot injury, injured his right patella in July and will be out for months.

It’s impossible to overstate how tough this is for Clemson. It’s a huge loss and they may not be able to overcome it. We hope he’s not out for too long but it’s a kneecap. That’s a big deal. We’d love to see the guy Coach K called “the most improved player on the planet” get healthy.

The significant returnees are 6-8 grad student Hunter Tyson, 6-3 12 junior Chase Hunter, 6-3 12 senior Alex Hemenway and 6-7 sophomore Ian Schieffelin.

Tyson at times has been really good but he has a significant injury history. He had a facial fracture and last year he broke his collarbone.

The guy gets points for toughness though: he came back from both injuries in about a month. Brownell loves him and prizes him for his leadership.

Hemenway is a good shooter but he’s not likely to be a whole lot better overall this season. Last year, on a mediocre team, he played 14.6 mpg and scored 5.2 ppg. He did hit 40.6 percent from three point range.

Hunter played about 22 mpg last season and it’s possible he could make a big jump. He’ll get the opportunity to do so although he’ll be competing against brother Dillon for minutes now.

Clemson has two sets of brothers. The others are probably not going to be factors - Jack and Daniel Nauseef. Fun fact: auto-correct converts their last name to Nausea.

It’s hard to know what to think about Schieffelin and that’s not a knock on him. He had to fill in for Hall and was out of position a lot. But he had a great game against UNC with 24 points and four blocks. He could be a major surprise and he’ll have the minutes to build on with Hall out again. Give the guy credit though: he came at a pudgy 240, got down to 220 and muscled back up to 230.

Ben Middlebrook also has size. A 6-10, 232 lb. sophomore (we think he redshirted as a freshman), Middlebrook will certainly have an opportunity to play. If he can defend and rebound, he should get minutes.

Brevin Galloway is a 6-2, 200 lb. grad student who will help. He’s a transfer from BC, where he averaged 8.3 ppg. In 2021 though he managed 15 per outing.

As for the freshmen, Dillon Hunter (6-4, 190) joins brother Hunter as a Tiger. He has a chance to start at point if he does well. He originally committed to Baylor before ending up at Clemson.

Chauncey Gibson (6-5/190) was also recruited as a point guard. He said Clemson called him “...every day and I mean every day.” He’s fairly slender for 6-5 but time should take care of that.

Not satisfied with one Chauncey, Brownell got another: Chauncey Wiggins (6-9/205). We don’t know much about him so let him speak for himself: “My game is I’m versatile,” Wiggins told “I can shoot the ball. Can get the rebound and push it. Make the right play. I can guard one through five. I was watching Hunter Tyson a lot; he’s at the four spot. He’s leaving, so I feel like I can come in and play the four spot. Just a lot of dribble-drive, catch and shoot, coming off screens, backdoors, stuff like that.”

Sounds useful, even if he was wrong about Tyson leaving.

RJ Godfrey is a 6-7/225 lb. forward who, like Wiggins, hails from Georgia. He comes from an athletic family: father Randall had an 11-year NFL career as a linebacker. He should feel at home - he says Schieffelin and Wiggins are friends and says Hunter was a childhood friend. He’s a good shotblocker and defender, which means he has a shot at playing early. He also averaged four apg last season. He is probably the most physically mature of the freshmen and perhaps of the entire team.

So the freshman class should help Clemson as they wait for Hall’s return. It sounds like a good group of guys.

And don’t overlook Brownell because the guy is an excellent coach. His teams always play hard and defend extremely well. We don’t think Clemson is going to be great this year and certainly they’ll be better when/if Hall returns. But they do have some interesting pieces and we expect Brownell will, as usual, have them playing hard-nosed basketball. If things go well, the Tigers could be a surprise team.

If not?

The Tigers might move on from Brownell. We think it’d be a major mistake but it almost happened a few years ago when the Tigers thought they would hire Will Wade who went on to wreck LSU’s program instead.

Brownell is a solid coach at a very tough job. He’s also been loyal and deserves loyalty back.

Whatever happens, Clemson is going to be an interesting team to watch this season.

Two things we forgot to mention: first, check out assistant coach Billy Donlon on the official Clemson page. He must be a joy on recruiting trips. That’s as close to a mug shot as we’ve ever seen from a college assistant, who, after all, has to be a salesman. Maybe Donlon is selling funereal services. What an unpleasant photo they used! He cannot be as ugly inside as he looks here. At least one hopes not. That poor guy looks like he’s been through the ringer.

Secondly, we’re glad to see our favorite name among ACC assistant coaches is still around: the euphoniously named Dick Bender.

Taking these guys on a recruiting trip should be hilarious.