Another basketball season is right around the corner. Coach Brad Brownell leads Clemson into his tenth season as the head man and the school’s all-time leader in wins. Last year, Clemson provided lots of memories in Littlejohn Coliseum as they knocked off three top ten teams at home. The Tigers were playing some of their best basketball late, and then as we all know COVID-19 hit the United States, forcing the NCAA tournament to be cancelled. Clemson was a bubble team last year and hopes this year they can be a sure bet for an at-large bid to the big dance.
Clemson enters the 2020 season with its deepest team under Brownell. Brownell also just got his best recruiting class while at Clemson in 2020 and provided depth at key positions for the Tigers. As we look at the roster, let’s begin with the newcomers. The prized possession of the 2020 class is power forward P.J. Hall from just outside Spartanburg, S.C. Hall is your prototypical stretch four in today’s game, meaning that he can score in the paint like a traditional big, but can stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting off pick and pops. Next is Oliver- Maxence Prosper from Montreal, Quebec. Prosper provides much needed depth as a wing player behind John Newman. Prosper’s skillset is raw, which will be a project for Brownell and staff, but his potential is limitless. The next newcomer is Lynn Kidd from Gainesville, Fla. Kidd was a late addition to the 2020 class and reclassified from the 2021 class. Kidd can be a rim protector, something that has been missed for Brownell since Elijah Thomas. It’s unclear how much of Kidd we will see, but just like Prosper, he has unlimited upside. Last but not least is junior guard Nick Honor who transferred in from Fordham. Honor is only listed at 5’10, but do not let his height fool you. Honor is a pure scorer very much like Marquise Reed. Honor will give Brownell double digits off the bench pretty consistently and efficiently and will likely make a big impact
Fans are very excited about the newcomers and for good reason, but let’s not forget that last year, Clemson was considered a young team with multiple contributors who did not see much action the year prior. One of those players is John Newman III. Newman in his sophomore season last year averaged 9.5 points per game while also being one of the team’s best defenders. Newman had breakout performances in all of three ranked wins at home. Consistency was somewhat of a problem for Newman late in the year but Newman is more experienced now and could be an All-ACC member at year’s end. Hunter Tyson is another young contributor from last year with potential. Against Wake Forest at home last year, Tyson had 21 points off 9-13 shooting from the field. Tyson showed his ability to stretch the floor coming off the bench for Brownell. Alex Hemenway proved to be the spark the Tigers needed off the bench; against Notre Dame, he had 16 points while going 5-8 from the field. Hemenway in limited minutes can provide quick offense off the bench. Hemenway could be a more efficient Tevin Mack, not by the way he plays or how he scores but how quickly he can score. Al-Amir Dawes was another newcomer last year who played a big role for Brownell, as he started 26 games as a true freshman. There were growing pains along the way, but Dawes shined against Florida State with 18 points and the game winning layup to upset the Seminoles. Dawes could be the best point guard under Brownell since the late great Demontez Stitt. Dawes is the catalyst for Clemson to have a NCAA tournament bid this year. Chase Hunter was another freshman last year who played big minutes early but was injured for most of the year. In only nine games, Hunter averaged 5.3 points but he can defend any guard spot and provides depth at guard for the Tigers.
The Tigers are led by three seniors: Aamir Simms, Clyde Trapp and Jonathan Baehre. Aamir Simms is the best overall player on the roster and is the team’s unquestioned leader. Simms was a third team all-ACC member last year as he averaged 13.0 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game and 2.6 assists per game. Clyde Trapp averaged 6.0 points per game last year. Trapp brings athleticism and poise to Clemson’s backcourt. With Dawes and Trapp, Clemson has one of the best backcourts in the ACC. Jonathan Baehre is somewhat of an unknown commodity as he has dealt injuries since he transferred to Clemson from UNC Asheville. If Baehre stays healthy, he could be the X-factor Clemson needs to get over the hump in the ACC.
Clemson has a deep team and should be able to compete not just in the ACC, but they could win a couple games in the NCAA tournament as well. This is a make or break year for Brownell, as this team is too deep and talented to not make the tournament..