With a fairly large senior class of six and an entire roster eager to reach the NCAA Tournament, the Clemson women’s basketball team is laden with veterans and poised to return to form following a disappointing 2019-20 season. Head Coach Amanda Butler is entering her third year at the helm of the program, and she is assuredly aiming to develop the 2020-21 Tigers into an ACC contender, much like the 2018-19 squad that shocked the college basketball world by exceeding expectations en route to earning a March Madness bid and winning its first-round contest.
While senior center Tylar Bennett and senior guards Kendall Spray and Destiny Thomas are back in the fray and ready to lead the way for Clemson, three newcomers to the roster are primed to serve as X-factors for Clemson. The trio of skilled newbies could very well spark a complete about-face from last season’s fairly forgettable 8-23 campaign. Guard Delicia Washington is almost certain to be one of the Tigers’ top scorers, and her role as a de-facto newcomer is rather unique.
Washington transferred to Clemson prior to last season, after completing an impressive three-year stint with the Florida Gators. It is not often that a senior of the non-redshirt variety transfers, as an NCAA-mandated year of sitting out ensues, but Washington opted to take her talents to Clemson, S.C., and rejoin Butler, who recruited her, for one final collegiate season. In the 2016-17 slate, Butler’s last season at Florida, Washington was the SEC Co-Freshman of the Year, and she may be in line for an All-ACC season now that she is suiting up for the Tigers. The well-rounded Washington embraced a leadership role while cheering on her teammates this past season. Now that the redshirt senior is eligible to compete for the Tigers, her leadership acumen is expected to elevate to even greater heights.
The other two newcomers to Butler’s rotation are both freshmen. Committing to play for the Tigers as part of the 2020 recruiting class, guards Gabby Elliott and Weronika Hipp boast impressive scoring abilities that will likely pay dividends for the Tigers this season. Elliott will don a Clemson uniform following a decorated prep career in Detroit. Earlier this year, she was named Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year, capping off a stellar senior campaign at Detroit Edison Public Academy. Rated far and wide as a five-star prospect, Elliott is one of the most impressive recruits in program history and should develop into the premier playmaker of the Clemson backcourt rather quickly.
As for Hipp, like Elliott and Washington, she is multi-talented and capable of being a high-volume scorer. She is also a proficient distributor of the rock and evinced as much during her prep career. A native of Poland, Hipp graduated from Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy in the Atlanta area after moving to the United States. Like 5-foot-10-inch Elliott, 5-foot-8-inch Hipp is a combo guard, while Washington, who stands at 5 feet 10 inches, is more of a traditional shooting guard. Elliott was classified as a wing while being recruited, so she might be expected to act as Clemson’s small forward from time to time.
Thus far, Butler’s Clemson tenure has featured several newcomers making major impacts in their debut seasons as Tigers. Shooting guard Simone Westbrook was arguably the most important player of the 2018-19 team, and, similar to Washington, she transferred to Tiger Town for her final collegiate season on the heels of playing under Butler as a member of the Gators. Last season, true freshman power forwards Hannah Hank and Amari Robinson were two of the Tigers’ most productive post players, consistently netting layups and pulling down rebounds. Elliott and Hipp will look to follow up on the freshman success of Hank and Robinson with freshman feats of their own, except theirs will occur primarily on the perimeter.
The trinity of fresh faces wearing Clemson orange and regalia will begin their Tiger playing careers in the near future and are guaranteed to bring excitement to Littlejohn Coliseum. Moreover, the scoring virtuosity and on-court versatility presented by Elliott, Hipp and Washington have already generated plenty of optimism ahead of what is setting up to be a memorable season for Butler and her Tigers.