Monday, June 17, 2002

The CourtMaster Rules on the Clemson Tigers

Originally Posted on

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is now in session at! I am delighted that my ACC basketball columns will be carried here this season. By way of introduction to you Tiger fans who have not followed my work over the past three seasons, I wanted to rule on my views of the Clemson basketball program.

First, let’s look at the positives.

Returning to lead the Tigers next year is Ed Scott, a senior who will be one of the best all-around players in the ACC. Last season, Scott finished third in the nation in assists, pulled down the most rebounds for a Clemson guard in 42 years, and began establishing himself as a scoring threat. He dropped 30 points on Wake Forest in the incredible double-overtime victory at LittleJohn Coliseum, and scored a career-high 36 against Florida State.

Scott’s experience and leadership will be the foundation for any hopes of success the Tigers have next season. Being a degreed accountant myself, I’ve got to love a guy like Scott, who says in his official school bio that accounting is the most interesting subject he has taken at Clemson. You go, Ed!

Another strength of the team should be the inside game with the tandem of Chris Hobbs and Ray Henderson. Hobbs, a 6’7” 245 lb. junior, grew up in Chapel Hill but was not recruited by the Tar Heels (think they could have used him last year?). He made a high percentage of shots from the floor and had some strong rebounding games.

Henderson, a 6’8” 250 lb. senior, gives the Tigers a strong tag-team duo in the paint. He was the second leading rebounder in the ACC last season. Henderson also showed flashes of becoming a shot-blocking threat. I’m sure Coach Shyatt will want him to be more aggressive on the offensive end this season.

With a senior and two juniors in the starting lineup, Clemson will be one of the more experienced teams in the ACC this season. Sophomores Chey Christie and Sherrod Ford will also be counted on to make larger contributions this season.

Three issues must be dealt with effectively for this team to be competitive in 2002-03--consistency, chemistry, and coaching.

Last season, Tiger fans never knew which team would show up for a game, a hungry, competitive bunch that would fight until the final buzzer, or a disoriented squad that looked like they had just been recruited out of the student section of the stands.

Losses to Winthrop and Yale cast a dark cloud over last season that never truly disappeared. How can an ACC team lose to Winthrop and Yale??!!

Six days after the Yale debacle, Clemson knocked off the #5 team in the nation at the time when they beat Virginia 68-52. Instead of building up steam and plowing through the ACC, the Tigers had a train wreck in their next game at Wake Forest. The 96-55 humiliation they suffered there began an eight-game losing streak that buried Clemson at the bottom of the conference.

The Tigers broke that streak by winning one of the most exciting games played in the nation last season, a 118-115 double-overtime thriller against Wake Forest. They followed that up by embarrassing themselves with an 83-54 loss at NC State.

Chemistry came up as an issue late in the season, particularly after a blowout loss to North Carolina (the same team that lost to Hampton, Davidson, and nearly to Binghamton). The players clearly were not all on the same page, a major factor in the defections of second-leading scorer Tony Stockman and reserve Dwon Clifton.

The consistency and chemistry issues bring the coaching situation under what will probably be excruciating scrutiny. Let me say that I love Larry Shyatt. I’ll never forget meeting him two years ago at the ACC’s Operation Basketball pre-season media gathering. He came up to the table of reporters where I was stationed and began his remarks with “Gentlemen, prepare to be dazzled!”

Shyatt’s sense of humor and his sincerity made a lasting impression. He seemed like the kind of guy I would love to have as a next-door neighbor to swap stories with over the fence.

The jury is still out on his ability to return Clemson basketball to respectability. He has a number of factors working against him.

The basketball tradition at Clemson is not a good one. The Tigers have won only one ACC regular season championship in 49 years. They have NEVER won the conference tournament, and have never advanced to the Final Four (the only ACC school not to). The school has produced a number of successful NBA players, but none under Shyatt.

Clemson is tucked in the heart of southern football country. So is Georgia Tech and Florida, but they have made trips to the Final Four. Florida State’s new coach, Leonard Hamilton, has succeeded at one football school, Miami, and is working on reviving the Seminoles’ hoops program in the shadow of Bobby Bowden’s gridiron success.

The Tigers’ football and basketball programs have had scandals in their history under Danny Ford and Tates Locke respectively. Maryland was able to bounce back from the horrific probation the basketball team endured because of the transgressions of Gary Williams’ predecessor, Bob Wade.

The basketball facilities at Clemson have lagged behind some other programs, but other ACC schools have fared well without lavish facilities. Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Maryland all enjoyed success before upgrading their practice areas and/or arenas.

The Tigers will have to play most, and probably all, of their “home” games at the 5,000 seat Anderson Civic Center while renovations are completed at LittleJohn Coliseum. This intimate environment could be a boost to Clemson’s home court advantage in some ways, but it still won’t be the same at LittleJohn, which can be a tough place for a visiting team to play.

In other words, there are problems, but not so large that they are insurmountable.

Shyatt has not had much success recruiting blue-chip high school players, having to rely on sleepers like Ed Scott or players downgraded because of injury like Chris Hobbs. Competing against ACC schools that regularly attract top-100 players (Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech all have classes ranked in the top 20 nationally this year), that’s like coming up to bat with an 0-2 count before the pitcher has even wound up.

Although the Tigers have a solid nucleus to build on with Scott, Hobbs, and Henderson, it does not appear they have enough talent to be competitive again this year in the ACC.

New Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips needs a strong revenue stream from the basketball program to fund all of the athletic facility construction in progress on campus. Losing equals reduced revenue.

Barring events this season bordering on a miracle, it will be time for Phillips to take Clemson basketball in a different direction with a new coach.

I’d still love to have Shyatt as a neighbor, even if he is unemployed.

Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at


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