CLEMSON — Brad Brownell rarely enjoys the luxury of recruiting flawless players to Clemson, a basketball underdog in the tradition-rich ACC.
Most of the players Clemson signs either lack size or a significant skill, like shooting.
The one Tiger who can shoot is freshman guard Jordan Roper, who figures to make his fourth straight start today at Maryland (noon, ESPN2) for a Clemson team in need of shot makers.
Roper scored 19 points against No. 2 Miami on Sunday, the most points scored by a Clemson freshman since Terrence Oglesby scored 19 against Florida State in 2008.
Roper not only bears a resemblance to NBA star Ray Allen, but he also has the makings of a similar jump shot. Roper has smooth shooting mechanics and a quick release. He can also create his shot, often using a pump fake and one dribble to create space against Miami.
But unlike Allen, Roper is undersized — 5-11, 170 pounds — to be playing off the ball as a shooting guard. For Roper to morph from a situational player to true asset, he must become a true point guard.
“It would be more advantageous for us if he could play some more point,” Brownell said. “He just hasn’t felt 100 percent comfortable in that role yet.”
Roper’s shooting is so valuable that he’s now started three straight games, a span in which he’s averaged 31.3 minutes and 14 points per game.
“He’s always going to have a scoring mentality, and that’s a good thing. That’s one of the reasons we recruited him,” Brownell said. “I felt he was a guy who would be confident offensively.”
Roper was mainly used as a spot-up shooter earlier in the season, similar to former Tiger Andre Young early in his career.
Young didn’t become a true point until his senior season.
But Brownell said Roper has more upside than Young because he can better create his own shot, which he has demonstrated in recent games.
“In high school, all I did was dribble penetration, pull-up shots,” Roper said, a former star at Irmo. “Here, I’ve improved my catch-and-shoot. Now, I’m getting back to what I used to do, dribble penetration, pull-up jump shots. Now, if I can incorporate it all, I can be dangerous.”
He will become especially dangerous if he can become a true point guard. Roper said he knows he must become stronger and better at stopping the ball on defense, improving his lateral movement. His ball-handling and court vision also need refinement.
The other issue is competition.
Clemson has a number of players who can play the point, including Rod Hall, who is the best defensive option, and fellow freshman Adonis Filer. Still, Brownell said there is a need to keep two point guards on the court.
“There are many times in games where it really helps to have two primary ball-handlers out there,” Brownell said. “I think you are seeing more teams play with multiple point guards.”