CLEMSON -- Brad Brownell travels west today in search of basketball gold: a go-to scorer. The Clemson basketball coach is seeking a player willing to embrace pressure shots, willing to carry the offense.
Clemson had that last year with guard Demontez Stitt, who had the determination, quickness and ball-handling skills to create shots when the offense stalled.
But this year there is not yet a go-to scorer at Clemson. While the Tigers have defended well as a team early in the season, Clemson (4-3) has struggled to score, ranking 11th in the ACC in scoring (64.4 ppg). When the offense is not creating easy opportunities, there's no player who has embraced taking on the burden of responsibility, of taking the ball and creating, especially in a difficult environment like the one Clemson will face at 4 p.m. today at Arizona (6-3) on Fox Sports Carolinas.
"We get in stretches where guys get a little tight, to be honest with you," Brownell said. "They are not sure if they are going to make plays. They're kind of looking around hoping someone else will make a play. We need a couple guys to just grab the team and decide they are going to do it. That's a difficult thing when you haven't done it much."
Guard Andre Young is a senior and the team's best shooter, but Young has limitations in becoming a go-to scorer.
"I don't think in any way he's afraid to take big shots or try to make plays, but because of his size he's not really a guy who can attack the basket," Brownell said. "That becomes a problem because he doesn't really get fouled enough. He doesn't get inside the defense enough. A lot of his offense revolves around making shots."
Brownell said forward Devin Booker still lacks the ability to put the ball on the floor and create off the dribble, critical to creating shot opportunities.
Freshman guard T.J. Sapp played well at Iowa, but Brownell said he's "far from polished," though he added: "I think he's willing to try to take the ball and make a play."
Former Pinewood Prep star Milton Jennings has the pedigree, a former McDonald's All-American, but Jennings still lacks a degree of confidence in his third season.
"Some of the turnovers you see from Milt, he's just a little uncomfortable," Brownell said. "He's trying to get a little closer, he takes a dribble when he shouldn't, when he should just close off and score. I just think you have to continue to do it. Just put yourself in those situations and continue to do it. Until you have confidence from doing it in games, it's a little different."
Jennings said the team is still looking for a Stitt-like player.
"I think the biggest part we are missing this year is someone taking the ball, 12 seconds on the (shot) clock, and we've been scrambling and setting screens and there's no open 3, we need a guy who says 'Hey, I'm just going to take it to the hole," Jennings said.
But can such want-to be learned, or is it something innate?
"If your coach is doing it, if it's coach-directed, it's probably not happening like you want it to," Brownell said. "The players have to decide they are good enough and want to be a situation and make a play, embrace the pressure situation. ... I think our guys can do more than they are showing, but they have to want to do it."
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