CLEMSON — There were signs of encouragement for a young Clemson men’s basketball team Monday night in its season-opening 77-44 victory against overmatched Presbyterian.
Reasons for optimism began two hours before the game when senior forward Devin Booker came out for extra shooting at Littlejohn Coliseum. Last season, departed team leaders Tanner Smith and Andre Young were typically the Tigers to be found early putting in extra work. On Monday, it was Booker who arrived early to work. It is Booker whom the staff hopes blossoms into a productive player and leader.
“I called one of the graduate assistants before the game, and I was like, ‘Where are you at?’ He said he was already at the gym, and I said, ‘I’m on my way to get some shots up,’ ” Booker said. “I’m trying to be the first one on the court.”
Clemson is younger than it was a year ago. Clemson coach Brad Brownell has two seniors — Booker and Milton Jennings — and no juniors. Booker and Jennings have to lead and score, and on Monday they did just that as they combined for 26 points on 11 of 14 shooting.
What Brownell has plenty of is youth. But what was also apparent is he has a more athletic roster, one filled with more potential shot creators than he inherited two years ago.
Sophomore wing K.J. McDaniels used his spring-loaded legs and 6-7 frame to block a shot from PC center William Truss in the first half, which resulted in a shot-clock violation. The Clemson bench rose to its feet in applause. Clemson held the Blue Hose to 30.2 percent shooting.
McDaniels’ athleticism allows him to make highlight reel dunks and blocks. But it was his improved skills, namely shooting — McDaniels hit 2 of 3 3-pointers — that is encouraging for Clemson, which is in search of impact scoring from its wings.
On a team that struggled to create offense last season, freshman combo guards Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper also offered reasons for Clemson to dream Monday night. Both exhibited smooth shooting strokes. Filer made two 3s in the first half. BYU transfer Demarcus Harrison displayed an efficient midrange game, making 4 of 9 shots for eight points.
And perhaps most encouraging of all for Brownell is four-star swingman Jaron Blossomgame, the team’s star recruit, moved around well during pregame drills. Blossomgame suffered a severe leg fracture in the spring.
“We’ll get into that (redshirt) decision this week or next,” Brownell said. “We’ll watch him more and see how close he really is.”