CLEMSON - The closing statement Brad Brownell made to reporters after Clemson's season-ending defeat in the NIT semifinals in New York City came out of nowhere.
It was Brownell's view on the changing landscape in his industry, and why he thought his Tigers far exceeded expectations this winter.
"I don't think in college sports as much any more, there are that many true teams in college athletics," Brownell said. "There's a lot of teams that wear the same jerseys, but I don't think there's that many true teams in college sports anymore. I think there's a lot of agendas going on that really make it hard for coaches and players to all get paddling in the same direction.
"That's one of the reasons we were better than people thought. We were one of the few teams that really were a team."
Junior forward K.J. McDaniels soared from athletic yet unknown wing to first-team all-ACC, yet as his coach and teammates tell it, he never got a big head about his success.
McDaniels' sidekick? Some nights it was point guard Rod Hall, some nights it was center Landry Nnoko, some nights it was who's-got-the-hot-hand shooting guard Damarcus Harrison or Jordan Roper. Six other players had their hand in the cookie jar from time to time as well.
"We had guys that were unselfish. We had guys that accepted roles, did their jobs and were proud to do their jobs, and weren't trying to do more than that," Brownell said in Wednesday's press conference to wrap up the season. "The guys got along really well. Because of that, we played as close to our potential, on most nights, as most people."
Programs like UConn, Florida and Wisconsin flourished in the Final Four by embracing the team-ness of basketball. Even Kentucky and its late-blooming cast of one-and-done talents (presumably) was praised by Brownell, for the way the Wildcats came together in March.
"It's not easy, now. It's really hard with Coach (John) Calipari to do it with that much turnover every year," Brownell said. "Managing rosters is a big part of this, in an ever-changing culture where people are leaving more quickly and people become disenchanted so fast, who aren't satisfied with waiting their turn.
"Being a part of the team isn't as important as it used to be in some ways, and that becomes very challenging."
Over the limit?
All 12 of the Tigers' scholarship players could conceivably return to the 2014-15 roster. Gabe Devoe and Donte Grantham are already signed for next season.
That's one more scholarship than the 13 allowed in NCAA Division I basketball, if McDaniels decides to return for his senior year.
Brownell doesn't yet know of McDaniels' intentions, but regardless, he figures the situation will resolve easily with a potential transfer.
"I haven't met with every kid to see what they're thinking. They see what's coming back, they see how much they're playing, and they know whether they're happy with that," Brownell said. "It usually works itself out because guys really want to play. They don't just want to play a little; they want to play a lot. I can't play you all 25 minutes; I just can't."
Ten different Tigers started a game this season, but only six averaged more than 15 minutes per game. Guard Devin Coleman already transferred at midseason.
"I want our players to have a great college experience," Brownell said. "You only get to do this one time in your life, I want you to enjoy it, I want you to fulfill the dreams you have for yourself, and if they're not being fulfilled here, then we need to help you find another place. Sometimes that happens."
On the mend
Forward Jaron Blossomgame (bruised leg, suffered March 18) and guard Patrick Rooks (hip injury, suffered last fall) will ease their way into summer workouts.
"They're both better. They're fine," Brownell said of the pair of freshmen. "They're not ready to do anything full-speed yet. But we hope those guys will both be ready shortly."
Rooks redshirted the 2013-14 season, and could give Clemson some much-needed shooting depth. Meanwhile, Blossomgame finished with 4.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game his first season back from a broken leg, but he missed the last three games of the Tigers' NIT run.
"I'm thankful made it as long as he did," Brownell said. "I'm very thankful that Jaron got to play his freshman year because I know how hard that kid worked and the obstacles he overcame; he deserved his freshman year and helped us win some big games."
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