CLEMSON — Shelton Mitchell found himself heading to Littlejohn Coliseum in the early hours of the morning. Clemson's point guard was looking for a way to find his shooting touch.
Mitchell, a graduate student from Waxhaw, N.C., was missing shots he made a year ago when Clemson reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Sometimes it was a matter of slow starts. Other times it appeared he was forcing things.
So he put in extra practice time.
"I was always shooting," Mitchell said after a 22-point performance Saturday in the Tigers' 59-51 upset of No. 11 Virginia Tech. "But I basically doubled up and have been shooting every morning."
As Clemson heads down the stretch of its ACC schedule, those extra reps have the potential to become more vital than ever. The Tigers are looking to pad their NCAA Tournament resume, and they might need Mitchell's hot hand to do it.
"He looked (against Virginia Tech) like the guy we all hoped he was going to be every day," Brownell said. "Unfortunately, every day he doesn't feel great."
Mitchell, a transfer from Vanderbilt, has had no shortage of adversity throughout his Clemson career. A nagging knee injury could explain his inconsistent play.
Mitchell scored 14 points in a win against Pittsburgh. That game marked the beginning of a four-game win streak that the Tigers hope to extend when they play Miami on Wednesday night.
Prior to his 14-point outing against Pitt, Mitchell scored a combined 27 points in five games. After Pitt, he scored six points against Wake Forest and eight points against Georgia Tech. Then poured in 22 on Saturday.
Clemson can win even when Mitchell is struggling with his shot, but a postseason run is more likely if he is scoring and giving Marcquise Reed some extra help along with senior center Elijah Thomas down low. The offense is opened up, defenses have to pick their poison and Clemson has three legitimate scoring threats with a complementary high-low game.
Reed and Mitchell together have the potential to be one of the best backcourts in the ACC when both are clicking like they did against the Hokies. Reed is averaging 18.9 points per game and Mitchell 11.7.
"I think for the most part, I did a good job of staying confident," Mitchell said of his shooting. "But it felt good to know all the hard work has paid off."
That's why his morning routine likely will now be the new norm.