Gut check time

CLEMSON - Milton Jennings found himself standing at a crossroads. The junior forward from Summerville learned the hard way that it was time to shape up or ship out.

He elected to shape up.

In late January, Jennings was suspended, for the second-time this season. He was left back in Clemson while the Tigers travelled to Virginia and Virginia Tech because of a failure to comply with the team's academic standards.

Jennings also wasn't allowed to participate in any team-related activities during the two-game stretch.

"You just have to look at it like your opportunity is slipping away," he told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, in his first interview since returning from the two-game suspension.

"I go to school and I play basketball. That's all I really know how to do. When I saw that, I was like, you've got to get serious. My whole mindset is different. I'm in attack mode and want to finish out the season as best I can."

In the eight games since his return, Jennings has averaged 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

"He's been where he's supposed to be and done what he's supposed to do, with a better attitude," said head coach Brad Brownell, who suspended Jennings in December after an in-game verbal confrontation with an assistant coach during the Christmas tournament in Hawaii.

The result of suspension No. 2 has been positive for all parties involved.

"To be honest, I think it's helped his play," Brownell said. "That's a nice result of doing all the other things you need to do well."

And it's crystal clear to Jennings that he's not totally out of the doghouse.

"I understand I have a short leash. I don't mind that. It keeps me motivated. It keeps me wanting to fight for that opportunity," he said. (Getty Images)
"I understand I have a short leash. I don't mind that. It keeps me motivated. It keeps me wanting to fight for that opportunity," he said.

The opportunity is one that he's thankful to still have.

Even with a few games left on his junior season, Jennings will approach next season with the proper mindset. He credited this year's senior foursome of Andre Young, Tanner Smith, Bryan Narcisse and Catalin Baciu for helping to mold him into one of the right kind of senior leader for the 2012-13 season.

"He's handled himself the way I expect him to. He's always been pretty good, pretty motivated with basketball," Brownell said. "I don't know if he's always appreciated everything everybody's done to help him. Not just basketball, but with school and all the other factors involved, dealing with young men going to college.

"I just think there's a great appreciation for all the people involved in his life in the program, at least I hope there is."

Brownell hopes that his message to Jennings will also serve as a message to the five underclassmen on the roster.

"I want guys to know it's a privilege to play here and to be a part of this, not take it for granted, and understand that with that privilege comes responsibilities, more so than other places, probably," he said.

Jennings has certainly taken notice.

"Everybody gets challenges put in their life. It depends on what you do with those challenges," he said. "I think I've taken my challenges and turned them into opportunity." Top Stories