If you build it, they will come

CLEMSON - There could be a time in the not too distant future when Clemson's hoops teams are playing in a fresh surrounding.

Whether it's another round of renovations to Littlejohn Coliseum or just a brand new building altogether, Brad Brownell is optimistic that something is on the horizon.

"We're hopeful that we'll get some good news in July or in the fall [that] they're going to make a big change here," he said. "When you start thinking about what's been happening in our league, with the addition of Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville and Pitt, to go along with all of the really good programs we have, it's probably necessary."

Fortunately, for Brownell, athletic director Dan Radakovich is of that same opinion. Radakovich served as athletic director at Georgia Tech when its new basketball building was constructed.

There could be some clarity as to what will happen in Tigertown when Radakovich meets with the Clemson Board of Trustees next month in Charleston for the Summer Quarterly. There, he will present both ideas -- a facelift or a sparkling new arena.

"I hope that we leave there with a good direction," Radakovich said.

A new on campus basketball arena could potentially sit at the corner of Perimeter Road and Highway 93.


A new arena could go a long way in attracting elite-level talent like Seventh Woods.
"I think if you look at a new facility -- and Littlejohn has been great for 45 years, it's been a really good facility, but the Atlantic Coast Conference is changing as it relates to basketball," Radakovich said. "We need to allow our coaches to be able to do things that allow our coaches to compete at that level.

"It was a really good conference before. It's a great conference now with the teams coming in."

For a football-first school like Clemson, the basketball program needs something with a little more pop, particularly in a hoops-first league like the ACC.

"You need to make something that has a chance to make a major statement," Brownell said. "You're not going to do this on a regular basis. At the time, Littlejohn was a good facility. And it still can be good, in some ways, but it's not modern.

"There are a lot of things with Littlejohn that are not as up to date. They don't have the ‘wow' factor in recruiting. There are things that are a little problematic that don't give it the shine that some of our competitors have."

And that's the issue -- the 300-plus days in the year when basketball games aren't being played inside Littlejohn Coliseum.

"I've said this all the time. On game day, when there are a good 8, 9 [or] 10,000 people in there, there's a rocking crowd, it's pretty good," Brownell said.

But, when Clemson basketball staffs have had prospects on campus during the spring, summer and fall, their post-visit interviews with CUTigers rarely include positive words about the basketball arena.

"They don't ever leave here talking about how great Littlejohn is," Brownell said. "Nobody ever leaves here quoting, ‘Littlejohn was a great facility.'"

Fortunately, for Brownell, he's got another one of the most powerful men on campus in his corner.

"Dabo [Swinney] told me a couple of years ago, ‘Hey, they've got to do something to help you with that.' This is one of the best things to happen for me as the head coach here," Brownell said. "They've made major changes to the West End Zone."

And look at what that's done for the football program, particularly on the recruiting trail. Now coupled with the new indoor practice facility, the sky is the limit for Clemson football.

For now, there's a ceiling over the basketball program. Unfortunately, for James Cororan Littlejohn, his building has a lot to do with it.

"We have to continue to show people, both within the university and outside, basketball is important here," Brownell said. "Certainly, Dan has grabbed this bull by the horns and has approached it…he sees the value in this and understands it is important moving forward for basketball at Clemson, so it is exciting."

Some new digs would make it even more exciting for Brownell and Clemson's basketball supporters.

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