Summer projects

K.J. McDaniels must learn how to create for others, Damarcus Harrison has to improve his jumper and Jaron Blossomgame needs to finally get healthy.

CUTigers recently sat down with Clemson head basketball coach Brad Brownell for a 1-on-1 interview.

Among the topics discussed during the near 45-minute conversation were the 13 players that will make up the 2013-14 Clemson basketball team.

Up first from our interview with Brownell are the returning wing players -- Jaron Blossomgame, Damarcus Harrison and K.J. McDaniels.

Another bump in the road

Blossomgame, who missed last season after suffering a compound fracture in his left leg before graduating high school, recently underwent surgery to help speed up the recovery process.

Because of that surgery, Blossomgame will not travel to Italy with the team in August.

"I feel bad for him as much as anybody, because he's worked really hard over the past year, trying getting back," Brownell said. "He's such a good kid. He's such a positive kid. He's a competitive kid. He's been working at this thing. He's done everything that he can do. It's unfortunate."

Just a few months ago, things seemed to be moving along the right track for the redshirt freshman from Alpharetta, Ga. It wasn't until recently that his recovery began to slow.

"They've been doing periodic X-Rays with him, every two months, about every 6-8 weeks, kind of examining how well he was healing," Brownell said. "Just here recently, in just the last X-Ray, he's kind of slowed down considerably, for whatever reason. I guess there's a bunch of scar tissue that developed.

"They really didn't know it all until they got in there. They decided we need to do this procedure. This should help. It will be a minor setback, because it will probably be three weeks before he's really rolling again.

"But it ensures the best chance that he makes a complete and full recovery."

Back for round two

There was some doubt as to whether or not Harrison would be around for the 2013-14 season. The BYU transfer originally planned to take his Mormon Mission after the 2012-13 school year, but Harrison changed his mind this spring.

Harrison is currently enrolled in summer classes and has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season. That's good news for Brownell and Co.


Damarcus Harrison averaged 3.2 points per game as a freshman at BYU.
As a sophomore, Harrison averaged 5.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.

"He's a guy who did some good things for us last year," Brownell said. "But, consistently, wasn't at the level that he needed to be.

"Certainly, him leaving BYU in April and going home, really not doing a lot with basketball and conditioning for a long-time, well into the summer. Basically, his dad made him get a regular job…when he was eligible to play, he wasn't in shape. But it was a good experience for him.

Harrison played in every game last season, 14 of which he started.

"He got to play last year, got to play a lot, so it was a little bit more consistent than his freshman year when he played a little bit," Brownell said.

From the field, Harrison shot 36 percent. There needs to be some improvement there.

"That's the biggest thing," Brownell said. "If he can improve his shooting, he's got a chance to be a pretty good player."

The tweaking of Harrison's jump shot is an ongoing project.

"He fought me on that all last year, to be honest with you," Brownell said.

But Brownell admitted that it can be hard to work on those kinds of things during the season. So far this summer, Harrison has shown signs of improvement.

"We've tried to really work with him on it this summer. He's been better. His attitude for change has been better. I'm optimistic that the results will be better next year," Brownell said.

Improving in other departments

Last weekend, McDaniels was one of several participants in the Kevin Durant Skills Academy.

"We have a relationship with Merl Code and Nike, who's involved with that stuff. [We] told him about K.J. for a couple of years, he's been following him and talking about it with him," Brownell said. "He decided to invite K.J. to camp this summer. It's a great experience for K.J. to go to these camps and get to be around other players."

McDaniels is Clemson's best returning player. As a sophomore, he averaged 10.9 points and 5.0 rebounds. McDaniels was second in the ACC with 2.0 blocks per game.

"K.J. is a tremendous athlete who is continually learning how to be a really good basketball player. He works at it. He's good. I'm really proud of how much he's improved," Brownell said. "I think he made great steps last year in his shooting, in becoming a consistent shooter. We're still working with him to become more consistent. He embraces that."

The thunder dunks and shots thrown into the third row are fun to watch. But Brownell will need more out of McDaniels this season.

The next step for McDaniels to learn how to create for others. That's key, because McDaniels will be at the top of each opponent's scouting report.

"He's got to find other people. He's got to be a willing passer, facilitator. He's got to learn how to do that consistently. He's got to work on his skills to get there," Brownell said. "We've worked there with him a lot."

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