Steps in the right direction

CLEMSON - Brad Brownell hinted last Friday afternoon that freshman Austin Ajukwa was primed for an uptick in playing time.

Before Saturday's loss against Virginia, a majority of the minutes Ajukwa had logged this season were in garbage time. Only walk-on Carson Fields has played less than Ajukwa, who averages 5.1 minutes in the 14 games he's played in this season.

"In all honesty, I probably should have played him a little bit more in some of our games earlier in the season," Brownell said. "But he clearly wasn't ready. And he clearly was behind most of the guys that we have."

Going back to last summer, Brownell has been open in sharing the notion that Ajukwa was considered for a redshirt this season, which is awfully rare in basketball.

"Early in the season, he just struggled," Brownell said. "Some of it is just strength. Some of it is just the speed in the system and everything we're trying to do. We also have a lot of guys, we have a lot of perimeter players, so there were a lot of guys to try to work [his] way up, but we've had some inconsistent play from some of our perimeter players.

"Austin, over the course of the last three weeks, we started to see in practice where he felt more comfortable, where he's seeing things earlier, where he's finally got some confidence and he's playing aggressively. He's a guy we feel good about moving forward."

Ajukwa came off the bench to make a couple of 3s in 13 minutes against the Cavs.

"I was just ready when my name got called, to step in and do my job," Ajukwa said.

In his estimation, that's what led to his increased playing time.

"Hard work, working hard in practice and being ready everyday to get my opportunity," Ajukwa said.

K.J. McDaniels has taken notice.

"Juke, he asks me a lot of questions. I learn from him. Because in practice, believe it or not, he gives me buckets," McDaniels said. "For him to go out there and hit those buckets for us, it was a big jump for us. We need that from him."

Ajukwa thinks he's capable of providing that down the stretch.

"I'll be really confident in stepping, just doing my role. That's my role, hitting shots, hitting shots, being ready to play on defense," Ajukwa said. Top Stories