Culture of commitment

CLEMSON - Shortly after last year's one-and-done trip to Greensboro, Brad Brownell and his staff set out to make some serious changes within the Clemson program.

In Brownell's third season, Clemson finished with a 13-18 record [5-13 ACC].

"A big theme of ours last spring was a culture of commitment, creating a culture of commitment and that was what I was expecting of the players," Brownell said. "If you weren't going to be a guy that was committed in everything we're trying to do -- not just basketball-wise, but how you handle yourself on campus, in the community -- you're going to have a hard time playing for me and being here.

"I do think that's one thing our players really bought into. That was one of the major things we talked about last spring and we've held that standard up pretty high."

So far, so good.

Clemson finished regular season No. 4 of the Brownell era at 19-11 [10-8 ACC]. They secured a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament and, at the very least, are in position to host first-round game in the NIT. Plus, the team's best player was named first-team All-ACC.

In the preseason poll, the Tigers were picked to finish 14th in the ACC standings. They finished sixth.

"We have an ego and want to prove people wrong as coaches," Brownell said. "It's not just me. It's our staff. Our staff wins the games. I've got a lot of help. I have good people that are doing great things with our players. We don't like to be picked 14th either."

They knew the expectations were going to be low. After all, the team that finished five games under .500 was losing two of its three best players. And a majority of those returning guys were largely unproven.

So Brownell and his staff went to work, intent on creating that new culture around Littlejohn Coliseum.

"We all got together, talked about it, what we can do better, how we can be better this year as a staff, how can we be better with our players, what can we do to be better and work really hard at it," Brownell said. "Guys did a good job. Certainly, it is gratifying when you work that hard."

With a few postseason wins and an announcement by a certain All-ACC player to return to Clemson, heading into year five of the Brownell era, hoops expectations around Tigertown could be as high as they've been since Oliver Purnell was patrolling the sidelines.

"Last spring, the sky was falling," Brownell said. "Our coaching staff wasn't very good. I do think that, sometimes, certainly as coaches, we get too much credit sometimes, and too much blame. I'm getting too much credit.

"We have better players than we get credit for having. Our players are the ones that win games. Their competitive spirit has been good this year. Because that, they found a way to outlast some teams."

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