Brownell looks ahead

CLEMSON - Head coach Brad Brownell talks with CUTigers about the 2014-15 season.

Now that it has been a few days since the end of the season, what were some of your key takeaways on how things went for you this year?
Brownell: It's not a lot different than some of the past struggles. Still our inability to score consistently is keeping us from taking that next step. Last year's team with K.J. [McDaniels] we had a great player who could bail us out and make a great play or an athletic play or he got to the free throw line. He was the difference between this year's team and last year's team. I was hoping we could shoot the ball better. I hoped that some guys on our team would shoot the ball better in key situations. We worked on shooting a bunch in the spring and the summer, but it didn't materialize during the games. That's disappointing. We are looking at that very closely right now. I'm still optimistic with what we are doing. But we will have the opportunity to have a good season next year. We are in a good league and we were right there against most everybody we played. We just didn't finish the season the way we needed to. But obviously we didn't have the special year where we made a run in the NCAA Tournament.

The lack of shooting and/or scoring... how do you address that as a coach entering the offseason?
Brownell: Well it's not easy to be honest with you. It's not easy to improve a bunch of a shooters at this age. They've been shooting with some fundamental habits for a long time. You can try and tweak some things. Some of that is just confidence. A guy like Jordan Roper can go 5-for-6 against Virginia Tech and then the next game he struggles. He's the same player in both of those games. We've got to try and find a way to rectify those issues. There are some things there with confidence. We've got to get consistently better. Some of it is recruiting. Some of it is mindset that our guys have to be better. But that is something that we remain optimistic about that we can improve and that we will be scoring better next year.

You have one available scholarship available entering the offseason. Will you be looking to add a transfer to your program potentially? How will that work?
Brownell: Well it's kind of a hard situation really because we have a lot of players returning, but you are always looking to improve your program. Would we look at a fifth year guy who could transfer in and help us right away? You can't go out and recruit those guys so you kind of have to sit and wait for it to happen. Or a regular transfer? That's a situation we would look at too. We are still messing around with a couple of high school kids. Is there someone out there (in high school) that could come and make an immediate contribution? We have older guys coming back and a high school player shouldn't be able to come in here and beat out one of our guys. They shouldn't allow that to happen. But we are talking about all of that right now. But it's hard to recruit transfers. You have to wait and see if a guy fits your program and if he can help you out then you throw your hat into the ring.

Would you consider running more next season to help out with the scoring?
Brownell: You know what? I think that's a complete misconception by the fans and the media alike. If you go back and watch our film and we get a defensive stop, especially early in games, we took a lot of shots after one or two passes. I think you'd be shocked. You'd be shocked at guys who shot after one pass. One pitch-ahead pass when a guy shoots after driving it. I want to score early in the possession - especially on misses. Our team generally stops teams six out of 10 times so that's six out of 10 times so we were looking to push. One thing that slowed our tempo in recent years was just our point guard Rod Hall. He's not fast player because he wasn't a speed guard. I do think he pushes to pass. But his inability with speed and to get downhill quickly and because he plays a lot of minutes we weren't as fast. With a new guard pushing tempo we would be quicker. I think we will play a little bit faster. We won't be North Carolina. We have to be careful getting into super possession games. But if you go back and watch the film, I think you'd be surprised at how much we try to get out and force tempo - especially after misses.

Avry Holmes transferred in to your program a year ago from San Francisco and then sat this past season. He figures to take over for Rod Hall next year. What does he bring to the table for you and can he help your lack of scoring?
Brownell: He's a competitive guy. He's not as big as Rod Hall physically, but he's not small like Jordan Roper. He's got good ability. He can make shots. He's probably a little more dynamic off of ball screens than Rod right now. I don't know how good his decision making will be under fire. So we'll have to wait and see. We think he will be our starting point guard and play a bunch of minutes. The better his decision-making ability will be under pressure will help determine a lot of our success. If teams go underneath a ball screen, he's going to shoot from behind it. He's a guy who is aggressive in terms of his ability to try and make a play much like Rod in terms of attacking the paint. He's probably not going to get into the rim and fight through things as well as Rod, but equally as good in finding other guys off of screening action. He's a competitive guy much like Rod. A tough guy who likes to battle.

You were close to the NCAA Tournament last year. This year not as close but in the conversation for a while without K.J. McDaniels. Is it fair for fans to expect it next season, especially given the fact you won't be playing home games at Littlejohn?
Brownell: Well the first thing I would say Roy is it doesn't matter what I think when it comes to fans expectations. They are going to think what they want to think and that's what they should think. I think we can have a good team. I really do. Certainly it's an expectation of us to get to the NCAA Tournament. Is it going to be tough? With the challenges of not playing in our home arena and probably having the student support there as easily because we aren't on campus? Sure. But can we do it? Absolutely we can do it. We can have a good team next year. I expect to have a good team next year. And certainly we are going to start working on that on Monday.

As you enter the offseason - what's a priority with some of your cornerstone players like Donte Grantham, Jaron Blossomgame and even Landry Nnoko?
Brownell: You know I think one thing we've got to mindful of - a little bit - is that I started a freshman and a sophomore for 30 games. And they might have been two of my best players- Donte and Jaron. Two guys you mentioned. Had we had K.J. they wouldn't have had to have been that. That would have helped us. I know there's a lot of people that are disappointed in us - upset and not happy. You can count me on that list as well. But we all have to be mindful a little bit and sometimes I have to reminded of this by our staff. Donte Grantham was a freshman this year and he had a pretty good year. He didn't maybe get to where we wanted him to get, hoped he get, but as a true freshman to play in the number of games he played - he did a lot of good things and we are excited about his future. Jaron Blossomgame made tremendous strides. It's the first time we've had him for an offseason in his three years at Clemson. He's healthy. He had a great year. 13 points and 7 or 8 rebounds. He was a good player in this league. It's not going to be easy to make another big jump. That's really really tough. But those guys were kind of my cornerstones with Landry Nnoko and Rod Hall.

Landry probably is a guy didn't make as much of jump as we hoped but we are optimistic that will change. He's still a young guy that hasn't played a lot of basketball in his life. We thought there would be a few challenges. We tried to run things through him earlier in the year and it didn't work out as well as we would have liked. That probably cost us a little bit early. But I'm optimistic he's going to take that next step as a senior and provide that kind of inside scoring an defense we need to be really really successful. I feel good about that and what we are doing with some of our young guys - freshmen and sophomores.

You know this will be the first time in my six years at Clemson I will have our leading scorer back the next season which is almost unheard of.

Some fans realize it of course, others may not, but losing K.J. early is something that you can learn from as a coach in how you deal with things like that in the future. But that was a big deal going into this season.
Brownell: Well you certainly try to. I don't want to use K.J. leaving as an excuse but I'm also realistically to know what he meant. If that guy doesn't leave now we are an NCAA tournament team and now the outlook is much different. Maybe it's not that bad, but I think there are some people that are really down on us because they feel like we should have made the NCAA Tournament by now and I'm one who feels the same way. But at the other end of the spectrum I think you have to be realistic and mindful of what happened. It happened in a way that was difficult for our program. We weren't at a point where we could withstand that and make the NCAA Tournament. But I don't think that doesn't all of a sudden means that our future isn't good and that basketball isn't in a good position or any of those things. Our future is fine. We are going to continue to recruit better. We have some good young players on our team. We are going to continue to coach guys hard. We are in a very demanding league and we've got some good players and I'm optimistic about what's going on here.

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