It would be an understatement to suggest it's been a busy offseason for Clemson basketball.
Outside of getting ready to play in Greenville next season, the Tigers have been busy on the recruiting trail as well, adding two transfers who figure to impact the program in a major way in the coming season. Additionally, there will be rule changes next season that will impact the game as well.
Earlier this week, we spoke with Clemson's head coach to get his thoughts on all of these topics and much more. Here's an edited transcript of that conversation:
Let's start first with Shelton Mitchell. You get him from Vanderbilt and he looks to be a pass-first guard that could be an impact player in 2016. What does he bring to the table for you in the coming years?
Brownell: I really like Sheldon's passing ability. He's a point guard who makes other players better. He had over 100 assists at Vanderbilt this past year. He's got a real feel for the game. We've watched through the year growing up what he did and we recruited him some him high school. We were fortunate to get him on the bounce back. He wanted to play in the ACC and he's a real high basketball IQ guy and a guy that we think will help us out making other guys better.
Marcquise Reed comes to you from Robert Morris. He was the NEC rookie of the year. He looks like a big-time scorer and you saw him up close and personal last season when he averaged 20 points against three ACC schools. What do you like about his game?
Brownell: You know he's just a guy that gets the ball in the basket. He's more of shot-maker than a shooter. He can make three's but he's a little unconventional in the sense he can drive the ball in the paint and shoot some one-legged runners. He's got a real scorer's mentality. He's built and wired to score and that's something we've needed. We feel like he's a really good player to add with Sheldon.
The idea of transfers becoming an epidemic in college basketball- this appears to be happening in the last couple of offseasons. As a staff, is this something you have to now prepare for every recruiting cycle knowing experienced players could be available for you given how many players are now leaving the schools they originally sign with?
Brownell: In the last couple of years, the transfer situation has become more prevalent. Probably in the last four to five years. It's something as a coach you've got to keep your eye on it. Certainly, when you can, you've almost got to keep a scholarship open. It would behoove you to do that. You have to keep one available just in case a kid you recruited initially that you didn't get and you can get him on a bounce-back. Or there's a guy is out there that's a special talent and some people won't have scholarships so that makes the pool of teams you have to go against a little smaller. That can give you a chance to get a quality player. Then there will be times when it happens to you as a coach. It's just the way college basketball is now and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. When I was a younger coach I felt really bad when a kid would transfer. I didn't have as many kids transfers at Wilmington when we got started. But the longer I've been in it - and the way society is now - and the way we require kids to work in the summer. We are working our guys out right now at the end of May on the court and in the weight room. If kids are putting in that kind of time and we can work them out now all summer and they are only playing 10-12 minutes a game and they want to try to get more playing time elsewhere and they aren't promised more than that, you know, we've had that happen to some guys here. It's just the way college basketball is now.
Are you done this cycle with potential transfers?
Brownell: We are full right now. We are pretty much done. I don't see anybody coming in here right now and saying they want to leave or anything like that. You never know. You never know with young people. But right now we'll probably sit tight.
The shot clock in college basketball is moving from 35 seconds to 30 seconds next season. Were you in favor of that change?
Brownell: I was fine with moving it to 30 seconds. I don't have a problem with that. I was not in favor of moving it to 24 right now. I'm not sure what all the data shows, but my guess it's three to five more possessions per game. That's what I would expect. Maybe six at the most - I don't think there are that many possessions that end in shot clock violations. There are some other things we might have to look at. If pace of the game is what everybody wants you could look at some of the things the NBA does with kick ball violations and how the shot clock is reset to 30. Maybe you only reset it to 20 if you've already advanced it past halfcourt. There are some things like that you can do. I don't think scoring is going to go way up because you remove five seconds away from the shot clock. One of the things people don't realize is that defenses are so much better than it used to be. It's harder to score.
Some of the other changes out there - the restricted arc being moved from 3 feet out to 4 feet out - and also a reduced number of timeouts available as well. Do those moves make sense from your perspective?
Brownell: Well, moving the NBA arc is just to try eliminate the guys that are trying to take charges and from getting underneath guys driving. It's a safety thing really. You have to have some sort of rim protection. We need some way to protect the basket. It's a good rule. I'm OK with the timeouts as well. If they really want excitement, they could allow you to advance the ball to half court at the end of a game after a timeout, like they do in the NBA. I'm not opposed to losing one more time out to speed things along. We've got enough of those already with the media timeouts built in.
If you were the czar of college basketball - what would you do to make it better?
Brownell: I think the physicality is part of what's hard. If you really want officials to blow the whistle as much as you need to clean things up, the games are going to last two hours and 25 minutes. That's not good for the TV window. There's going to be more fouling. You'd almost need to go the NBA system of quarters so that the bonus would reset. You'd have to keep the game moving. But I do think there has to be something with officiating has to be more consistent. We are going to have to call a few more things. That would help scoring as much as anything. I think a lot of it has to do with the quality of defense. There's a lot better defensive coaching that has helped get teams away from easy baskets. The amount of computer stuff we have with synergy and stats that we have on people keeps getting better and better.
You mentioned you are able to work your guys out right now - what is the focus this offseason to try to improve this team?
Brownell: Well it's individual skill development on offense is what we are working on - that's ball handling, that's shooting, that's passing and decision making. We get those two hours (on the court) but it's not enough. We encourage our guys to continue to get in the gym and shoot more. And some guys are doing that. It's no secret that we've got to become a better outside shooting team. We have to become a more consistent offensive team to take that next step and make the NCAA Tournament. We've been able to compete. We've been 10-8 (in the ACC) and 8-10 and we've been right there and been in the middle of the league. We've just got to make more shots.
When you go back and scout what happened last year - you were close in a couple of big games that could have changed the complexion of the season. Do you view it that way? Do feel like you were really close to making the NCAA Tournament... perhaps a shot or two away?
Brownell: Well I don't think it was as close as that. The year before was really close. I think we were a shot or two away (the previous season). We were a call or two away in that Duke game from being a tournament team. last year's team - we lost momentum when we lost the Notre Dame game. It took a lot of wind out our sails. Especially with Rod [Hall] and Damarcus [Harrison] our two seniors. Damarcus went that one year to the tournament at BYU and Rod had never been so that was really hard on them. We thought we had a chance. We played our way to where we had a chance after some tough losses early in the season. Then we won four in a row in the league. We put ourselves into position. We couldn't score enough when it really mattered - the N.C. State game at home and the Notre Dame game. Those were two games we needed to win. I was proud of what our guys did last year. We competed well. We fought. We just kind of ran out of gas and it really broke our spirit when we had that four-point lead with four minutes to go against Notre Dame. That was the signature win you kind of needed for the tournament. Going back and watching it on film you can see it better now.
Brownell on transfers, rule changes
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