Quick Hits with Coach Purnell

I sat down with new head basketball coach Oliver Purnell this week to talk a bit about the upcoming season and what he thinks is necessary to put Clemson basketball back on the ACC map. From recruiting to facilities, this is a must read for Clemson basketball fans!

The following questions were posed to Coach Purnell this week in an exclusive one-on-one interview. You can read the rest of our question and answer session in next month's edition of CUTigers The Magazine, the only slick magazine devoted to Clemson sports that is published 10-times a year.

What do you see as the biggest obstacle to success here at Clemson?
Purnell: I think that anytime you come into a situation like this, the image of our program both externally and internally needs to match reality. This is a program that I would consider a sleeping giant. This is a program that can be good, and that has been good. Cliff Ellis won here, Bill Foster won here, Rick Barnes won here. But the perception externally is that Clemson hasn't won. That's just not true. It's just that the stability hasn't been there for a long period of time.

What we want to do is create a program and sustain it over time. I think we need to change the players' perception of the program. This is the most beautiful campus in the ACC. There is a great social life here, and there's a lot of tradition. Everybody that goes to school here absolutely loves it. When I came in here, I didn't get the feeling that a lot of players felt that. So, I think that getting that external image and internal image to match reality is very important.

Obviously, it's not just one thing. We've got to upgrade our talent level in terms of recruiting. I think over this past season recruiting probably suffered because there was so much speculation that there was going to be a change. That kind of thing is always going to affect recruiting. In this league, at this level of recruiting, that kind of thing sort of puts you behind the 8-ball.

There's the idea out there that it's harder to recruit top-notch athletes on the basketball court to Clemson because it's removed from big city life? What are your thoughts on that?
Purnell: You know I don't think that's the case. I don't buy into that at all actually. I think that anytime you look at Clemson, I always think you compare it to a place like Oklahoma. Oklahoma was always football, football, football, and look at what Kelvin Sampson has done there now. They are known for a pretty good basketball program as well. You look at Iowa and what Tom Davis did there. You look at all of those programs and they are all Final Four teams at some point.

The perception is out there that you can't be successful like that in a rural setting, or a college town, but that's just not true. Anytime you have a campus of 15,000 where things are very progressive and you have all kinds of things going on- concerts, groups, battle of the bands, and all of the stuff that goes along with college life, it's not hard to recruit to that kind of atmosphere. We've already had some initial success in recruiting top 100 guys here.

Talent wise, does this team have what it takes to finish in the upper half of the conference this year?
Purnell: I have no idea. I've just seen them on tape with Ed Scott. It's different, and it's going to be different this year. Somebody will have to step up in terms of ball handling ability, and scoring. It's different because a point guard is arguably the most important position on the floor. Somebody else is going to have to be in that spot this year. How successful that adjustment is, is going to determine a lot in terms of how high we can finish in the conference. So honestly, I just don't know yet.

Is Shawan Robinson potentially the guy that you think that will replace Ed Scott at the point, is there a true freshman that could make an impact for you?
Purnell: Well, Shawan Robinson played some there last year; although how much could have he really played? Ed Scott was averaging something like 37 minutes a game. Shawan can play some 2 guard as well, so I'm looking at him playing both positions right now. He's a guy that we'll look at first because he's been around the horn in the ACC. From an observation standpoint, if nothing else, he's got experience. Hamilton is a true point guard that is going to also have an opportunity to make an impact on this program early.

Would you rather win the ACC tournament or get to the Final Four?
Purnell: That's tough. I'd have to say the Final Four simply because we'd have the opportunity to win a National Championship. Obviously, either accomplishment would be great to bring to Clemson.

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