Tigers Host Nike Elite Friday

The Clemson men's basketball team will open exhibition play Friday night when the Tigers play host to Nike Elite at 7:00 PM at Littlejohn Coliseum. This will be Clemson's first exhibition game under first-year head coach Oliver Purnell.

The 2003-04 Tigers return four starters and will be led by senior Chris Hobbs and junior Chey Christie. Hobbs, a 6-7 forward, averaged 6.3 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game a year ago, while Christie, a 6-4 guard, is the Tigers' leading returning scorer with an 11.5 points per game average. The Tigers also return forwards and fellow juniors Olu Babalola and Sharrod Ford. Babalola averaged 7.6 points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game, while Ford added 7.5 points per game and a team-best 6.8 rebounds per game in 2002-03. Senior Beau Shay along with sophomores Akin Akingbala, Julian Betko and Shawan Robinson round out the returners' roster. Center Steve Allen, who sat out the 2003 campaign, will return for his sophomore season.

Clemson welcomes freshmen Vernon Hamilton, Jimmy Hudson as well as junior transfer Lamar Rice. As a senior, Hamilton averaged 24.1 points per game with a 5.7 rebounds per game average, while Hudson posted 14.8 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. Rice, a honorable mention JUCO All-American, averaged 16.0 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game in his final season at Mott Community College.

Nike Elite's roster includes eight former collegiate players, including Brandon Watkins, a member of the 2003 Penn State team that Clemson defeated 79-70 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge a year ago. Nike Elite will face Georgia Tech on Nov. 6, after defeating Miami (FL) by a score of 88-86, then falling to Kentucky, 89-107. Watkins is the team's leading scorer with a 20.5 points-per-game average, while Elvin Mimms (Southern Mississippi) has added 17.5 points per game. Ryan Fletcher (Cincinnati) is averaging 15.0 points per game, and Stan Blackmon (Arkansas-Little Rock) is Nike Elite's leading rebounder with a 5.5 rebounds-per-game figure.

The Tigers will have one more preseason exhibition game on Monday, Nov. 17 when they play host to the E.A. Sports All-Stars at 7:00 PM. Clemson will open the 2003-04 season Friday, Nov. 21 as the Tigers play host to Gardner-Webb in a 6:00 PM tip.

There will be a $10 charge at the door for the general public for the game Friday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

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