Clemson will be looking to extend its streak of season opening victories to 20 consecutive years when the Tigers take the court against the Pirates. Clemson has not lost a season opener since the first game of the 1984-85 season when Cliff Ellis, Clemson's winningest coach in history, lost to Tennessee Tech in his first game as Clemson coach. Clemson won the season opener last year, Purnell's first game, with an 86-55 victory over Gardner-Webb.
Purnell has not made a final decision on his starting lineup, but it
could feature a three-guard set, including first-year freshman Cliff Hammonds. It would mark the second consecutive year that his
opening day lineup included a first-year freshman. Vernon Hamilton
started the season opener at point guard as a first-year freshman
"We could go with a three-guard attack," said Purnell at hisTuesday
preseason press conference. "We see that in college basketball today
all the time. I hope we have more versatility this year. We could
go small and we could go big."
The Tigers look to be more athletic this year with the addition of
four freshmen. Hammonds, a 6-3 guard from Cairo, GA, is one of the
newcomers. Freshmen Cheyenne Moore, James Mays and Sam Perry also
figure to be among Clemson's top nine players this year.
Shawan Robinson and Vernon Hamilton figure to be the other starting
guards if Clemson goes with the three-guard attack on Friday evening.
Robinson was second on the Clemson team in scoring last year with a
10.8 average, but he averaged 18 per game in Clemson's four wins over
NCAA Tournament teams last year. He is seventh in Clemson history in
three-point goal percentage with a .408 mark. Hamilton led the
Tigers in assists and steals and averaged 7.3 points per game a year
Clemson also looks to start the twin towers combination of 6-9
Sharrod Ford and 6-9 Akin Akingbala up front. Ford led the Tigers
in scoring and rebounding last year, the first Clemson player to lead
the Tigers in both categories in the same year since 1994-95 when
Greg Buckner did it. Ford averaged 11.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per
game and also contributed 64 blocks, second in the ACC and 21st in
the nation. Akingbala started four games at the end of last season
and averaged 4.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in just 17.5
minutes per contest.
Olu Babalola, a starter in 54 of the last 56 Clemson games, may come
off the bench at a frontcourt or wing position. He has played
exactly 709 minutes each of the last two seasons and figures to play
his usual 25 minutes a game this year even if he comes off the bench.
Babalola averaged 9.0 points a game last year and was the team's top
free throw shooter at 75 percent.
Hampton had a 13-17 record overall, but a strong 11-7 in conference
mark last year under Bobby Collins, a 1991 Eastern Kentucky graduate,
who is in his third year as the head coach of the Pirates. His
team upset LaSalle in the season opener last year.
Hampton defeated Francis Marion in its exhibition game earlier this
month by an 80-66 score. Devin Green, a preseason all-conference
performer who averaged 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds a game last year,
was the top scorer in the exhibition game with 28 points. Jeff Granger, a 6-3 guard, also averaged 15 points a game last year for
Brandon Streeter, who is no relation to the former Clemson football
quarterback by the same name, is a 6-7 sophomore forward who will be
playing in his first college game for Hampton. He had a
double-double in their exhibition win over Francis Marion when he had
12 points and 11 rebounds.
Hampton is also expected to start Jared Woodley, a 6-1 senior guard
who averaged 4.7 points a game last year, and Bruce Brown, a 6-11
center, who scored 7.9 points and outing last year.
This will be Clemson's first meeting with Hampton, but the 18th time
Clemson has faced a school from the MEAC. The Tigers are 16-1
against MEAC schools all time with the only loss coming to South Carolina State during the 1999-00 season.
Tiger Basketball Starts Friday
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