Coming into the 2004-05 season, Clemson basketball was in need of some help.
After a 10-18 season under first year head coach Oliver Purnell, there was little doubt that some new faces would have to emerge if the Tigers were going to improve on last year's record.
Most of that help was expected to come in the form of five true freshmen- all of which were expected to play this season.
Cliff Hammonds, Sam Perry, Cheyenne Moore, James Mays, and Troy Mathis, all came to Clemson with the thought of playing early and helping Purnell put Clemson basketball back on the map.
16 games into the season, four of those players are already starting to prove their worth.
Hammonds is currently leading all rookies in the ACC in scoring at 10.1 points per game, Perry has proven to be an aggressive defender, Mays has shown that he can rebound and score in the post, and Moore hit the game-winning three pointer to lift the Tigers to a 63-62 overtime road win over South Carolina.
All but Troy Mathis have begun to leave their mark on Clemson basketball.
Mathis, perhaps the one player that was expected to make the biggest impact at Clemson this year, was suspended from school last semester after an on-campus fight erupted between members of the basketball team and a large group of students in early September.
President James Barker originally suspended him for a year for his role in the altercation, but that was later reduced to one semester after an appeal.
But as a result of that suspension, Mathis, a native of Raleigh, NC, will miss the entire 2004-05 season, even though he is now back practicing with the team.
After learning that he would not be able to play basketball or attend classes last fall, Mathis went back home, trying to put everything that happened behind him.
"Basically I just spent a lot of time at home, working out every day and getting my shots up and working in the gym. That was one of the main things I did to help get everything out of my mind," said Mathis, who started classes at Clemson again on Jan. 12.
"Now that I'm back, I'm definitely starting over. I've already learned a lot of stuff from the team, and that definitely helps. But my role right now is with the scout team, trying to make the everybody better."
Mathis was rated as the No. 24 point guard in the nation last year by Scout.com, and as a senior, he averaged 21 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals per game. In 2003, Mathis set a state record by officially scoring 73 points with nine assists and 11 steals.
In other words, he could have been a very big help to the team this season.
"Troy is a natural point guard that has been called upon to score in the last couple of years and he has proven he can do that," said Purnell after Mathis signed with the Tigers. "He has also shown a penchant for playing defense and that is a trait that will be important and enable him to contribute to our program."
For Mathis, watching the team get off to a fast start before heading into conference play was difficult. Especially when he knew that he could help the team out.
"There's not a game that goes by where I don't think about the fact that I should be out there," said Mathis. "Not one. Not one game. I feel like I should be out there helping my boys. I've seen every game that I could, and not one goes by where I feel like I couldn't help the team out in some way."
While his career at Clemson may not have gotten off to the best start, Mathis is anxious to show he has put the incidents from last fall, behind him.
"Some situations came, and they went, and now things will start to work out," said Mathis. "Basketball is temporary, relationships are a lifetime. My relationship with the coaching staff and the players will never change.
"All I have to do now is stay focused. That's what Coach Purnell says, 'just stay focused,' and that's exactly what I'm doing."
Mathis Focused After Return
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