While apathy is at an all-time high when it comes to Clemson basketball, what many fans are failing to realize is that Clemson isn't just a football school. Basketball can succeed here, and that statement can be proven by looking at all the success the program had during the Rick Barnes era.
Barnes took advantage of every single ounce of talent he had, and the result was nothing short of magnificent. He took three teams to the NCAA tournament, and created a frenzy among Clemson fans that has never been seen before in a basketball arena in the state of South Carolina. He preached defensive intensity and rebounding, and he also embraced the football program and brought in the fans.
Today its a much different story.
Gone are the days of students camping out on the lawn at Littlejohn for tickets, and gone is a packed-house, national television audience looking on as a top 10 Clemson team battled the heavyweights of the ACC.
Think back for a minute to the year 1997. If you remember the game against Tim Duncan and the Wake Forest Deacons, you'll remember a matchup featuring two top 5 teams battling it out for the ACC regular season championship. You'll remember 13,000 screaming fans making Littlejohn Coliseum one of the most intimidating arenas in the ACC. You'll also remember whispers of a number one ranking and a final four run.
Memories of that kind of setting for a Clemson basketball game have long since faded. Attedance has dropped and the losses have piled up, even though you could argue the overall talent level as risen over the course of the last three seasons. And speaking of talent level, that brings us to recruiting.
|Terrell McIntyre, Rick Barnes, and company ignited a fire into the Clemson basketball program in the mid 1990s.|
Clemson University has just as much, if not more to offer, than any other school in the ACC. Cliff Ellis, who routinely pulled talent of the junior college ranks, brought in players like Horace Grant, Sharone Wright, Elden Campbell, Dale Davis, and Chris Whitney. Rick Barnes brought Greg Buckner with him from Providence, but he also brought in solid players like Harold Jamison, Iker Iturbe, Tom Wideman, and Terrell McInyre. (All three players are currently playing some form of professional basketball by the way.)
In today's game, you don't have to sign a "fab 5" recruiting class to make it the Final Four. More often than not, the team that wins it all has only one or two big-time players, combined with a 6 or 7 players who know their role with the team.
And in the state of South Carolina, the talent level is as good as it is anywhere else in the nation. There just is no reason why Clemson cannot consistently put an NCAA-caliber team on the court every single year. Clemson has the most loyal and the most enthusiastic fans in the country, don't tell me that this basketball program can't become top-notch. The Tigers are backed with one of the top fund raising organizations in the country in IPTAY. You put a half way decent team on the court, and you can bet the basketball program will start generating interest and serious revenue once again.
And I've got news for you Coach Shyatt, next year's team won't be young anymore. They'll be battle tested, and anything less than 18 wins is completely unacceptable in my book. And while I fail to see any consistent improvement in any area of Clemson basketball over the last three seasons outside of recruiting, I'm willing to stick it out with you for one more season.
This team has talent, and it is your job to develop that talent into a winner. Teach this team to utilize the skills more of Chris Hobbs and Ray Henderson in the interior. Instill some discipline in Tony Stockman, and ecourage Edward Scott to shoot the ball more and improve his leadership.
And furthermore, this team shouldn't go to the NIT, it should go to the big dance. We've seen the improvement in recruiting, now its time to see improvement on the court. Clemson basketball can succeed, and I think I speak for all Tiger fans when I say that I'd like to see it happen sooner rather than later.