NIT Notebook: Potter's Confidence Growing

NEW YORK – Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell is counting on David Potter to provide some valuable playing time and make major contributions in Thursday night's NIT title game.

However, it didn't always used to be that way.

It's no secret that Potter, a freshman, has struggled for roughly 90 percent of the season trying to find his shot. Most of the time, his stroke looked good as did the rotation of the ball, but the shots were hitting everything but the bottom of the basket.

Things were so bad for Potter entering the NIT semifinal game against Air Force Tuesday night that he had made just 6-of-40 shots from 3-point range.

"Those numbers don't mean anything to a freshman who's not playing a lot," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "The only thing that matters to him is if he's playing well in practice and does the coaching staff have faith in him. "Then, as you start to struggle, you start to think, ‘Does Coach want me to take that shot?' And then it kind of compounds itself. Then you have to get to the point where that doesn't matter."

However, those numbers did matter some to Purnell. He admitted he didn't have much confidence in Potter for a while.

"I think there were times when he was hesitant and I was hesitant to use him," Purnell said. "But the way you earn playing time is you come to practice and you show me that you're working hard everyday and I'm going to give you another opportunity."

Potter has taken full advantage of that second chance. He has been contributing in a very positive way. He hit the big shot against Syracuse in the closing seconds that propelled the Tigers to New York. He then hit the crucial 3-point shot in the closing minutes against Air Force.

And for the first time this season, he was requested by the media for pre-game interviews. Make no mistake, he's definitely become a key component for the Clemson basketball team in recent games.

FINISHING STRONG: For the second straight game, Clemson watched a big lead evaporate in the final minutes of the game. However, also for the second straight game, the Tigers managed to hang on and pull through.

And that is vastly different from what happened after the 17-0 start when they couldn't win a game down the stretch to save their lives.

So, why the sudden difference?

"Officiating," Purnell said laughing. "I'm just kidding. Let's face it, sometimes balls aren't going to bounce your way. … Sooner or later, that's going to happen. Then you couple that with a couple of other unfortunate things that happened to us that I won't talk about, then you get into a situation where you lose several in a row."

QUICK HITS: Clemson uses several plays that involve a screen called the "Richmond screen," which earned its name from the type of screens West Virginia coach John Beilein installed while at Richmond. Purnell faced these screens on several occasions while coaching at Dayton. Both Richmond and Dayton are in the Atlantic 10. …

Cliff Hammonds and James Mays said they each had long talks with Sam Perry about remaining positive after he was removed from the starting lineup earlier in the season. The upset Perry saw his playing time dwindle to almost nothing by the time the regular season was over.

However, he's gaining more minutes lately and his playing defense like he did last year. …

Clemson is trying to win its first postseason title since 1939, when it captured the Southern Conference championship. … A win Thursday night would give Clemson a school record 26 victories on the season. … The Tigers have beaten 13 teams this season that have at least 20 wins. … Clemson is now 18-0 in non-conference games. The Tigers are attempting to be the only school in the nation without a non-conference loss. Top Stories