Tigers to be Tested in Puerto Rico

CLEMSON – Clemson has played two basketball games against respectable competition without star forward James Mays. The Tigers won them both, but each was at home. Now, they have to travel to play more quality opponents without knowing if the senior will be able to play.

WHAT: San Juan Shootout
WHERE: San Juan, Puerto Rico
WHEN: 3 p.m. Thursday; 3 p.m. Friday; 5:30 p.m. Saturday
TV: None


No. 15 Clemson is part of the San Juan Shootout, a three-day tournament in Puerto Rico, where it will face an exhibition team and two decent opponents, including one which is undefeated.

The Tigers (8-0) will face Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, a Division II team, Thursday, before facing DePaul on Friday and Mississippi, which hasn't lost a game all year, on Saturday.

It will be the first games for Clemson since taking a prolonged break for exams on Dec. 5.

Head coach Oliver Purnell said he has set three goals for his Tigers – win every game, bond more as a team and enjoy the experience.

"We'd like to come back victorious and a better basketball team," Purnell said. "We hope we can do that."

One way Clemson will become better is if Mays is able to play for the first time since severely bruising his hip and spraining it against Gardner-Webb on Nov. 24.

"The healing process is going faster than we expected, so that's good," Mays said. "I'm still trying to jog and run and stuff. I'm definitely not 100 percent. I'm still doing treatment and rehab everyday before and after practice."

Mays said he was at around 60 percent and that lateral movement is his biggest obstacle.

"It depends on how I feel. Some of my best assets are running and jumping and if I can't do that, then I'm really not too much help. I'm just going to play it by ear. … I'm just playing it by ear. Once I feel comfortable running and jumping and playing to a top level, that's when I'll comeback."

There's no doubt that Purnell hopes the big guy can play a few minutes each game. He wants Mays to test himself physically.

"The optimum situation would to be able to use him some in that game and then have him ready for DePaul and Ole Miss," Purnell said. "That obviously is an optimistic way of looking at it. We've just got to take it day-by-day and see how he progresses and see what he can tolerate. … We'll try to progress him from game to game. But, again, that's if everything gets better every day."

There's also a school of thought that Mays could continue to sit the bench and wait until the game against Alabama on Jan. 1, or against top-ranked North Carolina on Jan. 6.

"That would be another way to approach it," Purnell said. "But I'd rather go in the other direction."

While Mays is still questionable, the Tigers do get back senior forward Sam Perry, who hasn't played since Nov. 15 at Mississippi State due to arthroscopic knee surgery.

Other than Mays still hurting, Purnell said he couldn't be happier with how his team has performed over the first part of the season.

"I think we're exactly where we need to be in terms of playing pretty good in stretches and winning all of our games, but beating some pretty capable opponents at home and on the road," Purnell said. "(The young players) have seen most everything they can see at this point of the year. So, I think we're right where we need to be."

No. 15 Clemson (8-0)
G 2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, 170) 8.3 ppg, 3.3 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 200) 12.1 ppg, 4.0 apg
C 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 240) 8.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg
F 1 K.C. Rivers (6-5, 215) 15.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg
F 12 Raymond Sykes (6-9, 220) 3.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg

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