Tigers Taking Nothing for Granted

CLEMSON – While Duke and North Carolina are the only two teams that have opted to stay home and refuse to take part of practice sessions open to fans Wednesday at Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, Clemson coach Oliver Purnell wants his team to experience all aspects that have to do with the ACC Tournament.

No, the No. 3-seeded Tigers are taking part of the fan sessions and will hit the court at 7 p.m., even though they have a first round bye just like Duke and North Carolina.

By practicing at the arena, Clemson will get a sense of how the backdrop to the rim is and what it's like to actually shoot there. It will also give the team a chance to soak up the atmosphere.

But practicing during the fan sessions isn't the only thing the Tigers will do in Charlotte as they will be anything but hermits.

"We're going to encourage them to take in the games (on Thursday)," Purnell said. "This is such madness and we want them to get caught up in that. This is something that they've wanted all their lives and I want them to enjoy it."

Now don't get the wrong impression. The team will practice Thursday at a local college and is all set to leave an indelible mark on this year's tournament.

"We just have to stay focused and be ready when it's time to go," senior guard Cliff Hammonds said. "Just because we have a bye right now, it's not a time to slack off."

One player happy about going to Charlotte two days before the team's game late Friday is Queen City native K.C. Rivers.

"I'm pretty excited about being back in my hometown," he said. "All my family and a lot of friends are going to be there. I'm excited about going home, but at the same time, this is a business trip and we're going there to win."

To listen to the players speak Tuesday afternoon, there was a real sense that this team knows exactly what it wants to accomplish. It's not like it has been the previous two seasons where the Tigers needed to make a run in the tournament just in hopes of being considered for the NCAA Tournament.

This time, Clemson is already assured of its first NCAA Tournament in 10 years, so it can just focus on the task at hand and not have to look at the big picture.

That means there's little pressure other than winning that first game, which the Tigers will be favored, against the victor of Thursday's Maryland-Boston College game.

"We've worked hard to get this bye," Rivers said. "Our short term goal is to win Friday and our intermediate goal is to win the ACC Championship."

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