Tigers want elusive championship

CLEMSON - For the last four years, Clemson's K.C. Rivers has taken great pride in the fact he helped build the men's basketball program into a consistent winner in the always tough ACC.

Rivers, who entered Clemson in the third season of the Oliver Purnell building process, has had nothing but success at Clemson. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior has scored 1,160 points in his four-year career, good enough for sixth place on the school's all-time scoring list.

Next week's NCAA Tournament will mark his fourth consecutive postseason trip as a Tiger, including two in the NCAA Tournament.

He has helped his team win a school-record 91 games and is a part of the first teams since the mid-1960s to post back-to-back winning seasons in the ACC, as well as being a part of three consecutive 20 win seasons - also a first for the program.

Last year's run to the ACC Tournament Championship game was the Tigers' first since the 1961-62 season. But as good as all of that sounds, Rivers isn't satisfied. He wants to be a part of something more special at Clemson than anything he has helped accomplish up to this point.

He wants to be a champion.

"I want to leave with more than the satisfaction that I helped turn a program around," he said Tuesday afternoon. "I want to leave with some hardware.

"I like trophies. I collect trophies. I like medals. I have rings and I want more rings. I like jewelry so that has always been my main goal as well as helping build the program."

Rivers will try to reach that goal later this week as the No. 17 Tigers try for another run at the ACC Championship as the fifth seed when they take on No. 12 seed Georgia Tech Thursday in the first round at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

Last year, Clemson (23-7) fell to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament finals.

"We have to get that hard edge that we have not had for a while," the senior said. "We have to get that back and I'm almost certain that it will be there. We want to wear our welcome out in Atlanta so we are trying to do anything and everything possible to keep our run going."

Rivers is banking on last year's experience to help his team have the edge that is required to win in tournament basketball.

"We have experience and leadership," he said. "Those of us that were around it or were in it last year, know how to accomplish good things. There's going to be a lot of us, including myself, that will be able to share good experiences on what is to come in this tournament."

What's to come is first Georgia Tech's best and then the best of whoever follows in the bracket.

"It is a different level of play once the ACC Tournament starts because you see a different side of teams," Rivers said. "You see a more completive and more aggressive edge. No one wants to lose and no wants to go home so that is a side that you are going to see out of everybody."

And that's what makes the experience Rivers has, plus the other players who experienced last year's run to the championship game, so valuable to Purnell.

"We have a core group of guys that were there last year and one of the reasons we have had the success that we had this year was because of that core group," the Clemson coach said. "That was one of the most important experiences and positive experiences that we have had."

But there is no hardware to show for it, and that's what Rivers and the Tigers are shooting for this year.

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