Clemson feeling loose, together

KANSAS CITY - It was perhaps the best interview conducted in the Clemson locker room Wednesday, the only problem is, it isn't likely to be written anywhere, unless reserve forward David Potter has a blog or something.

While members of the media rushed to talk to guys like K.C. Rivers, Trevor Booker and Demontez Stitt, Potter grabbed an empty water bottle and quietly started to interview first-year walk-on Jonah Baize.

Even when Potter was noticed by his teammates and the media that he was mocking them, he still continued the interview, while laughing of course.

Potter's antics were a refreshing reprieve from the mood that was in the locker room just a week ago, when things appeared bleak and deem after a first-round loss in the ACC Tournament. But thanks to several team meetings and intense workouts over the last six days, the seventh-seeded Tigers of the South Region appear to be looser and focused for Thursday's first-round matchup against No. 10 seed Michigan.

"It has been a good experience," Clemson Forward Trevor Booker said. "We got the opportunity to do a lot of team bonding."

Last year, the Tigers' trip to NCAA Tournament seemed more like a business trip and not enough fun. The team appeared up tight at times which was evident when they blew an 18-point lead before eventually losing to Villanova in the first round.

Things seemed to be headed that way this year as Clemson (23-8) dropped four of its last five games, including last week's loss to Georgia Tech in the first round of the ACC Tournament. After the loss to the Yellow Jackets there was frustration all over the locker room and some might say players were on the verge of finger pointing a time or two.

But some how Purnell has the team, at least from the outside looking in, back together again.

There is more laughter and joking than there has been at any time since the Tigers' 29-point rout of Maryland on Feb. 17.

In the week leading up to the first-round game, Purnell has held several team meetings where he has made players stand up and speak their mind, while also having them take constructive criticism at the same time.

Practices have gone back to the basics of preaching strong and aggressive defensive play, something that has been lacking in recent weeks.

Then on Tuesday, when they arrived in Kansas City, Purnell kept the team together as they experienced touring the city together instead of separately. All ways of rebuilding their bond as a team.

Now the question is has it worked and will the results show up tomorrow night?

"I think we made progress as a team," Purnell said. "Again, I didn't feel like we were where we wanted to be going into the (ACC) tournament, and yet, at the same time, it was still a winnable game, but maybe the fact that we lost a game gave us some extra time to have some meetings, to talk about some things, to have, you know, four, five practices, to work on some things.

"We had to have a defensive focus, to really understand what's important for us first and foremost, but then the last couple of days to understand what's important for Michigan and try to take those things away.

"I think all those things have helped us. Time will tell when we roll the balls out there tomorrow, but it could be a blessing in disguise that we've had some more time, some more meetings, some more practices, and hopefully some more focus." Top Stories