Tigers set to take the floor

CLEMSON - Clemson basketball coach Oliver Purnell hasn't forgotten the challenge that Presbyterian has presented in recent meetings

WHAT: Presbyterian at No. 24 Clemson
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum (10,000) - Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Friday, November 13 (8 PM)
TV: None

Though the Tigers won 79-58 last season, he said the Blue Hose were able to keep it close through one half because of their ability to handle the press.

"It's been a ball game (in recent years), certainly at halftime. We had to play in the second half to win," he said. "We have to go into the game, from a coaching standpoint, expecting that could happen."

"They've been a headache to play against and they're very well coached."

There are several interesting story lines around Presbyterian's basketball program this season.

What's been the norm since the Blue Hose joined the Division I has been a brutal road schedule. Coach Gregg Nibert's team opens in Littlejohn Coliseum on Friday night before travelling to Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio State and Florida before entering conference play in the Big South.

Because of the transition to D-I basketball, the Blue Hose have one more season before they'll be eligible for post-season play. Nibert is red-shirting Presbyterian's three juniors, who'll be eligible for next year's push for a conference title and birth in the NCAA Tournament.

Trevor Boooker returns as a preseason All-American in many publications as well as first-team All-ACC peformer. (Getty Images)

The trio includes: point guard Pierre Miller, guard Josh Johnson and center Al'Lonzo Coleman. They scored 54.9 percent of Presbyterian's points last year.

Starting forwards Walt Allen and Jake Troyli red-shirted last season with an eye on the 2010-11 season.

There are plenty of new faces on the Blue Hose. According to a Central Florida survey, Presbyterian and St. Louis each have the fewest playing upperclassmen in the nation with one.

The five Presbyterian true freshmen are expected to play significantly this season. Point guard Travis Smith, shooting guard Khalid Mutakabbir, shooting guard Zach Faircloth and forward/center Jay Reynolds are likely to get their first taste of college basketball Friday night.

Sophomore Chase Holmes averaged 7.8 points/game last season and is the top returning scorer for the Blue Hose.

"We don't know a lot about them," Purnell said. "They've had one exhibition game. They've got a lot of new players playing."

Purnell said it's all about the approach Clemson takes on the defensive end and "playing as one" offensively. That'll be the case all season, not just Friday night.

"Athletically, we feel we can be a better defensive team (this season). As a coaching staff, we have emphasized that," Purnell said.

In a system that puts more of an emphasis on minutes played and production, not who starts, Purnell looks for 10-11 players to rotate in and out of his up-tempo style.

"The other night, Noel Johnson didn't start the game, but played as many minutes as anybody and certainly was productive offensively," he said. "He was much better defensively than he's been."

What Purnell refers to as a "high-octane" defensive mindset, he hopes the same is the case this season on the offensive end.

"That's been a big emphasis of ours with an eye on getting more high percentage shots--easy shots, layups, ball ahead jump shots that are uncontested," he said.

The loss of K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby means there are plenty of points gone too. Tanner Smith believes all four Clemson freshmen will be needed.

"They're all going to be very important," he said. "I think they'll surprise a lot of people."

Smith could do his share of surprising opponents with his overall improvement. He said the Tigers will be a "very good" shooting team this season.

"It's not one or two guys that are great shooters. I think we have a lot of very good shooters--guys that you can't just leave because they can make open jump shots," Smith said. "We have to establish (Trevor) Booker, otherwise the shots we have are going to be a little more contested."

He's excited about seeing several different combinations of players taking the court this season.

"We have so many combinations that can work," Smith said.

Purnell hasn't discounted the possibility of all four freshmen playing at the same time. For now, it's hard for the pressure on defense and execution on offense to flow in the way that he prefers with four freshmen on the court at the same time.

"Experience is a very valuable thing. If you've got it, you want to utilize it," Purnell said. "That's not to say at times we won't have three or four freshmen on the floor at one time."

No. 24 Clemson
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 8.7 PPG, 3.8 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 3.6 PPG, 1.8 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 4.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,215) - 4.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 15.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG

G #2 Kevin Davis (6-2, 180) - (.9 PPG, .4 APG)
G #24 Khalid Mutakabbir (6-4, 190) - HS(20 PPG, 8RPG)
F #30 Jake Troyli (6-9, 185) - HS(15 PPG, 9RPG)
F #54 Walt Allen (6-4, 220) - 07-08(3.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG)
F #31 Chase Holmes (6-4, 205) - (7.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG)

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