Brownell says depth a big key to early-season success

by - Correspondent -
Brownell says he has 11 or 12 guys he can rotate in and out of the lineup. (Photo: Scott Taetsch / USATODAY)
Brownell says he has 11 or 12 guys he can rotate in and out of the lineup. (Photo: Scott Taetsch / USATODAY)

The Clemson Tigers opened their 2020 season with a championship in the Space Coast Challenge tournament in Melbourne, Florida last week. The Tigers started off with a victory over SEC foe Mississippi State and then defeated Big Ten opponent Purdue in the championship game.

The two wins marked the first time the Tigers have beaten two Power Five opponents to begin a season since the 1950s.

“I think we’ve played like we’ve practiced, which is what you want to see,” head coach Brad Brownell said. “We were certainly nervous in the first game and I kind of knew we were going to be. I told our guys that is going to be one of the big challenges of the first game. In terms of things that went well, I think our defense went well. We did okay on the glass. Not great in certain situations, good in certain situations. We battled."

This Clemson team returned notable starters in Aamir Simms, John Newman III, and Clyde Trapp, but they also brought in some new faces to contribute. Coach Brownell said the goal of the tournament was to play 10-12 players to build some depth for later in the season.

“We went down there with the idea that we were going to play 10 or 11 or 12 in games and I am glad we were able to do that,” Brownell said. “I think the way we did it worked. Some of it was a little foul trouble based in the first game with Mississippi State. PJ (Hall) and Lynn (Kidd) and some of the other guys got to play more time. Just trying to find ways for everybody to get a little bit of time early in the season, I think has been important.”

Coach Brownell will rely on the senior leadership of Simms throughout the season to help get the Tigers where they want to be. His attitude in the first two games of the year showed what a great leader he can be and will be integral in the team’s success.

“You know, he’s been great in that. And not just that. I think as much as anything, and I said this to our team, that Aamir has probably practiced as hard as anyone in our program,” Brownell said. “For your best player to be giving that kind of effort every single day and not taking plays off… he is mentoring PJ and Lynn. He is trying to be a good example for everybody on our team with how you are supposed to approach things.”

One of the exciting additions to the team is the freshman forward Hall out of Spartanburg. Hall played well in his first career game against Mississippi State, where he scored 10 points on five of six shooting. The freshman shot the ball efficiently and got some key rebounds for the Tigers. Along with that, Hall has gone up against Simms in practice, which has only made him better.

“I think it helps, from the standpoint of, he has played against a good player who has challenged him,” Brownell said. “I’ve probably coached PJ as hard as anybody on our team so far this year because I think he can be really good. I know that our team needs him to be good sooner rather than later. Ironically it occurred in the first game of the season.”

The Tigers will host South Carolina State in their first home game of the season on Wednesday (6 p.m./ACC Network). They look to go 3-0 before their big contest at home against Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 9 (5 p.m./ESPN2).

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