CLEMSON, S.C. (WIS) - Never be afraid to dream.
When you walk into the Clemson men’s basketball office, you’ll notice a saying, “Dream big, focus small.” Head coach Brad Brownell picked that up while working alongside Jerry Wainright at UNC-Wilmington.
“Dreaming big is good, as long as you are focusing small on the details on what’s right in front of you,” said Brownell. “Understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing, what it takes to get where you want to go. That’s good. We promote that in our program.”
Clemson (9-1) enters the weekend as the highest-ranked team in the Atlantic Coast Conference (19th in AP, 18th in Coaches Poll). The dream of winning a league title for the first time since 1990 feels more realistic with each passing day, thanks in large part to the strong senior leadership of Aamir Simms and Clyde Trapp Jr.
“They’ve been through the wars,” added Brownell. “They’ve been part of a Sweet 16 team. They know what winning basketball looks like. The way we like to play. The way I like to play. The way we need to play to win. The way we need to prepare is probably more important.”
Brownell calls their experience vital.
In Trapp’s senior season, the former Lower Richland star utilizes all the good and the bad throughout his journey to play an essential role in this team’s success.
“A big part of why we’re playing well as a team is that he’s been very solid,” mentioned Brownell. “He does a lot of things you need done to win a game. That’s why he’s played a lot. Sometimes, his stats don’t jump out like he’s some great player.”
“He’s playing with nice quiet confidence,” Brownell continued. “He’s been through a lot, as a player certainly with all the injuries and all the things he’s had to deal with.”
“He’s a tough guy, smart guy, versatile,” said Brownell. “He can play four positions and probably has at various times throughout his career. He’s done a really good job.”
The Tigers’ team has also done a great job playing connected. Clemson’s the number one rated program nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They also share the ball incredibly well, averaging more than one assist for every field goal made.
“We have a lot of guys that do different things well,” Brownell said. “I think our guys really like each other. That’s probably number one. I think you can see that in the way we play.”
“We’re trying as coaches to put guys in good positions to utilize their strengths, our teammates kind of respect that.”
“We talk about playing the game the right way. We have a lot of improvement to make offensively to be a good offensive team. We do have a lot of different ways we can come at you. Guys off the bench can score.”
Clemson’s most recent win featured a rally at home against North Carolina State, 74-70, in overtime. The Tigers’ bench scored 36 points. It matched a season-high and was the most against an ACC opponent.
From Brownell’s perspective, he believes navigating additional challenges amid a pandemic and turbulent social climate becomes essential.
“It’s hard,” said Brownell. “You’re trying to read your team, read your players, get a feel for them, talk to them, see what they think they need.”
“For example, what happened with the Capitol the other night. We talked about it briefly with our team. That put some stress into our guy’s heads that you could tell was weighing on them a little bit.”
“Trying to have a good pulse of your team as you can. We were really tired, mentally as much as physically at Christmas time. That’s why we made the decision to let our guys go home. It was risky, but it proved to be good. We could tell when our guys got back they were refreshed and ready to go. I think they’ve played that way. How do you manage that now? There’s no playbook for this. You’re going by feel. I think as much as anything, you’re trying to have tremendous relationships with your players so that you can get an idea what’s on their minds.”
Previously, Clemson was scheduled to take on North Carolina on Saturday. However, that game has been postponed due to COVID-19.