CLEMSON — Jaron Blossomgame cast a large shadow on the Clemson basketball program the past couple of seasons, one coach Brad Brownell hopes his upperclassmen eclipse this season.
The Tigers were heavily reliant on all-Atlantic Coast Conference performer Blossomgame in recent seasons. The 6-foot-6 forward led the team in points, blocked shots and focus from defenders throughout the league.
With Blossomgame gone, Brownell knows it's up to his experience players like Donte Grantham and Gabe DeVoe who maybe deferred to their leader and star too much at times to assert themselves.
"They're guys that I think have bided their time very well and played a little bit in the shadow of Jaron Blossomgame," Brownell said. "But I think they're going to get more opportunities to score, to put themselves in positions off of set plays and actions where they have opportunities to make more plays."
If that happens, Clemson might have a chance to break its agonizingly long six-year NCAA Tournament drought. Brownell has winning records of six of his seven seasons — including going 17-16 last year — and took the Tigers to the Big Dance his debut season in 2011. But there's been little but disappointments and questions since then.
Grantham, a 6-foot-8 senior, has no doubt the drought ends this year.
"I think this is the year we can make it back to the NCAAs because, one, we've got great leaders in myself and Gabe, and number two, we've got everybody on the team all in and dialed in."
The Tigers will certainly need a healthy, dynamic season from junior point guard Shelton Mitchell, the team's top returning scorer at 10.7 points a game. The Vanderbilt transfer has been bothered by a knee problem that Brownell said the coaching staff will have to manage with rest.
"Some days he feels really good. And then other days, for whatever reason, it's just sore," Brownell said. "I don't know that that's ever going to go away."