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Brad Brownell

Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell speaks to the media on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

SUNSET -- Even Wednesday's rain could not stop Clemson men’s basketball coach Brad Brownell from smiling as he met with the media for the first time since his team's magical run to the Sweet 16 last season.

The Tigers will look to replace two starters, as Donte Grantham, who was injured midway through last season, and Gabe Devoe both graduated and moved on to begin their professional careers.

Even with those losses, the Tigers still return four starters — including guard Shelton Mitchell and last season’s leading scorer Marquise Reed, both of whom spurned the NBA to return to school for one final year, plus David Skara, who flirted with leaving for the European basketball league, and center Elijah Thomas.

"There are a lot of positive things going on in the program,” Brownell said. “Very excited about our team, certainly the seniors that all four came back. We lost a couple of good players. Gabe and Donte especially were two elite player and really had big senior years -- which is what you want out of your guys.

"We're optimistic that our seniors will do that this year. Shelton and Marquise and Eli and David are guys that are proven players that have been in our system and I think they're still pretty hungry. That's what's really important.

“Are the guys still willing to work at the level that you still need to work after experiencing some success? I think right now, our guys are proving that we are.”

But even with the returning starters, Brownell is still searching for someone to step up and fill the leadership void left by the departure of Devoe.

“We're trying to encourage those guys to be a little more vocal,” Brownell said. “Marquise and Shelton are not as naturally vocal as Donte and Gabe are. So that's an area of improvement. Eli's doing a good job, he's always a guy that has tried to help the younger post players and new guys.

”But we need Shelton and Marquise to be a little more vocal. I think they practice hard and they can certainly show the guys what to do, but there are times when they've got to be a little more vocal -- demonstrative about what we've got.”

The Tigers open play with the first of two exhibition games Oct. 27 (5 p.m.) as they  travel to UNC-Wilmington in a game for relief for those affected by Hurricane Florence.

The Tigers travel back to Littlejohn Coliseum on Nov. 1 (7 p.m.) for their final exhibition game, taking on Barton College before opening the regular season against The Citadel Nov. 6 (7 p.m.).

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat.

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