Last season, Clemson went 5-13 in the ACC and 13-17 overall on the way to a first round ACC Tournament exit to Florida State. This season, Clemson will try to do the same thing while losing program cornerstones Devin Booker and Milton Jennings. While Booker was a steady if unspectacular presence and Jennings a maddeningly inconsistent riddle, both were senior veterans who held down the Clemson frontcourt. This didn’t translate to many wins last year, but the Seminoles’ strong interior defense did show up in the numbers: Clemson was third in the conference in opponent two-point percentage (45.3%) and block percentage (12.6%). It’s a slim silver lining, but it was a small comfort last season. This season? There are lots of clouds on the horizon. A team that failed to do much of anything else effectively has its last strength taken away from it. What’s left for the Tigers?
K.J. McDaniels is a still-underrated swingman with offensive and defensive savvy. His ability to block shots is freakish. At 6’6”, he had the second highest block percentage in the conference (8.32%), surpassed only by the 6’10” Julian Gamble. His shooting remains unspectacular, but he had the second highest offensive efficiency on the team while taking the greatest proportion of shots. He might not be a perfect-world first choice on offense, but he is capable of handling the role while also playing stout defense.
Beyond McDaniels, however, the Clemson frontcourt has few proven options. Sophomores Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith averaged 6.6 and 5.6 minutes per game, respectively, and in that limited time didn’t do much to earn themselves more run. Though Nnoko has some intriguing potential on the glass (12.8% offensive rebounding!), his super-small sample size can’t be overstated. The newcomers to the team offer a little depth and some promise, but it’s unclear whether they are ready to contribute immediately. Jaron Blossomgame was touted as a guy with a lot of potential before injuries derailed his Clemson debut. If he is healthy he might make a big difference for the Tigers. Likewise, junior college transfer Ibrahim Djambo and freshman Sidy Mohamed Djitte. Djitte, in particular, may be a big help to Clemson down the road, but early reports suggests that he is still very raw. As he develops, however, he will provide a strong cornerstone for the Tigers for years to come.