Clemson basketball looks to create bonds on Spanish trip
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Brad Brownell is hopeful his summer trip to Spain next week benefits the Tigers as much as the last overseas trip to Italy did four years ago.
The season after their Italian adventure, the Tigers were the surprise of the Atlantic Coast Conference — finishing sixth overall , winning 10 games in the league for one of only five times in program history. High-flying forward K.J. McDaniels became a star.
This time, Brownell simply wants his team to newcomers to return with a sense of unity.
“It gives you a little bit of a firsthand look at your guys,” said Brownell, who’ll coach his eighth season with the Tigers this winter. “That part of it is really good for us. And obviously, the life experience is immeasurable. The guys are amazed to have this chance to go overseas and learn a little bit about a different culture and a different way of living.”
The Tigers take off Tuesday and play four games against teams in Spain with varying talent levels before returning Aug. 18. The results aren’t as important, Brownell said, as his players coming back with a better sense of each other.
That’s particularly important this year. The Tigers lost their leader in all-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame, a second-round NBA pick of the San Antonio Spurs. They’re also without two other starters from last year, center Sidy Djitte and guard Avry Holmes.
Brownell added first-year players Clyde Trapp, Aamir Simms, Anthony Oliver and Malik Williams along with transfers Mark Donnal of Michigan and David Skara of Valparaiso. They’ll mix with last year’s transfers in Vandberbilt’s Shelton Mitchell, Robert Morris’ Marcquise Reed and Texas A&M’s Elijah Thomas.
“As coaching has changed a little bit more, you’re constantly looking for ways to spend time with your players,” Brownell said. “With social media, players don’t talk as much, they don’t communicate like they used to. To take your team on a foreign trip, they’re around each other a little bit more and that’s an added benefit.”
Clemson has hopes of making the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 2011 but finished 17-16 with nine of their 12 ACC losses coming by six points or less.
The NCAA allows teams 10 practices to prepare for tours. Earlier this summer, the South Carolina national championship women’s basketball team spent eight days in Japan playing three exhibition games. Last year, the Gamecock men team went to Costa Rica in August and wound up an unlikely Final Four team eight months later.
Senior guard Gabe DeVoe is anxious to play games with his new teammates and see a country he has not visited before.
“I think even early on with these practices, it helps in learning the culture, the plays,” said DeVoe, who averaged 7.1 points off the bench last season. “A few months, it will be a good gage for us having the film of the games to look back at and see where we need to improve.”
DeVoe, from Shelby, North Carolina , has not been outside the United States. He says he’ll spend the weekend mapping out some sites in the country he’d like to visit. “It’s been a lot of fun getting ready and knowing it’s only a few days away, I’m super excited,” he said.
He’s also pleased with what he’s seen from Clemson’s new players.
“I’ve seen good focus in the weight room, workouts and on the court,” DeVoe said. “I think we’ve got a lot of good pieces and are going to win a lot of games next season.”
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