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October 14, 2009
Clemson's lack of postseason success has prevented the Tigers from garnering much attention outside of ACC country, but they quietly have won 72 games in the past three seasons. The string of 20-win seasons should continue. Big man Trevor Booker headlines a roster that returns seven guys who averaged at least 13.0 minutes per game last season.
Trevor Booker should go down as one of the most productive players in Clemson history.
Booker should go down as one of the most productive players in Clemson history. Booker, who will be a four-year starter, has more career rebounds (792) and blocks (204) than any active player in the ACC. Last season, he became the first player since Tim Duncan to lead the ACC in field-goal percentage (.571) and rebounds (9.7). Booker spent the offseason playing on the U.S. team that won the bronze medal in the World University Games. Jerai Grant ranked eighth in the ACC in blocks last year despite playing less than 15 minutes per game. Booker and Grant helped Clemson rank 10th in the nation and first in the ACC in blocks last season. David Potter is a swingman who provides outside shooting. The Tigers also could get immediate contributions from freshmen Milton Jennings (the No. 25 prospect in the nation) and Devin Booker (No. 96).
Demontez Stitt returns for a third season as the Tigers' starting point guard. Stitt, a solid defender who must improve his shooting, ranked sixth in the league in assists per game (3.8) last season. Clemson led the ACC in 3-pointers last season, but the Tigers' perimeter attack suffered an unexpected blow in the offseason when Terrence Oglesby decided to launch a pro career in Europe after his sophomore season. Oglesby ranked second in the ACC last season in 3-pointers per game and 3-point accuracy. Andre Young and Tanner Smith could help fill the outside-shooting void created by Oglesby's departure. Freshman Noel Johnson, who originally signed with USC, then was released from his scholarship after Tim Floyd resigned, was a late pickup who should pay immediate dividends for the Tigers. He'll be an athletic presence on the wing.
Clemson traditionally gets off to a fast start in its non-conference schedule, then tails off late in the season. The Tigers have enough experience that they ought to avoid falling into that pattern again. A third consecutive NCAA bid seems likely. Maybe this time the Tigers will advance beyond the first round.
Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.