CLEMSON — Clemson forward Aamir Simms didn't enjoy what he saw during the summer with the Tigers.
Simms, a 6-foot-8 junior, was accustomed to seeing older teammates like Donte Grantham, Elijah Thomas, Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell make crisp passes, dig in on defense and finish plays strongly. Instead, Clemson's roster was filled with newcomers who weren't quite getting it in Simms' eyes.
Simms stayed patient and helped lead the young Tigers to a 6-0 run at the World University Games in Italy in July, when Clemson represented the United States.
"I see now, as an older player, how easily you can get frustrated watching a younger guy kind of mess up continuously," Simms said. "It's like something I've learned since I've been here is to have composure and be poised in certain situation."
That will be essential this season for Simms, Clemson's lone returning starter following the departures of Thomas, Reed, Mitchell and David Skara, all seniors who helped the Tigers make the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 and two NIT appearances the past three seasons.
It's up to Simms now to step forward and lead as Clemson's most experienced player.
"You have to approach situations differently with each kind of guy on the team, especially with young guys because we have a really good mix of young to old," Simms said.
Clemson has little choice but to get all the newcomers up to speed in a hurry. The nine new players include four freshman and four transfers, including former Texas and Alabama forward Tevin Mack.
The 6-6 Mack was recruited by Clemson coach Brad Brownell as a Columbia, South Carolina, prospect who played for Shaka Smart with the Longhorns before spending last year with Avery Johnson, who agreed to leave the Crimson Tide after last season. Mack joins Clemson as a graduate transfer.
Also eligible to play immediately is grad transfer guard Curran Scott, whose 41 3-pointers led Tulsa last season.
"I like this team," Brownell said. "I think there's a difference sometimes when half your roster in new. The new guys come in with this youthful exuberance and enthusiasm."
Clemson was picked 11th in the ACC's annual preseason poll.
The Tigers were hit with significant injuries to a pair of veterans they expected to play big roles in 2019-20. Jonathan Baehre, a 6-10 transfer from UNC Asheville, and 6-4 junior guard Clyde Trapp both suffered torn ACLs in the spring and there's no timetable for their return, although Brownell says both are ahead of schedule in their recoveries and could see action this season.
Clemson is also waiting to hear from the NCAA if two undergraduate transfers — Khavon Moore of Texas Tech and Nick Honor of Fordham — will get the OK to play immediately. The school has applied for waivers for both players. Moore played just two minutes for the Red Raiders due to injury. Honor led the Rams with 15.3 points a game.
Brownell was as surprised as anyone that his team full of new faces came together so quickly to capture gold at the World University Games. "Everybody played and everybody played unselfishly," he said. "They've been really fun to coach because they're excited to be coached every day."
Clemson added assistant Anthony Goins this offseason after not renewing the contract of longtime staffer Steve Smith, who was heard on a federal wiretap at the college basketball corruption trial last spring. Smith was due to have his contract renewed before his name came up in the trial for discussing Clemson's national championship football program. Smith was not charged by federal prosecutors.
Clemson, like most of the ACC, begins league play with its opener on Nov. 5 against Virginia Tech, which advanced to the NCAA's Sweet 16 last season. The Tigers' most difficult stretch comes when they play at North Carolina on Jan. 11 trying to break their 0-59 mark in Chapel Hill. Three days later, Clemson returns home to play Duke.
More Articles to Read