Youthful Tigers looking to make a move in the ACC.
By Charlene Curtis for theACC.com
Clemson is in the third year of re-establishing its program as a contender in the ACC. The Tigers will have to rely on a youthful backcourt and the consistent play of its veterans D'Lesha Lloyd, Moreemi Davis, and Adrianne Bradshaw in the paint to do just that.
The 6-0 Lloyd returns for her senior season as Clemson's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder after averaging 14.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Lloyd used her versatility and athleticism to establish herself as a formidable player at the forward position. After having played primarily on the perimeter in her first two seasons at Clemson, Lloyd found her comfort zone at the four position and responded with 24 double-figure scoring outputs. She should get help inside this season from the team's only other senior Bradshaw (6-4) and junior Moreemi Davis (6-3). Bradshaw and Davis shared the starting role at the center position last season. They both bring size and experience to the post position.
However, Bradshaw and Davis will be challenged for the starting center position by sophomore transfer April Parker and freshman Whitney Hood. The 6-2 Parker used her red-shirt season to acclimate herself to her new teammates and a new system. She and Hood will be called on early in the season to help in the rebounding category where the Tigers were out-rebounded by more than four boards per game a year ago.
Clemson head coach Cristy McKinney will have more options in the post position this season. "We will have better depth in the post with Hood and Parker, so Bradshaw getting into foul trouble will not be as much of an issue," said McKinney. In addition, 6-1 freshman Jasmine Tate gives the Tigers another athletic presence in the post.
The most experienced player on the perimeter was supposed to be senior guard Tasha Taylor. She averaged 11.9 points and 3.0 assists per game last year. Unfortunately, Taylor suffered a torn ACL during fall workouts and will not play this season. Fortunately, the Tigers do return two ACC All-Freshmen Team honorees, starting point guard Christy Brown and starting wing Lele Hardy.
Brown, a 5-6 speedster, played a key role in the improvement of the Clemson team from the 2005-06 campaign to the last season. After spending her true freshman year rehabilitating a torn ACL, Brown stepped in at the point and created tempo with her speed and skill on offense and disrupted an opponent's offense with her speed and quickness on defense. She averaged 7.8 points and 4.7 assists per game last year.
Hardy had a spectacular freshman season by leading the Tigers in rebounding (6.9 rpg) and in total steals (98). She was third on the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game. If there is an aspect of her game that needs improving, it is her shooting percentages. Hardy converted on just 40.1 percent of her field goal attempts and 56.8 percent of her free throw attempts.
Hardy may be the best overall athlete on the Clemson roster. "My athleticism was helpful when I was adjusting to the level of play in the ACC," said Hardy. Because of her focus on improving her shooting technique on the offseason, Hardy said that she should be a better shooter this year.
Brown and Hardy will get immediate help on the perimeter from sophomore Morganne Campbell. Campbell played well early in her freshman season before being sidelined with mono. Now healthy, the 5-8 guard will provide depth and scoring for the young backcourt.
Freshmen guards Kirstyn Wright, Sthefany Thomas, and Bryelle Smith join Hood and Tate to complete the top 25 rated recruiting class. Wright (5-11), Thomas (5-9), and Smith (5-8) are all expected to make valuable contributions to the Clemson team this season. Smith is a pure point guard who gives the Tigers quality depth at the point position. Wright is a defensive specialist who helped lead her high school team to four consecutive Georgia Final Four appearances and one state championship. Thomas played the last two summers with the U19 Argentinean national team, and averaged 19.4 points during the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championships this summer.
Although just a sophomore, Hardy knows that she has a responsibility to lead the younger players and to teach them what she learned as a freshman. "My role is to tell the freshmen that they must be serious in practices and that they cannot take off any possessions."
McKinney echoed Hardy's response by saying, "The returning players must set the tone for intensity in practice. (Our) freshmen guards have to adjust to the overall intensity of the other players and the size of players in the ACC. They also have to learn to take care of the ball better in the ACC."
McKinney is hoping that the invaluable experience gained by last year's freshman class will soften the blow of having to play freshmen on the perimeter again this season.
"We are headed in the right direction in our development and are on pace to be a better team," said McKinney. With two seniors and just one junior to lead the way, the youthful Tigers will have to mature quickly in order to improve on last season's ninth-place ACC finish.