Brownell’s motion offense and high intensity defensive sets will be -- for lack of a better phrase -- dumbed-down.
“The one thing is we are simplifying things with our team because we are so young,” Brownell said on Wednesday, during his annual media golf outing.
“We can’t be as intricate as I like to be in certain situations, probably on both ends of the court. We’ve just got to start with basketball and try to get good at it, so the guys aren’t thinking so much that they can’t play.
“I want them to be able to play hard. I want them to be able to understand what we’re trying to do, so we are trying to simplify some things. As the year goes on, we’ll add more to it, to give us a little more than a vanilla package.”
That’s part of the challenge for this year’s squad, which features two seniors and not a single junior.
“The competition in practice is going to be good,” Brownell said. “I’d much rather have four seniors and three juniors -- we know who’s in what, the freshmen are coming in and they’re playing six minutes, if they’re lucky. I think that’s when things are good.
“This isn’t an ideal third-year, from that standpoint. But, having said, there’s a lot of excitement.”
Clemson is led by senior forwards Milton Jennings and Devin Booker, the lone returning starters from a season ago.
Booker is top returning scorer [10.5] and rebounder [7.0] while Jennings is second in the two categories [9.7, 5.6].
“I like the fact that we have two grown men that are coming back -- physically -- with Milt and Devin,” Brownell said. “We’re not going to get shoved around. We’ve got two guys that have been at the level and have had success enough to compete and know what to expect.”
Bernard Sullivan, who was limited as a freshman as he struggled with asthma, figures to be the Tigers’ top reserve in the low post.
“I’m looking for Bernard to be a very productive player for us…I think his strength his better, his conditioning is miles better. He’s a powerful driver of the basketball. I think his ball skills are pretty good. I think his shooting is improving,” Brownell said. “It’s going to be a little new for him. This is almost
like his -- in some ways -- it will be like his real rookie year.”
Brownell is high on the freshmen big men that will mix it up with Jennings and Booker every day during practice.
“Landry [Nnoko] and Josh [Smith], they’re both very eager,” Brownell said. “They’re both hard workers. Josh isn’t maybe the prototypical size that you would love, but he’s physical and likes to throw his body around. That’s hard to find these days…Landry can really run. He’s got the length at 6-10 and the size at 240 to contribute as a freshman.”
Maybe the biggest addition was BYU sophomore wing Damarcus Harrison. Injuries to sophomore Devin Coleman and freshman Jaron Blossomgame left Clemson with only a couple of bodies to play out on the wing.
“Getting Damarcus eligible was big, because we were going to be really thin with Devin Coleman being out for the year with the torn Achilles and Jaron not healthy. We don’t have much else at that two, three wing spots,” Brownell said. “To be able to get Damarcus eligible was a huge shot in the arm for us, to continue to have three guys working at those two spots. For competition, experience and just depth, you need it.”
K.J. McDaniels and T.J. Sapp are primed to compete for the starting wing spots.
“Both guys got some good experience as freshmen,” Brownell said. “T.J. started out very well and really understood what we were trying to do, much faster than the other freshmen early on. He probably wore down as the year wore on, and didn’t play quite as well at the end.
“I think K.J. was just the opposite. It took a while to really figure things out and understand what we were trying to do, as far as basketball-wise. I said, from when we recruited him, he’ll be as talented as anybody we’ll recruit, because he’s athletically very gifted.”
Early on, Brownell will rely on a three-man rotation at point guard with sophomore Rod Hall and freshmen Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper.
"Rod certainly understands what we're trying to do, certainly has a college ready body. Adonis is physically ready to play and a very good on-ball defender,” Brownell said. “I think Jordan, maybe, is better than the other two -- a little bit -- at making baskets. He's clever.
“But he's wispy, very thin -- slight. He's done a good job of working hard, to put on seven or eight pounds since he got here. He does find ways to make some baskets at times, but he'll have a ways to go, in terms of how we want to play, and get comfortable with how we play. That won't be as easy for him or Adonis, really."
For Brownell, this year’s challenge won’t be easy.
Clemson opens the season with a Nov. 5 exhibition against Lander. The first regular season game is set for Nov. 12 with Presbyterian.