Brownell, players from MSG

Brad Brownell

Along with K.J. McDaniels and Rod Hall, Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell meets with reporters after Tuesday night's loss to SMU in the semifinals of the NIT.

COACH BROWNELL: Didn't get off to great start in the second half, and unfortunately we saw the second side of our team a little bit this year. We struggle offensively at times, and we just didn't shoot the ball very well in the second half.

Certainly, I'm sure, some of the credit for that goes to SMU and some of it is just us missing shots. I also thought we were not as good on the boards. We were a little bit smaller than our normal lineup with K.J. playing the four and that probably hurt us a little bit, as well.

But couldn't be more proud of these two guys next to me, tremendous leaders, tremendous young men who had outstanding seasons and really helped me will this team to a surprisingly strong finish in our league and a couple baskets away from playing for an NIT title.

Q. Rebounding, is it just that you notice the absence of Jaron the floor?

K.J. McDANIELS: Yeah, long, he definitely helps us rebounding a lot and you could definitely I felt like it made a difference tonight out there. You know, he's a big, big factor on this team.

Q. Rod, in the second half, did you guys feel a sense of frustration as things kind of started to know small?

ROD HALL: We were talking about they would probably come and make a run at us and we just have to regroup and try to fight as best we can and try to change things as best we can. They had a good run, like a 9 1 run and that kind of changed the whole game.

Q. (Inaudible)?

K.J. McDANIELS: I felt like at times I tried to force a few things, and I should have read the defense a lot better. But you know, a few times I was looking for my teammates and I had confidence to go out there and make shots. You know, they hit a few and they missed a few, and so I feel like I read it okay.

Q. What do you think you'll take away from this, coming to New York, moving forward?

ROD HALL: Moving forward, I think we know how to play with the lead. The few games that we had the lead in the first half, kind of came out sluggish and teams got after us and made a lot of baskets that we shouldn't have gave up. That's going to be the biggest thing, just play with the lead.

K.J. McDANIELS: Pretty much same thing Rod was saying but it's always been a great run for us. And especially for a young team like ourselves, I think we fought a lot this year, especially starting with our Italy trip that helped us out a lot. I'm proud of our guys for what we have done and what we have accomplished. Moving forward, we'll just be better and improve every day.

Q. Is this the last time you put on the Clemson uniform or how much have you put thought into that?

K.J. McDANIELS: I'm not really thinking about it right now. This is just you know, I'm just still kind of in shock, and, you know, I still have a lot of improvement I can do for myself. So that's nothing I'm really thinking about right now.

Q. No matter what decision you go with, what's your immediate take on just the way this whole year unfolded for you, and as well as what it did for the team?

K.J. McDANIELS: It was great. It was a great run. I had fun with our guys and our coaches. Our coaches, they stayed in there, they grinded with us every day and they got us to this point, and, you know, my teammates, they grinded every day, too.

We love each other and we are there for each other, and you know, you win some, you lose some, so we just have to learn from it and just grind. That's what we've been doing.

Q. You must have felt pretty good in the final minutes, so many close calls going down to the wire; talk about being right there with a chance to win the game.

K.J. McDANIELS: Credit to SMU, they picked up their intensity on us. We missed a few shots, and they just played they out played us in the end.

Q. You improve ten wins from last year, can you put the whole season in perspective yet? Huge turnaround for this team.

COACH BROWNELL: Well, it was an outstanding year. I think the only people that felt like we were going to have a good season this year were the players and coaches. You know, we "grinded" is a term our players use. We talked about it a lot as a team.

We're not tonight, you saw the good and the bad a little bit of Clemson basketball this year. The first half we played as well as we can play. Offensively we shot the ball at a high level. I thought we guarded them very well, except for a couple of rough turnovers, we played great.

The problem for our team is we are not consistently good offensively to match that sometimes, and then in the second half, you saw the team that sometimes rears its ugly head and we lose some games in that light.

I thought defensively, we letdown a little bit. Markus Kennedy I thought was the difference in the game; his ability to score some baskets over Nnoko around the rim was really the difference. He had two or three baskets, and this is really a two or three basket game.

We also finally got a couple stops late and had chances to tie and miss some shots. If we make one of those shots, now the momentum has come back to us and I think the pressure shifts back to SMU and we can steal the game back.

We didn't start the second half well. Kennedy beat us in the second half and offensively we didn't just execute well enough to beat a good team. And this is a good basketball team: They play the ball with great pace; they have got depth; they defend you, and you know, it was a very entertaining game and one we are disappointed in because we controlled it for the first 20 minutes.

Q. How do you feel like this sets you up for next season, this entire team back, a couple high profile recruits?

COACH BROWNELL: We certainly feel very good about where our program is and what we are doing. But we are in a monster league. We have got IBM and Coca Cola and all those people in our league and they are not going away. They reload with McDonald's All Americans every year, and we have got to continue to take the guys that we recruit and build them up and get them to play hard and get stronger.

But we have made a lot of positive steps. We have some young men in our program, Rod Hall, Nnoko, K.J. McDaniels made huge strides this year and have become good players. Now, if you're going to take the next step, you need more guys to be great players, and certainly K.J. was that this year. We just need a little more consistency from a few more guys.

The good news is we have all young players. So you know, this is a process; it's a tough process. But certainly the experience of the last two weeks has really helped us. I think the experience of the season, the grind of the season for our team to stay in and fight, really until the last game or two for an NCAA Tournament bid hopefully bodes well.

But we also know that there's a lot of other programs in our league that are going to up the ante with coaching changes and new enthusiasm, and there's programs within our league that are doing things every day to be the best they can be.

So you've got to really work at it in this league, but it's been a very good year. I think we have rejuvenated our fan base a little bit and I'm very excited with where we're going.

Q. You mentioned when the time comes you would give the necessary advice to K.J., but how do you approach the coming days here?

COACH BROWNELL: Well, there's certainly a process you go through by sending paperwork to the NBA. We've done that. We'll wait to get some of that information back. I'll get with K.J. here and let it breathe for a day or two, at least, and then we'll sit down and talk about this things, and I'll try to help answer questions.

At the end of the day, it's you know, his decision, his family's decision. He's the one that has to live with it, and you know, we just want him to hopefully be prepared for whatever decision he makes that he's successful thereafter.

You know, he's given an unbelievable amount to our school and our program here over the last three years, and I'm really proud of the way he's handled everything this year; not just playing on the court, but being a new leader, being a marked man, being an all ACC guy, handle all the outside distractions and extra people trying to get ahold of him, extra media.

And you saw right there, he's a humble young man that doesn't want to bring any extra attention to himself. He just wants to have a good season with his teammates, and he's really enjoying that, and that's one of the things that's made our team good is we don't have any differences and we don't have anybody that's above the team. We have a team.

I don't think in college sports as much any more there are that many true teams in college athletics. I think there's a lot of teams that wear the same jerseys, but I don't think there's that many true teams in college sports anymore. I think there's a lot of agendas going on that really make it hard for coaches and for players to all get paddling in the same direction. And that's one of the reasons why we were better than people thought and we were one of the few teams that were a team.

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