Brad Brownell addressed a glaring lack of size on his team this week, as Sidy Djitte committed to Clemson. The 6’10”, 235-lb center from Senegal was orginally looking at Memphis and Cincinnati before opting to get in on the ground level in the ACC.
Brownell’s Tigers haven’t made the NCAA touranment since previous head coach Oliver Purnell left for DePaul. Lack of a quality big man has been one of the issues keeping the team in the lower echelon of the ACC standings, and it’s likely to get even more challenging with Pitt and Syracuse coming in. Brownell has turned to imports to bridge the height gap recently, following Catalin Baciu’s departure with the signing of 6’10” Cameroonian Landry Nnoko, who averaged just 1.0 points, 1.4 boards and just 0.3 blocks per game in limited minutes as a freshman.
Djitte isn’t likely to be an immediate solution in the frontcourt. He’s only lived in the U.S. since 2011, so he hasn’t had a ton of time to get used to the game as it’s played at the highest levels. His high school averages of 17 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks helped Northwood Temple Academy to the Carolina Christian Conference title, but it’s anyone’s guess how those numbers will translate to college basketball’s highest level. According to the Fayetteville Observer, Brownell has found some more experienced inside help.
Three players, including 6-10 junior college forward Ibrahim Djambo, already have signed with Clemson. Djambo, who averaged 17.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a sophomore at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., committed to the Tigers on April 23. Djitte and Djambo will be joined by 6-3 wing Patrick Rooks of Charlotte and 6-6 wing Austin Ajukwa of Columbia, S.C.
Brownell is a respected coach with a strong defensive pedigree, but his league is just getting tougher. He’ll have to do some serious coaching to get his front line ready for ACC play.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.