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Butler and Clemson women’s basketball vying for resurgence

Caleb Browder, Photo Editor

Clemson women’s basketball head coach Amanda Butler coaches on the sideline at Littlejohn Coliseum. 

After finishing the 2021-22 season with a disappointing 10-21 record, the Clemson women’s basketball team is looking for a resurgence in the 2022-23 year, and the team believes it is primed for an upward trajectory.
Last year’s team struggled to have a sense of identity on either end of the court, ranking toward the bottom of the ACC in most statistics.
The Tigers ranked 11th in the conference in points per game and 14th in points allowed per game. The team shot less than 40% from the field and 27.4% from three, good for 13th and 14th in the conference. 
While Clemson experienced its own shooting struggles, opponents did not. Opposing teams shot 44% from the field and 33.5% from three, ranking 14th and 15th in the ACC in those categories. 
As one can imagine, ranking towards the bottom of most categories in the ACC led to the Tigers struggling against a difficult conference, finishing with a 3-15 in-conference record.
The .322 win percentage was the second-lowest for head coach Amanda Butler since she took the helm back of the program in 2018. 
To make matters worse, the Tigers lost their most productive player from last season, Delicia Washington, who signed to play professionally in Italy. Washington led the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals.
Despite all the team’s challenges a year ago, the Tigers have confidence they will bounce back in 2022-23 with the additions to the roster and other players returning. 
The most notable addition to this year’s team was Ruby Whitehorn. A five-star recruit in the class of 2022, Whitehorn was the 15th-ranked prospect in the nation by ESPN and the second-best at her position.
The 6-foot guard from Detroit displays loads of athleticism and will be a jolt of energy on both ends of the court for Clemson — a tremendous grab for Butler and her staff. 
“She’s got such an eagerness to learn,” Butler said of Whitehorn. “I think someone that garners that type of attention as a high school player, that’s happening because of who you are on the offensive end of the floor typically.”
With Whitehorn’s potential, the Blue Ribbon panel added her to the ACC Newcomer Watch List, comprised of first-year players in the ACC. 
Whitehorn wasn’t the only prospect Clemson added from Michigan, as the Tigers also signed Tadassa Brown, a 6-foot-3 forward from Lansing, Mich.
Aside from the freshmen, Clemson added two transfers to its roster in Brie Perpignan and Ale’Jah Douglas. 
A graduate transfer from Elon, Perpignan averaged 16.6 points and 5.5 assists per game last season and was a member of the All-CAA second-team. 
When speaking on what brought her to Clemson, Perpignan noted that she wanted to “be in an environment that was a family environment.”
“(I wanted) a coach who I believed in and knew believed in me,” Perpignan said. “One that I could have a personal relationship with and continue to grow throughout the season.”
In her first two years, Douglas, a junior guard transfer from Western Nebraska Community College, averaged 18.1 points, 4.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 3.9 steals per game. 
While the new players acclimate to Clemson, the Tigers’ returning players will have all hands on deck, and no player is more important than senior forward Amari Robinson. Robinson was second on the team with 10.9 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and with the departure of Washington, she is a player that Butler will rely on for offense and leadership. 
Sophomore Kianna Gaines is another player that Clemson will look to help fill the void of Washington’s departure. The 5-foot-9 guard received high praise from not only her coach but her teammates as well for the growth she has made after her freshman year.
“(Gaines) is one of if not the most athletic players I have ever coached,” Butler said.
“She can get to the rim, and she’s very fast,” Perpignan said of Gaines. “I’m just so excited to see (Kianna) play this year. It’s going to be fun.”
Daisha Bradford is another returning player that could see her role increased this coming year. The 5-foot-9 senior guard averaged 9.5 points per game and led the team in three-pointers made with 33.
Looking ahead at the schedule for Clemson, the team will certainly be tested all season long. Playing in the ultra-competitive ACC conference, the Tigers are currently set to play against six Top 15 opponents.
An early matchup with No. 1 ranked and reigning national champion South Carolina gives Clemson an early challenge as the Tigers will look to avenge their 31-point loss to the Gamecocks a year ago.
Clemson is also set to face No. 7 Louisville, No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 10 NC State, No. 12 North Carolina and No. 13 Virginia Tech.
Despite the challenge ahead, Butler is focused on how her team can achieve new heights for the program.
“I get really excited about thinking about not what has been done, but what hasn’t been done,” Butler said. “How can (we) do things that have never happened before at Clemson.”
The team has lost some key members, but with a few new additions and returning players now having a bigger role, Clemson has the tools in place to find more success under Butler in the 2022-23 season.

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