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It’s now or never for Brownell and Clemson men’s basketball

Matt Mynes, Asst. Photo Editor

Clemson basketball head coach Brad Brownell directs his players from the sideline of Littlejohn Coliseum as the Tigers face off against North Carolina.

The 2022-23 college basketball season is just weeks away from tipoff, and the Clemson men’s team is facing a critical moment in the program’s history. 
Following the end of a disappointing 2021-22 season, Clemson athletic director Graham Neff placed lofty expectations on the Tigers’ upcoming season. 
A 17-16 record, the program’s lowest attendance since the 1970s and a fourth consecutive season without an NCAA Tournament victory caused Neff to mention that the season “did not meet (Clemson’s) expectations, nor those of head coach Brad Brownell and student-athletes,” in an open letter to fans. 
In response to fan interest that seems to be at its lowest point in over forty years, Neff stated that he and Brownell have discussed “plans for next year that would return (Clemson) to the NCAA Tournament.”
To lead his Tournament pursuit, coach Brownell returns three starters from last season: star center PJ Hall, veteran forward Hunter Tyson and fourth-year guard Chase Hunter. 
Hall comes into the season as a member of the preseason All-ACC second team. The third-year big man tripled his production in nearly every statistical category from his freshman to sophomore year last season and is looking to build on that this coming year. 
Clemson will have to wait for Hall’s contributions, however, as he is still recovering from a patella subluxation that he suffered while practicing in July. Hall has yet to make a full return to the practice court, and on Tuesday Brownell provided an update on his earlier statement that Hall would return to live action in early December. 
“It’s still about the same,” Brownell said. “He’s still doing well, but we haven’t had him in any full-contact stuff. So it’ll be another couple of weeks before we really know what we’ve got and how he’s doing. But he’s progressing nicely.”
Without Hall, the team will have to replace almost 16 points per game of scoring. 
“I think we’re just going to have to be a little more creative to help guys a little bit,” Brownell added. “Chase, Hunter, Brevin (Galloway) and Alex (Hemenway) are certainly proven guys that have had consistent double-figure games and all those kinds of things. They’re going to get more.”
The team also returns three rotational players of the 2021 squad, including sharpshooter Alex Hemenway and second-year forwards Ben Middlebrooks and Ian Scheffelin — two players that will compete for front court minutes throughout the season. 
During the offseason, the program added five new players, one of which has plenty of college basketball experience. 
Brevin Galloway, a transfer from Boston College, averaged 8.3 points per game for the Eagles a season ago and will be joining the Tigers for his final year of eligibility. 
Another newcomer likely to see the floor this season is three-star recruit Dillon Hunter, who also has family ties to Clemson athletics. Hunter will team up with his brother, Chase, in Clemson’s backcourt. 
Dillon Hunter has shared point guard duties in Clemson’s offseason circuit with sophomore Josh Beadle, who redshirted his freshman season, and Chase Hunter, who is transitioning to a new role as a primary ball handler in Clemson’s offense. 
The Tigers have a challenging schedule to begin the season, as they’ll face Power Five teams like South Carolina and Penn State before the end of November. 
The team will also travel to Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic, with matchups against Iowa and either California or TCU slated for a tough two-game stretch. 
As far as expectations for the season go, Brownell believes that his squad has ”every chance to play in the Tournament.”
According to Neff’s March letter, the program’s future direction may depend upon whether Brownell’s belief comes to fruition.

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