Clemson University

Stitt to make debut at the point

CLEMSON -- At one point during Clemson's only exhibition game, coach Oliver Purnell briefly chastised freshman point guard Demontez Stitt for being on the wrong side of the court to take the inbound pass after a made basket.

Purnell could have let the seemingly trivial mistake go -- after all, Stitt probably learned his lesson because of the difficulty the Tigers had in getting the ball in -- but the line had to be drawn.

Stitt's growing pains are going to be tolerated, so long as they are the product of his making the proper, aggressive decision.

The kid gloves are reserved for when he veers from the assignment coaches have repeatedly gone over in practice.

"In high school, I was used to doing whatever and getting by with certain things," Stitt said. "In college, you can't do that. You have to learn how to change speeds, you've got to know when to shoot, when to pass. But I'm adjusting to it."

In a week when two quarterbacks figure to be the center of attention around campus, Clemson's basketball version of the position will be thrown into the fire, too.

Following in the footsteps of three consecutive four-year starters -- Terrell McIntyre, Ed Scott and Vernon Hamilton -- Stitt will make his formal debut as the starting point guard in today's 7:30 p.m. opener against Furman.

There are no misconceptions that Stitt, North Carolina's reigning Mr. Basketball, will have to carry the Tigers on his shoulders; that job will be spread among the four returning double-digit scorers surrounding him in the starting lineup.

But with a road game already looming Thursday at hostile Mississippi State, Stitt could use a solid first outing to give Clemson peace of mind about the structure of its rotation in the early going.

To put it in simpler terms, Purnell is counting on Stitt to play 25-30 minutes per game initially, consistently get the ball up the court and direct the team's offense.

If Stitt cannot accomplish those goals, the Tigers will be forced to use shooting guard Cliff Hammonds or sharpshooter K.C. Rivers as the primary ball-handler.

Creating off the dribble is neither player's forte, plus it would take away each from being put into position to best utilize his offensive strength.

"If we're able to eat up a lot of those point guard minutes with Stitt, it's going to allow us to do some other things with Cliff and K.C., mainly allow them to be on the wings scoring and some of the other things we need them to do," Purnell said.

Preliminary indications have been that Stitt should be up to the task.

Although slight in stature (6-foot-2, 170 pounds), he appears to have the tools to contribute immediately on the defensive end.

Stitt has displayed quick hands and an intense approach defensively in both the preseason intrasquad scrimmage and exhibition win against Augusta State last week, both of which figure to fit well in Clemson's pressing scheme.

Of course, coaches would also like to see Stitt dribble lower to reduce future turnovers against better defenders. But they cannot have everything at once.

CLEMSON GAMEDAYFURMAN (0-1) AT CLEMSON (0-0)

• When: 7:30 p.m.

• Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson

• TV: None

• On the Web: Live Gametracker at clemsontigers.com

• Tickets: Available at the box office

• Furman's probable starters: G Jordan Miller 6-2 Fr. (7.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Tony Anderson 6-1 So. (4.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg); C Stanley Jones 6-9 Jr. (8.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg); F Bobby Austin 6-3 Fr. (10.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg); F George Brozos 6-6 Sr. (13.0ppg, 6.0 rpg)

• Clemson's probable starters: G Demontez Stitt 6-2 Fr. (first game); G Cliff Hammonds 6-3 Sr. (11.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G K.C. Rivers 6-5 Jr. (14.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg); C Trevor Booker 6-7 So. (10.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg); F James Mays 6-9 Sr. (12.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg)

• Notes: The Tigers begin an expectation-high season tonight. ... Clemson has won 22 straight season-openers and 25 straight home openers.

• Next up: Clemson travels to Mississippi State at 8 p.m. Thursday.

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