While the Clemson basketball team is set to lose at least two of its starters from this past season, it will gain some reinforcement for the 2016-17 season in three transfers who will be eligible to play for the Tigers after practicing with the team this year.
Shelton Mitchell, who transferred from Vanderbilt last April, and Marcquise Reed, who transferred from Robert Morris in May, will be eligible to compete for immediate playing time when the season begins. Mitchell, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard, and Reed, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard will both be redshirt sophomores with three remaining seasons of eligibility.
Elijah Thomas, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward, also has three remaining seasons of eligibility. He, however, will be unable to participate in game action until the end of the fall semester. Thomas, who was ranked by ESPN as the No. 31 overall recruit in the high school class of 2015, played eight games for Texas A&M in November and December before transferring to Clemson for the spring.
Ultimately, all three transfers will be expected to earn roles within Clemson’s rotation and make an impact on the court next season. How much they are able to do so could be a determining factor in whether the Tigers make it back to the NCAA tourney in 2017.
“I do think it’s extremely helpful to have a guy like Shelton Mitchell and all the transfers … that we’ve had for a year to get into our system and learn and compete and get a taste of the ACC,” said Clemson coach Brad Brownell.
Mitchell, who averaged 4.3 points and 3.3 assists per game in his lone season at Vanderbilt, is a prime candidate to replace outgoing senior Jordan Roper and start alongside Avry Holmes at guard next season. While Holmes – who himself is a transfer from San Francisco – was Clemson’s primary point guard this past season, Mitchell could be slated to take over that role in 2016-17.
“I think Shelton Mitchell is probably the first real pure point guard that we’ve had,” Brownell said. “Jordan and Avry are both kind of combo-type guards that can play the point and be point guards, but it’s not their natural position. Shelton Mitchell is a natural point guard.
“He plays with great pace, he has size, he has great vision, he sees people, he gets more guys shots. Because of his size, he can get into the lane if he’s just guarded by one sometimes and get his own shot.”
Reed, who averaged 15.1 points per game in his lone season at Robert Morris, brings a different skill set to the Clemson backcourt.
“Marcquise is just wired to score,” Brownell said. “We’ve got to work on other things with Marcquise, but he is about making baskets. That’s always a good thing to have on your roster. A guy that can make a shot, create a shot, beat a guy on a closeout.”
Thomas, who averaged 3.8 points per game and 2.5 rebounds per game in his brief stint at Texas A&M, has the tools to be a difference-maker in Clemson’s frontcourt, where the Tigers have already lost one starter from last season in outgoing senior Landry Nnoko, and could lose another in Jaron Blossomgame, who has until May 25 to decide on returning to school or staying in the 2016 NBA draft. Thomas, however, has much less playing experience at the collegiate level than Mitchell and Reed, and Brownell is tempering his expectations accordingly.
“Elijah is a guy with size who has very good hands and feel,” Brownell said. “He’s not a great athlete, he’s got to learn to work harder, he’s got to understand the details involved at this level. I think we’ve all got to be a little cautious about that with him.”
The three transfers will not be the only newcomers on the court for Clemson in 2016-17. Scott Spencer, a 6-foot-6 wing who was a three-star recruit out of Blue Ridge School in St. George, Va., signed his national letter of intent in November.