ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
(COACH: CLIFF ELLIS)
When Cliff Ellis became the Clemson coach last year, he introduced a couple of new concepts called rebounding and pressure defense. In response, .with no one taller than 6'9", the Tigers led the ACC in rebounding and won five conference games to finish sixth. Ellis was hailed as a hero.
Two reasons for last season's revival will be missing when the Tigers take the court—veteran guard Vince Hamilton and the element of surprise—but most everyone else is back. Senior center Glen McCants, the beef of the lineup at 6'9", 215 pounds, has recovered so well from his late-season knee injury that he can run 13 sprints, then reel off a five-minute mile. Ellis says, "He's not 6'11", 240, but he won't let that 6'11", 240 guy get that ball." Also slithering around underneath will be 6'9", 210-pound junior Horace Grant, who lacks only an upperclassman's consistency to become a force in the ACC. Back also is point guard Grayson Marshall, who set a conference freshman record with 192 assists last season.
Tiger coaches liked juco transfer Larry Middleton's offense so much they gave him the other starting guard position after the first week of practice. Middleton, a two-time California juco player of the year, frees hot-and-cold swingman Chris Michael to come off the bench. Ellis had hoped 6'4" freshman Michael Best would challenge for the starting job, but Best showed up for practice 16 pounds overweight, at 211. "There's a problem when your guard weighs more than your post man," Ellis says.
Based on Ellis's penchant for scheduling nonconference patsies, the Tigers could win 20 games. But to stay in the ACC race, they'll have to stay on the run.