Everywhere you go in Clemson, S.C. you see tiger paws. There are tiger paws painted on the road that leads into town, tiger paws painted on the sides of liquor stores, tiger paws painted on people's faces. Clemson loves its Tigers, and there's nothing the school's ardent fans wouldn't cover with cat tracks to prove it. This season the Tigers may also leave some indelible impressions on the ACC; if they can win a road game or two, they might just turn out to be the paws that refreshes for the citizenry of Clemson.
The Tigers were 23-9 last season and made it all the way to the finals of the NCAA West Regional, but leading-scorer Billy Williams and point Guard Bobby Conrad are gone from that team. Lack of experience may be Clemson's only glaring weakness: of its top nine players, eight are underclassmen and freshmen Clarke Bynum and Raymond Jones are expected to help. "I think this is as talented a team as I've had at Clemson," says Coach Bill Foster, "but I don't know what to expect."
What the Tigers lack in brawn they should be able to compensate for with quickness and cunning. A good example is 6'10" Center Larry Nance, who spent most of last season at forward. Nance was the top rebounding forward in the ACC (8.1 a game), and in a four-game stretch during which he did play center, he scored 23.8 points a game and shot a hot 68.9%. But Nance weighs only 200 pounds, and he can be moved around by bigger pivotmen. "Usually I'm kind of quicker than all the other centers," Nance says. "I don't really have the strength to be pushy with those big guys."
Another bean pole is junior Forward Horace Wyatt, who is 6'10" and weighs only 190 pounds, a lot of it wagging tongue. Wyatt is big enough to guard centers and quick enough to take on guards, but he isn't above yakking an opponent into submission. "I like to talk a lot," Wyatt says. "I like to express myself. I don't know why most guys don't like to talk. I do. You hold it back, you might hurt yourself."
Chris Dodds will direct the Clemson offense from the point, but he must learn to control his penchant for running at all times. The 6'7" Bynum—the most highly recruited player ever to attend Clemson—will be the starting wing guard, a position that has produced the Tigers' leading scorer the past four years. Bynum underwent surgery on his left knee last spring, but he seems to be sufficiently recovered now. Foster hopes to exploit Bynum's height by posting him against smaller defenders.
Jones and Fred Gilliam will play a lot at small forward, with Gilliam having the special advantage of being Clemson's best shooter.
Clemson was 15-0 at home in 1979-80, including 7-0 against ACC competition, but the Tigers were 1-6 on the road in league play. If they can make tracks better, those paws will be known for their claws.