The accomplishments, heartbreak, and jubilation of these four seniors seemed to come full circle at Littlejohn Coliseum in front of a sold out crowd. For the last four years, the fans, media, and coaching staff have had the privilege of watching these players grow. And all in all, it was a growth that was anything but normal.
Clemson’s senior basketball class of 2008 is a special one. As Purnell’s first class at Clemson University, Matt Morris, Sam Perry, James Mays, and Cliff Hammonds laid the foundation for the newfound resurgence of Tiger basketball.
“If these guys aren’t here we don’t have good recruiting years, don’t come in and do some of the things (we’ve) done, and have some problems from a win-loss standpoint in our program,” Purnell said. “I wanted our guys to know that these guys set an example, did things in (the right) way, and certainly won to the point that everyone is looking to our program as one that’s on the uptick.”
Yes, these four truly have been special.
First there is Matt Morris, the undeterred one. While he is not a very well known player, Coach Purnell has assured the public time and time again that each and every player in a uniform has a role, whether it is in practice or a game. Morris was the epitome of a team player. A former walk on, Morris was awarded with a scholarship for his senior year in recognition of his hard work. Tiger fans, number 24, Matt Morris.
Next up is Sam Perry, the crazy one. Clemson’s very own comedian always seemed to keep things light. No matter the situation, Perry always seemed to be smiling. In his eyes, there’s probably no problem a good joke cannot fix. A defensive specialist, Perry has seen a revitalization of his career in the past two months. After missing a few games to start the season thanks to knee surgery, Perry came back with a vengeance. Many highlight reel plays seem to come attached with his resume; however, it leaves one to wonder, which was more fun to watch? Was it the play itself or his celebration after? Tiger fans, number 32, Sam Perry.
Next is James Mays, the strong-willed one. After dabbling with the NBA, Mays decided to return for his senior season. After fighting through injury after injury throughout the year, he always seemed to prevail. For four years, he has been the rock in the middle for the Tigers, not to mention the pinnacle of Purnell’s press defense. Tiger fans, number 40, James Mays.
Finally, there is Cliff Hammonds, Mr. Perfect. There is no way around it, Hammonds is the heart and soul of this Tiger team. A three time All-ACC Academic Team member, with a double major in architecture and psychology, Hammonds has a lot on his plate. Go ahead and throw in the fact that he is married and has a child, and it is hard to fathom the success of this individual. The native of Cairo, Georgia is one of just five players in ACC history with at least 1,400 points, 400 rebounds, 400 assists, and 200 steals. Not bad, huh? Tiger fans, number 25, Cliff Hammonds.
After the game, Purnell allowed each of the seniors to have 30 seconds on the P.A. microphone. Each took the chance to display their personality once more to the Tiger faithful.
Morris quietly thanked the fans for all their support and humbly handed the microphone back to Purnell.
Perry decided a loud YEA! was definitely necessary. He followed by addressing the team’s critics who had come out of the woodwork during the year. Then he just stood there and soaked it in, while smiling.
Mays thanked the fans for all of their support throughout the ups and downs of his career. He thanked the coaches for believing in him, and God for granting him his abilities.
Hammonds took the microphone and stared each of his teammates in the eye and thanked them. After thanking the fans, he reminded them to buy their tickets for the upcoming tournaments. “We’re aiming to bring it all home,” said Hammonds.
Sunday was the 82nd victory for this senior class, second on the all-time list behind the 84 by the 1990 seniors led by Elden Campbell. The class finishes with 29 regular season ACC wins, tied for second in school history.
The ups and downs have defined these four seniors. The rollercoaster they have been on for the last four years is nearing the end of its ride. However, it is not over. The Tigers took their final bow from Littlejohn, but not from the season.