Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame changed his mind time and time again as he pondered whether to return to school for his senior season or enter the NBA Draft.
Ultimately, the opportunity to improve his draft stock and play in the NCAA Tournament was too much for the Georgia native to pass up and he opted to return to Clemson.
Blossomgame has his sights set on being a first-round pick and got his first chance this season to impress on the national stage when the Tigers (2-0) defeated Davidson 95-78 Thursday in the Tire Pros Invitational in Orlando. Clemson now plays either Xavier or Missouri. Its final game will be against Northern Iowa, Arizona State, Tulane or Oklahoma on Sunday.
Blossomgame, who had 17 points on Thursday, said he hopes to prove his play, particularly his shooting, last season wasn’t a fluke. He shot 48 percent from 3-point range in 2015-16 after shooting 20 percent from behind the arc as a freshman and 28.8 percent as a sophomore.
“They didn’t believe my 3-point percentage shooting was real,” he said of his conversations with teams leading up to last year’s draft. “They were wondering what happened last year and it was just my work ethic. I got in there in the summer last year and worked really hard at it and it translated. … This year they’ll see that it is real. My work is definitely a reflection of that percentage.”
Blossomgame said he has proven himself as a scorer but wants to show he can fill up a stat sheet.
“Raising my assist numbers and lowering my turnover numbers would be something that would be very beneficial for me,” he said. “I think getting other guys involved and being able to pass and make the right read will be big for me this year.”
In Clemson’s first game against Georgia, Blossomgame accomplished his goal. He scored 13 points on 50-percent shooting, grabbed six rebounds and led the Tigers with three assists. He committed only one turnover in 32 minutes of action.
Tigers coach Brad Brownell said it’s a gift having a player like Blossomgame that demands the attention of the opponent and can make plays – scoring or passing.
“It’s important in this league, and it’s a real challenge to have guys that command respect, a little bit of an alpha-male figure to lead your team through adversity. That gives other guys confidence,” Brownell said. “We know if we need a basket go to him. If he gets double-teamed, he’ll get the ball out and get an easier shot. That’s significant.”
Brownell believes that by the end of the year, Blossomgame’s decision to return to school will be beneficial for his draft stock, as well as for the Tigers.
“Jaron was probably going to be a high second-round pick, and I think he has a goal of being a first-round pick,” Brownell said. “We’ve had more guys at practice already this year than last year in total. He’s not going to sneak up on anybody. He’s not going to sneak up on anybody in our league. He’s not going to sneak up on the NBA scouts. They’re going to know what they’re getting.”