In the words of Clemson associate women’s basketball head coach Daryl Oliver, last month’s reopening of Littlejohn Coliseum was like “Christmas in October.”
“That’s the best way I can explain it,” Oliver said. “The kids are excited about it; the staff is excited about it. It’s a great facility.”
The first basketball games at Littlejohn will be played Friday, when the Clemson teams begin their regular seasons. The women play Coastal Carolina at noon and the men play Georgia at 7 p.m.
Littlejohn was closed for 2015-16 as it underwent a $63.5 million renovation, but the Tigers haven’t had much trouble getting comfortable in their new and improved facility.
Never miss a local story.
Assistant women’s coach Edgar Farmer says the new Littlejohn has brought an “infusion of energy and enthusiasm” to Clemson basketball.
“You watch the shows on HGTV and you see how people have a vision for what they want their new home to look like, and then when they finally see the reveal they’re even more blown away. I think that has a lot of similarities to what we’re going through,” Farmer said.
In the always-evolving arms race of college sports facilities, Clemson’s basketball program had fallen behind its peers in the ACC. Now, the Tigers feel they have the resources to compete with any team in the conference.
Some believe Clemson’s new basketball facilities are better than those of the ACC’s traditional hoops powerhouses.
“It’s crazy, but (recruits) that come and visit our campus, they’ll make comments like ‘This is better than North Carolina,’ ” said assistant men’s basketball coach Dick Bender. “It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s different. These people who have been in our old facility know what it was like, and now they see this commitment level and what everything looks like now, and that has made it different for them.”
Men’s basketball coach Brad Brownell said he is “extremely proud” of the finished product.
“It used to be Littlejohn was pretty good on game night, but you didn’t like to show it as much or all of it in the offseason. But we have a lot of (recruits) visit in the offseason,” Brownell said. “Now you certainly are proud of it, you want to show it off, you want to get as many people in there because you want to show the commitment level this university’s made and the belief that these people have in Clemson basketball.”
The new Littlejohn
Cost: $63.5 million for renovation project that began in May 2015.
Upgrades: Renovated playing arena and seating bowl (approximately 8,500 seats), coaches offices, weight rooms, locker rooms, video editing and theater areas.
First game: Clemson vs. Georgia, 7 p.m., Friday