CLEMSON - Six months ago, the debate centered on what Clemson's basketball team would do without sharpshooting guard Terrence Oglesby, who left the program after two years and is playing in the Ukraine.
Clemson used the available scholarship to net 6-foot-6 wing Noel Johnson, who was back on the market after a scandal at Southern California. Johnson appears the most ready to contribute among the Tigers' three top-100 national recruits.
How this tradeoff shakes out is just one subplot in the 24th-ranked Tigers' season.
Here are five questions facing Clemson as it tips off tonight against Presbyterian:
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HOW MUCH IMPACT WILL THE FRESHMEN HAVE?
Coach Oliver Purnell believes the highly ranked, four-man class of Johnson, swingman Milton Jennings, post Devin Booker and guard Donte Hill is Clemson's future foundation.
Both Johnson and Jennings play under control for being touted prep scorers, and Jennings has the makings of the premium pick-and-pop shooter Purnell has coveted.
Booker arrives more physical but less refined than his shorter brother, Trevor, and Hill has flashed defensive skills that draw comparisons to Cliff Hammonds.
None will instantly take over at this level, and how much they play figures to hinge on how well they execute Purnell's defensive demands.
HOW DIFFERENT WILL THIS TEAM LOOK IN THREE MONTHS?
These Tigers do not have the feel of previous squads that sprint to a 15-0 nonconference record. There are too many growing pains to go through.
Clemson's initial starting lineup will feature Tanner Smith and David Potter on the wings and Jerai Grant as the center, none of whom averaged more than 5 points or 18 minutes per game last season.
That leaves all four freshmen coming off the bench initially, and Purnell said he will need time to balance his lineup and rotations to blend experience and talent.
Purnell plans to go with a 10- or 11-player rotation to sustain defensive intensity, and he will have an abundance of versatility at his disposal to play big or small.
WILL THE LOSS OF 3-POINT FIREPOWER BE OFFSET ELSEWHERE?
The roster is dotted with capable long-range shooters: backup point Potter, Jennings, Johnson, Smith, Andre Young and even Trevor Booker.
Oglesby and K.C. Rivers are being replaced by more athletic players, but they were the only two proficient at shooting Clemson back into games or supplying a key bucket.
"If we were going to be better this year, we need to be better defensively and play as one offensively," Purnell said. "That has to do with playing to our strengths offensively. Do we shoot high-percentage shots?
"We don't have the range or maybe pure shooting capability, but that's not what it's really about. It's about percentages. If you shoot quality shots, you can be as good a shooting team, if not better."
WILL TREVOR BOOKER HAVE ROOM TO OPERATE?
Clemson's nine-year drought without a first-team All-ACC player figures to end this year with the 6-foot-7, 240-pound senior returning as the league's preeminent post scorer and rebounder.
The question is whether the Tigers have improved their weak spots in order to make opponents pay for double-teaming Booker.
Using Jennings at the 4-spot can space the floor, but a number of other factors will help maximize Booker's presence. The other interior players, especially Grant, will have to play bigger inside and finish at the rim, while junior point Demontez Stitt must play better offensively.
CAN THEY GET BEYOND THE FIRST ROUND OF THE NCAA TOURNEY?
That's where the bar is set after consecutive first-round ousters in which Clemson was the higher seed.
North Carolina and Duke are reloading, and the ACC features so few established commodities this year - especially at guard - that at least six teams have a shot at the regular season crown, including the Tigers.
Finishing in the top half of the league standings is a reasonable expectation. Doing better in the postseason hinges on the maturity of last year's role players and whether Johnson, Jennings and/or Devin Booker grow into the caliber of players who deserve to be on the floor at game's end.