CLEMSON - Prior to his freshman season, Milton Jennings says he faced adversity on the basketball court once - as a 12-year-old in a church basketball league.
"I didn't play one game, and that killed me deep inside to sit on the bench," Jennings said.
Jennings had always out-leaped and out-classed the opposition, rarely running into adversity - or physical equals - until this season.
The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 11 minutes and 3.2 points per game. By the early stages of ACC play, Jennings' confidence had eroded.
When he received the ball on the wing, where he had been a threat as a 3-point shooter at Pinewood Prep, he quickly passed the ball. When he made an error, his head dipped then whirled toward the bench to see if he'd be summoned back.
He heard the boos.
As his struggles continued into ACC play, the weight of expectations entering as the Tigers' first McDonalds' All-American since 1991 grew heavier.
"I guess you say if you question (your) confidence than you might as well have lost it," Jennings said. "You should never question your game. Maybe I had lost sight of that.
"[Passing up open 3s] that was just me being indecisive - me getting out there trying to make that team play, make that extra pass when I already have a great shot."
As the Tigers try to extend their two-game winning streak today against Virginia, Jennings says he has turned the corner.
At Virginia Tech on Feb. 6, he grabbed eight rebounds, showing increased physical toughness. Against Miami on Saturday, Jennings, who arrived advertised as a forward who could stretch the floor with his outside shooting prowess, made his first 3 since Nov. 20.
He had missed 18 consecutive attempts and appeared to have given up on his shot.
Clemson assistant coach Ron Bradley that single shot was "huge."
"His confidence level has been low," Bradley said. "Just making that 3, his face lit up."
The Clemson staff has not pressed the panic button.
"Outside of the absolutely great players, the John Walls or the Carmelo Anthonys, typically it takes a year and a half before it really clicks for any player," Bradley said.
The growth process includes hitting the weight room to add bulk to his wire-thin frame. For the first time he's begun watching film.
More than anything, Jennings has learned unlike high school and his third college game against UNC Greensboro when he scored a season-best 14 points - it's not going to be easy.