There is never an ideal time to lose one of your best players, but the loss of Donte Grantham could not have come at a worse time for Clemson.
The 18th-ranked Tigers (16-3, 5-2) will travel to face No. 2 Virginia (18-1, 7-0) on Tuesday in a game that was already going to be difficult to win.
The task became more difficult when Grantham, who is second on Clemson’s team in scoring and rebounding, was lost for the season after tearing his ACL during Saturday’s win against Notre Dame.
“It’s a tough one because he’s a terrific player and he’s a huge leader on this team,” Tigers coach Brad Brownell said Tuesday. “He impacts our team in a lot of things, whether it’s getting the ball and inbounding, passing, driving, facilitating. He was different than some of the players we play against so we had a slight advantage during certain situations.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Grantham was having his best season. He was a big reason Clemson is projected to be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament by most national sites.
“I’m just more disappointed for him because I know he wanted to continue his senior year, especially after a little bit of a subpar junior year,” Brownell said. “He wanted to take this team to the tournament. That’s been his goal the whole year, and you could tell from Day 1 ever since he’s kind of been our leader.”
Brownell still expects Grantham to lead, just in a different way. Grantham is planning on traveling with the team for Tuesday’s game against the Cavaliers.
The first step for the Tigers is getting over the mental hurdle of Grantham being out.
“I think it’s hard. It’s affected our guys hard from the standpoint of obviously we all love Donte,” Brownell sad. “There’s genuine care and concern and heartbreak for somebody that you love that’s going through an unbelievably difficult situation. This is hard now.”
Freshman Aamir Simms and junior David Skara will take on a bigger role in Grantham’s absence.
Simms played 14 minutes against the Irish, his most in an ACC game, and helped Clemson to a victory. He finished with five points, three rebounds and a block.
Skara has played between eight and 20 minutes after returning from a suspension to start the season and is averaging two points and two rebounds per game, while playing well defensively. He played 17 minutes against Notre Dame and finished with two points and two boards.
“I think both guys are certainly more than capable of playing good basketball and doing some of the things that we need them to do to win games,” Brownell said.
Brownell is hopeful that his team will bounce back from Grantham’s injury and finish the year strong.
“The season’s going to go on and we’re still more than capable of having a great year and doing great things and playing great basketball,” Brownell said. “He’s not going to be able to help us on the court, but he’s going to be our leader on the sideline and in practice and encouraging guys.”