NCAA Basketball

Clemson adds experience with transfers Skara, Donnal

By PETE IACOBELLI

AP Sports Writer

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson coach Brad Brownell believed his team needed some bulk and experience inside for this upcoming season. He thinks he's got it in transfers David Skara and Mark Donnal.

Skara is a 6-foot-8 transfer from Valparaiso who sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules. Donnal is a 6-9 graduate transfer who played his first three seasons at Michigan.

Their inclusion this year fills a vital need after the Tigers lost their leading scorer in all-Atlantic Coast Conference forward Jaron Blossomgame and top rebounder in Sidy Djitte.

"We need to be physical up front and they give us that," Brownell said.

Brownell said the Tigers , who lost an agonizing nine ACC games last year by six points or less, needed Skara on the court last year since he was the best defender on the team "and it's not even close."

Skara averaged 5.4 points as a freshman to help Valparaiso reach the NCAA Tournament. The next season, he averaged 6.5 points as the Crusaders lost in the NIT finals. What makes Skara essential is the way he focuses on defense without worrying about his point production.

"He has a will for it and offensively, he's a guy guys like to play with because he doesn't try and shoot every time," Brownell said. "He just wants to do what we need to do."

Donnal's experience with the Wolverines should help the Tigers this winter. He reached the NCAA Tournament twice at Michigan, including last March after the Wolverines won the Big Ten Conference Tournament and advanced to the round of 16 with an upset of No. 2 seeded Louisville.

Most of Clemson's offensive production down low should come from talented junior Elijah Thomas, who played half of last season after sitting out a year due to his transfer from Texas A&M. But Brownell said Thomas' game is made for scoring, not going toe-to-toe with the bigger, stronger post players Clemson will see in the ACC.

That's where Donnal comes in.

"Eli is a good player, but his natural instinct is not to go hit somebody. I think (Donnal) can provide that," Brownell said. "He's also experienced. He's been in Big Ten arenas so he's not going to be freaked out by what he sees going on the road."

With the 6-9 Thomas and Donnal as Clemson's tallest players, the frontcourt must win battles each game against taller players, Brownell said.

Clemson assistant coach Antonio Reynolds Dean said his forwards have shown the right mindset to take on that job.

Reynolds Dean said Donnal brings a winning attitude to Clemson workouts. "That's important to our team," Reynolds Dean said of the Tigers, who have not made the NCAA Tournament since Brownell's first season in 2010-11.

Clemson got a jump on the season this summer with an exhibition trip to Spain , a journey best remembered for how it ended when a fatal van attack took place right outside the hotel where the Tigers, Oregon State and Arizona were staying. No one in the Tigers' traveling party was hurt.

All those experiences brought the Tigers closer as a unit. They have taken that attitude into fall camp so far, Brownell said.

Donnal and Skara were key pieces of the lineup in this summer and will be once more when Clemson opens the season against Western Carolina on Nov. 10.

"Once you get older in your career in college, you know who you are," Reynolds Dean said of the Tiger transfers. "They're going to help us win some games."

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Updated October 19, 2017

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