Tuesday, March 23, 1999

Clemson shooting for some redemption

The State (Columbia, S.C.)

        NEW YORK — Step outside the Marriott Marquis on Broadway into the chilly, windy conditions of midtown Manhattan on a Monday afternoon in March and join the bustle of Times Square. You're within walking distance of Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and dozens of theaters.

        Clemson's basketball players made that step.

        The difference is, they stepped into a bus and rode to the New York Athletic Club, where they had a two-hour practice to prepare for Tuesday's NIT semifinal game against Xavier at about 9:15 p.m. EST inside tradition-rich Madison Square Garden.

        Hey, just because this “Final Four” is less prestigious than the NCAA's copyrighted version set to begin Saturday in St. Petersburg doesn't mean that the Clemson traveling party is here to wander around Central Park.

        “It's definitely business,” senior forward Harold Jamison said.

        It's a common theme, actually. The four teams who survived the first three rounds of a tournament that is widely viewed as a mere consolation prize are here to win.

        The fans might have time to catch Lea Salonga in Miss Saigon and wolf down a monster sub sandwich at Carnegie Deli, but the players' mission is a little bit different.

        “We wouldn't be here if we weren't trying to win it,” said Clemson senior guard Terrell McIntyre, who helped lead his team to NIT wins over Georgia, Rutgers and Butler.

        Xavier's players weren't here Monday afternoon. When Musketeers coach Skip Prosser showed up at the Marriott team headquarters this week for a press conference, he said his guys were still in Cincinnati going to class and were scheduled to arrive Monday night.

        The Clemson players and coaches got here Sunday night and haven't seen much, either, except tape of Xavier in a video session inside Shyatt's room. They did eat a few meals in the area. You have approximately 20,000 dives in which to duck inside and grab a slice of pizza or an egg roll.

        “We're going to try to show them some sights, be it in the bus, and look around,” Shyatt said. “But I think the greatest experience is just meeting people and seeing things a lot of them have never seen before.

        “Hopefully we'll take in the Carnegie Deli before we leave, and we have an opportunity to have a nice banquet put together by the NIT. So, the practice in the Garden and the game in the Garden is supposed to be the highlight. Hopefully that's our highlights when we return home.”

        Clemson (19-14) and Xavier (24-10) would welcome the NIT title. The championship game is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, following a 5 p.m. consolation match, but this event means something different to everyone.

        To The New York Times, it means very little. There was no mention of the tournament in Monday's edition, except for a two-column advertisement placed there by the NIT committee.

        To Jamison, it means a chance to visit dozens of family members. He was born in Jersey City, N.J., directly across the Hudson River.

        “The majority of my family is up here aunts, uncles, everybody,” said Jamison, who moved to Vance as a young child. “In a day or two hopefully I can get back over there, spend some time with them and get some home-cooked meals.”

        To Shyatt, a first-year coach, it means a chance to gain national TV exposure. Clemson was ranked 14th after starting the season 11-1 but dropped out quickly, missing the NCAA field for the first time since 1995. One New York reporter reminded him Monday that his team is considered “one of the most disappointing in the country.”

        “The NIT will be observed by many,” Shyatt said. “Hopefully be ramifications down the road with juniors and 10th-graders who get a chance to see Clemson and may not have had that opportunity in the past.”

        And to Prosser, whose team rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to Princeton in a Wednesday quarterfinal home game to get here, it means a chance to live a dream:

        “I'm anxious to coach in Madison Square Garden,” he said. “I'm a former ninth-grade coach in Wheeling, W. Va., so it's a thrill of a lifetime for me.”


Xavier Stories
NIT semis motivate tired Xavier
Notre Dame talking, but Prosser isn't
- Clemson shooting for some redemption
Ducks going for 3-game sweep of Cal