Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Clemson takes a brutal 1-2 punch: losing Donte and Zion
Clemson fans were probably still waking up on Sunday morning and processing the brutal heartbreak of Zion Williamson’s college decision when they were hit with yet another heart wrenching blow.
The Tigers announced that Donte Grantham will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL — effectively ending his career at Clemson.
Grantham suffered the injury in the second half of the team’s 67-58 win over Notre Dame. His right knee buckled after he was fouled from behind.
“I’m disappointed that Donte’s career at Clemson had to end this way,” coach Brad Brownell said in a statement. “He was putting together a terrific season statistically, but he really helps this team in so many ways.”
The 6-foot-8 senior forward was averaging 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Entering Saturday night, the sky seemed to be the limit for Brownell and the Tigers.
Clemson appeared to be the favorite for the 6-6 Williamson, a South Carolina native who seemed poised to spurn the blue bloods and stay home.
But Williamson shocked the basketball world — including most recruiting experts — and picked Duke instead.
His message to Clemson, and in-state suitor South Carolina, was mature but still had to be hard to hear for fans of those teams.
“First, I’d like to thank South Carolina and Clemson for even taking the time to recruit me,” he said. “But my mom said it best, I have to follow my heart and go to where my happiness is. And I just felt like it was Duke. I still have a lot of love for my state. I don’t want people to mistake that. I love my state to death and I’ll always represent it.”
Williamson would’ve been an epic addition for Brownell, who only recently seemed to be in jeopardy of losing his job, and Tiger fans.
He would’ve only been on campus for one year, and the pressure to make the NCAA Tournament would’ve been severe. Had they missed out, it could’ve been a Ben Simmons-type situation with the potential No. 1 overall pick failing to make the NCAA Tournament.
There won’t be any such concerns at Duke, where he’ll join up with R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones and whoever returns to Duke to form one of the most potent and entertaining college basketball teams in recent memory.
But Clemson fans were already fantasizing about what his addition would’ve meant.
“Clemson landing Zion Williamson would be of epic upset proportions in college basketball, right next to Princeton over Georgetown or Chaminade over Virginia,” ESPN Upstate’s Price Atkinson before Williamson picked Duke.
“Brad Brownell and his staff would have gone up against the bluest of the blue sports in the sport plus the Tigers have only been to one NCAA Tournament since he took over in 2010 as head coach. So there’s no track record of NCAA success anywhere to speak of. If there was a home state school you’d think would be in the best shape to land Zion, it would be South Carolina, especially coming off the miracle run to the Final Four last year and with Coach [Frank] Martin’s recent track record of getting guys from Columbia to the NBA.
“And considering the best player in Clemson history is Larry Nance or Tree Rollins and those guys were decades ago, this would be unthinkable getting a player of Zion’s caliber. This program has never had a player of his talent nor dreamed it was probably even remotely possible.”
As Tigers fans collect themselves this football Sunday, they are now dealing not only with missing out on Zion, but on losing Grantham for the rest of the season, too.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.