Back in early December, Clemson guard T.J. Sapp decided it was time to depart from the Tigers' basketball team. He was not getting the minutes he wanted, and probably wasn't going to any time soon.
If you ask the guys over at Shaking the Southland, that's not terribly surprising or important to Clemson on the whole. Nor was it particularly relevant to us here at Mid-Major Madness - until he decided after the new year to make Murray State his new basketball home.
Apparently, Sapp has become known as simply "Yeah Man" to his teammates, largely for the energy he provides in practices and before games. Per the Murray Ledger:
"Before the game when the team is lining up I’m always yelling, ‘Yeeeah!’" he said. "Everyone has embraced that. It’s something I do before every game and I just yell that out.
"I get happy when just anything basketball related happens so when it comes to my team playing, you better believe I’m going to be happy about it or going to do whatever it takes to get them hyped about it."
This is a huge boost for the Racers, for several reasons. First off, they get a guy who they initially recruited and are therefore legitimately excited to have in the fold. Second, they also now have a guy who has experienced the atmosphere of playing at both a big school and one where football is king, and is now thrilled at what a smaller, basketball-first athletic program can mean for him.
In addition to that, there is the solution this provides for Murray State. The Racers are currently having another strong season, and their talented starting lineup is largely responsible for that. At the end of this season, both of their starting guards - Isaiah Canaan and Stacy Wilson - will graduate, as will Jordan Burge, their other senior guard who barely plays.
Other than that, you have Dexter Fields, a junior who plays 27 minutes a night but doesn't regularly do much but shoot threes (I sad shoot not make); Zay Jackson, who may not even be a college student next fall; C.J. Ford, who has played all of 40 minutes in the last seven weeks, half of which came in one game; and Tiger Warford, who hasn't played a minute all season.
If I'm head coach Steve Prohm, that forecast makes me excited to have a player in Sapp who has some big-program experience under his belt. Detractors will say that Sapp is not a great defender and therefore useless when he isn't making his three-point shots. That may be true, but defense is coachable (and something Murray State and Prohm are generally good at), and who knows how Sapp's game may grow if he gets the minutes ot be more than that?
In his first season, Sapp averaged 20 minutes and shot 41 percent from the field and 38 percent on threes, which is at least respectable - though Clemson fans probably remember him more for outings like this season's Purdue game, where he missed eight of the eleven shots he took (including all eight threes) in the Tigers loss.
This looks to me like a talented and useful player who will benefit from a change of scenery that will serve him well and a new team that could really use his services. If he can be a little less in love with his three-point shot and a little more in live with penetrating the defense, the Racers might have a real steal on their hands for next season.