Lewis Clinch was gracious in his last interview session in a Tech uniform.
While of course he wanted to take the last shot — and was still kicking himself for missing what he called a great look at a 3-pointer with 52 seconds left — he repeatedly said he had no problem with what happened in the last 7 seconds. Though of course he wanted a different ending.
He said he believed Iman Shumpert was going to make the shot from the foul-line area. (Shumpert missed, and Tech lost 64-62 to FSU). Clinch predicted Shumpert will do great things for the program, and said he’d encourage the freshman to start preparing for next season.
“This is just the beginning for him — he’s 18 years old,” Clinch said. “I’m going to tell him to continue to work hard, learn from the great things that he did, build on those, and learn from the mistakes he made. And become the great player he’s going to be.”
Shumpert, for his part, felt horrible for Clinch and Alade Aminu.
“I definitely never wanted to send our seniors off like this,” the freshman said. “With this rocky season, when they needed us to step up, a lot of times the younger guys didn’t do what we were supposed to do at the end [of games]. It’s just frustrating that we had to go through it, they had to go through it, our coaching staff had to go through it…
“We get the big win against Clemson and we get our chance again at a close game and weren’t able to convert,” Shumpert added. “It’s extremely frustrating that we sent our seniors off like this.”
Clinch also defended Tech’s coaching staff, which has come under increasing fire.
“They did a great job working with us,” said Clinch, who averaged 25 points over his last seven games. “I see them getting talked about a lot in the media. They did a great job of getting us prepared. It’s up to us as players to go out there and get it done. That’s a great staff in that lockerroom. And I respect those guys a lot.”
Coach Paul Hewitt, in discussing the 12-19 season, brought up inexperienced guard play and the resulting lack of perimeter scoring. He mentioned the season-long absence of wing D’Andre Bell (who might return next season from his spinal surgery).
“Certain people will call it an excuse and that’s fine,” Hewitt said. “I know that this group of kids gave us everything they had. I know that this coaching staff put everything they could into every single game. We did more motivational tricks this year than I’ve ever done in my life, just trying to keep them upbeat and positive.
“And it worked, they were fired up to play every game. But at the end of the day, basketball is a game of players. It comes to down to players making plays.”
Hewitt was asked what he’d remember from this season. He cited all the close losses, and the resiliency of the seniors.
“I’ve been around this business for a long time and I’ve seen seniors throw in the towel, but they didn’t. Especially Lewis.”