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Jaron Blossomgame is Defying the Odds

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If you would have told forward Jaron Blossomgame before he arrived at Clemson that he’d eventually have a chance to make school history one day, he probably wouldn’t have believed it.

Blossomgame recently became one of seven players in Clemson basketball history to record at least 1,400 points and 700 rebounds in a career. By doing so, he joined the likes of Trevor Booker, Dale Davis and Horace Grant among others to accomplish that feat.

Prior to joining the Clemson basketball program, Blossomgame suffered a gruesome leg injury that forced him to redshirt during his freshman year. It’s the same injury that Indiana Pacers forward Paul George and former Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered. The compound fracture that Blossomgame suffered would end up sidelining him for the next eight months.

As he was nearing the end of his rehab, he found out that he would actually need a second surgery after it was discovered that his leg didn’t heal properly. He underwent the second surgery in June of that year and wouldn’t return to the court until September. By this time, he was already behind the curve after not being able to practice with his teammates over the summer and was at a clear disadvantage heading into his first collegiate season.

After suffering such a horrific injury, most would consider just having the ability to play basketball again a blessing. However, Blossomgame is very confident in his abilities and wasn’t satisfied with just returning to the court. He averaged 4.9 points and five rebounds in 33 games during his freshman year, but he knew he could do more.

“Personally, a lot of people told me I had a good year my freshman year,” Blossomgame told Basketball Insiders. “I’m a very confident person. I believe in myself, but I didn’t believe I had a good freshman year. It just drove me to work even harder and be able to believe in myself and go out there and do what I can because I know I’m a capable a lot more.”

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Athletes across all levels of play are some of the most confident people you’ll meet. In order to perform at a high level, these players must have confidence in themselves to reach that level of play to be great at what they do. At just 23 years old, Blossomgame has some of the strongest confidence you’ll find in a college player.

He brings up things like a person’s drive or using his athleticism to outwork his opponents. So, when he notices NBA scouts or team executives sitting in the stands evaluating his game, he doesn’t let it faze him.

Being sidelined for nearly a year gave Blossomgame a newfound appreciation for the game. Having to sit out for so long allowed him to see what life would be like without the game. When he resumed basketball activities, he had a new level of respect and knew he had to take full advantage of his opportunity at Clemson. It’s why if you see Blossomgame on game day, he’s a completely different person.

“I’m not laughing around [on game day], I’m very serious from start to finish,” Blossomgame said. “I’m a very serious person on game day. I believe in my abilities. I believe we’re going to win. I believe I’m going to play well every night. I’m just a confident person. I believe in all of the preparation we put in here at Clemson.”

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As it turns out, Blossomgame was spot-on with his assessment that he was capable of playing better than he did during his freshman year. In each of his next two seasons at Clemson, he posted improvements in several key statistical areas. His scoring climbed to 13.1 points per game and his rebounding numbers jumped up to 8.2 per game during his sophomore campaign.

It was his junior year that he really established himself as one of the country’s top players. He was named the ACC’s Most Improved Player after averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 blocks per game last season. Perhaps the biggest improvement came in his shooting.

“I think my shooting numbers alone were pretty impressive,” Blossomgame said. “I shot 44 percent from three, 79 percent from the free-throw line and I averaged 18 points. As a sophomore, I only averaged 13 points a game and shot 29 percent from three. That jump offensively, being able to stretch the floor as the four man in Clemson’s offense surprised a lot of people. It showed all the work I put in during the offseason.”

In addition to earning the Most Improved Player award, Blossomgame was also a member of the All-ACC First Team that featured some impressive names. He joined Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), Brice Johnson (North Carolina), Anthony Barber (N.C. State) and Grayson Allen (Duke) as First Team members.

Following his junior season, Blossomgame took advantage of a new rule that allowed underclassmen to enter their name for NBA Draft consideration and still maintain their college eligibility. Players last year had 10 days following the NBA Combine to withdraw their names and keep their college eligibility. Blossomgame entered his name into the pool of players but ultimately decided to return for his senior season at Clemson.

With the feedback from the Combine fresh in his mind, Blossomgame went to work this past summer. While some players take parts of the summer off, he worked on all facets of his game. He took part in the Nike Skills Academy and Adidas Nations in Los Angeles where he emerged as one of the top performers among some of the nation’s top prospects. After participating in those two camps and the Combine, Blossomgame will be well prepared for the draft process this year.

“The Combine was really fun for me last year,” Blossomgame said. “I was a little nervous going into it but I interviewed well with the teams I interviewed for. I had a strong showing in the five-on-five. It was a really positive experience for me. This year I’m just going to take it day by day. I’m looking forward to the Combine again, the interview process, the drills on the court and all the testing stuff that goes into it. I think having that last year, being able to go to the Combine working out for teams will definitely help me moving forward.”

Blossomgame has picked up this season right where he left off last year. He’s averaging 18.4 points, six rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 blocks in 17 games. His 18.4 points rank sixth in the ACC and he was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list, which is the award given to the nation’s best basketball players.

Blossomgame has been primarily used at power forward this season at Clemson. Standing at 6’7, 225 pounds, he says he’ll be able to play more on the perimeter at the next level. He’s proven to be a physical player that has excellent strength and athleticism. His 41-inch vertical jump at the Combine was the eighth-highest among all participants.

Both of those skills were on display this past weekend against No. 19 Virginia. On one sequence, Blossomgame blocked a shot on one end and then came down and got great positioning on the defender in the post. The shot into the post was a bit off but he was able to out-muscle two players to get the ball, gather his feet and convert the layup.

“I think I have a unique game,” Blossomgame said. “I can play both ends of the floor. I think I’m very versatile and I pose a mismatch on offense being able to be my height and use my quickness and speed to take bigger guys off of the dribble. We switch ball screens on defense 1-4 so I think I’m a very versatile player.

“I’m very athletic and I’m very strong for my position. I got good size and my body will definitely translate [to the NBA]. I think my rebounding will be able to translate also. I’m a pretty good rebounder for my size and position and being a good defender and also being able to be versatile enough on offense to play the three and four.”

Blossomgame is currently playing some of his best basketball of the season. He’s turned in four consecutive games scoring at least 20 points and is shooting 47 percent from the floor during that stretch. Perhaps even more impressive during this current stretch is three out of those four games were against ranked opponents in North Carolina, Notre Dame and Virginia. He seems to always be at his best when facing the best teams in the conference.

“I believe I’m one of the best players in college basketball,” Blossomgame said. “Nobody can tell me any different. My preparation, my work ethic and my drive to be successful in this sport has really given me a lot of confidence of being able to go out there and produce at the highest level. It’s something that I’ve achieved and very proud of myself for working hard for it.”

As he attempts to lead his Tigers through the ACC this season, it seems very likely he’ll have a place in the NBA next season. In DraftExpress’ latest mock draft, Blossomgame is projected to be taken at No. 26. Of course, those rankings will continue to change over the course of the next several months.

With so many stacked teams in the ACC, Blossomgame will have plenty of opportunities to improve his draft stock as the season progresses. Given his track record against some of the best teams in the conference, don’t be surprised to hear his name mentioned along with the other top prospects in the country.

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About Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.