Feb 02, 2016: Clemson Tigers forward Jaron Blossomgame (5) works the ball inside guarded by Wake Forest Demon Deacons forward Greg McClinton (11) during the regular season ACC matchup at Lawrence Joel Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Clemson Tigers

Naismith Contender: Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame

Jim Dedmon/Icon Sportswire

Jaron Blossomgame finds himself in a scary Cat Barber-like situation. The Clemson Tigers’ forward is as good a player as there is in the ACC, but few know about him or his unique set of skills because Clemson is not exactly a basketball power.

A similar thing happened to Cat Barber last season with North Carolina State. While the Wolfpack made a push for national relevance, Barber spent the majority of what turned out to be a really good individual season under the radar. Thanks to that, a lot of national awards he deserved to contend for instead evaded him. People don’t care to consume average teams — even if that team includes a legitimate superstar.

Moving away from the analogy for the time being, Blossomgame is one of the better players in the ACC you never heard of. Unless you are a Tigers fan, an ACC die-hard, or love to watch barely above .500 teams play basketball, the forward might as well be the drummer from some local band you see play at a dive bar from time to time. You might think he’s good, but you have no idea… because, seriously, if he were any good, would he be drumming at a local dive bar?

He’s obviously much more than that.

A 6-7 combo-forward, the senior has been a player of consequence for Clemson for two of his three seasons with the program. After a freshman campaign in which he played meaningful minutes with mixed results, he began to make an impact in earnest as a sophomore, when he averaged over 13 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Last season, however, was his breakout endeavor.

Yes, the Tigers won only 17 games, and some of the blame can be pointed to various places, but Blossomgame was a bright spot for the group, averaging 18.7 points per game on 51-percent shooting from the floor. He also added 6.7 rebounds per game, which was down from his sophomore year, for good measure.

That last part about his rebounding needs a little clarification. It wasn’t that he became a worse rebounder, but that he became a more dynamic offensive threat beyond the arc. After barely being competent to shoot threes as a freshman and sophomore, Blossomgame hit 44 percent of his shots from long range as a junior (on over three attempts per game).

In turn, because he was spending less time beneath or near the basket on offense, his rebounding numbers dropped ever so slightly.

Offensively, there’s very little to worry about from the forward. He can do nearly everything well in terms of trying to score.

He’s athletic enough to get to the rim and score with contact. He now has the range to open up offense for others, and ACC opposition will likely spend so much time planning to stop him that his assist numbers — which are paltry, to be honest — should go up.

Blossomgame is an offensive marvel, the type we should want to consume, and will get even better this season. Will we take notice, though?

Blossomgame getting national love has less to do with him and more about whether or not Clemson will be good enough to command our respect — which circles back to the Cat Barber comparison. Barber, who was probably the best offensive player in the ACC last season, was mostly underappreciated because N.C. State wasn’t good enough for casual fans to take notice.

Even if the Tigers end up not being good enough to help put Blossomgame in a position to win national awards, we should take notice now as fans. He has shown the ability to improve — and rather dramatically — season to season.

Considering he’s coming off his third collegiate year in which he improved his field goal percentage by nearly 30 points and his three-point counterpart by almost 200 (TWO HUNDRED!), another drastic developmental growth period might seem absurd, but shouldn’t be bet against.

Jaron Blossomgame might not play for a team which will be good enough to force casual folk to watch, but we should anyway. The forward’s game is well worth enjoying for two hours on your picture-box. He’s everything FUN about college basketball.

He’s also low-key good enough to win national awards. That’s not hyperbole as much as it is that he plays for a program few worry about.

If the Tigers end up being more than competitive in the ACC, don’t be shocked when you start to hear what are now only whispers: that Blossomgame has the game to be considered a Naismith Award-winning player.

Naismith Contender: Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame
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