Some of the best basketball players in America will be running on a strataospheric high at the ACC Tournament opening today.

None, though, will match the courageous performance of John Campbell, Clemson's starting center.

Four nights ago, Campbell was signing autographs after a game before his coach, Bill Foster, took his 19-year-old player aside. Campbell's father had been hit by an automobile, thrown 100 feet and killed instantly, he was told.. The tradedy occurred within 300 yards of the spot Campbell's 10-year-old brother had ben riding his bicycle last year when he was struck by a car and killed.

"I think my father would like me to play," said Campbell yesterday after practice. "He always wanted me to do my best. He would want me to go on and play. In a way, I'm dedicating this to him."

Campbell's father, Arthur, 54, will be burried tomorrow afternoon. If Clemson beats Duke today, Campbell will fly back to Greensboro tomorrow evening in time for the 9 p.m. semifinal. Could he bear up under such strain?

"I hope I can do it," Campbell said. "I don't know."

"He doesn't show a lot of emotion," said Foster. "When I told him, he seemed to swallow hard, and that was all. He's a biga old tough kid on the exterior. But he's a little kid on the inside."

Clint Bryant, assistant coach, went with Campbell Saturday night on the team plane to the airport nearest his home in Blenheim, S.C. Campbell's family lives off an unpaved road. The next day Campbell decided he would play.

"I figured it would give me something else to think about," said Campbell. "Coach told me it was up to me. I realize what has happened, but I'm trying not to let it bother me. After the tournament, I'll probably think about it much more.

"Every time I think of my father's death I can't help thinking about my brother. I feel all this has happened for a reason, and some day I'll find out what it is.

"Am I a strong person? I don't know. Maybe."

Campbell arrived here yesterday morning after a 125-mile automobile trip with a fan.

Senior forward Jim Howell said. "If it was me I'd go crazy. I don't think I would play, but the team doesn't need me like we need him.

"It made us feel awfully good to see him. It really shows his feelings for the team."

Freshman center Larry Nance, who competes for Campbell's position, is Campbell's best friend on the team. Nance said, "I never heard of someone having their father die and then coming and playing. I doubt if I could do it. But he likes to be with us and I feel better knowing he's here."

Campbell said he thought avout staying with his mother, sister and two brothers.

"But my mother agreed it would be okay," said Campbell, the first in his family to attend college. "She told me not to worry, and to play hard."