Getting an Early Start
by Joey Papania
It seems odd to be discussing college basketball in the month of August. But the LSU men’s basketball team has already taken the courts in preparation for a tour of Italy that includes stops in Milan, Bormio, Verona, Vicenza and Venice.
The Tigers departed Sunday morning with a nine-man squad. The NCAA only allows returning players from last year’s team to participate because of recruiting influences. LSU will also be without the services of walk-on junior-college transfers Jason Wilson and Jamal Harrison who are also ineligible during the summer, according to the NCAA.
With the absence of two of last year’s most dominating big men in the SEC, Jabari Smith and Stromile Swift, the 2000-2001 Tigers will focus predominately on the play of the guards. Last season LSU asked for and received more than they bargained for from point guard Torris Bright. This season the LSU coaching staff may have to ask even more from the Slidell native.
“This year we will become a more guard-oriented team,” explained Bright. “We want to score more and run more. I have to take on more of a scoring role, but we have a lot of offensive weapons on the team that will help pick up the slack.”
The 6’4″ sophomore is no stranger to the scoring role. The four-year letterman at Slidell High School averaged 33.3 points per game as a senior and was named the top scorer in the metro New Orleans area. In one game during his senior season, Bright scored 70 points.
In his freshman year at LSU, Bright was fifth on the team in scoring with a 10 point per game average. He also boasted a 43 percent average from the field and a 40 percent average from beyond the 3-point stripe, the highest of the LSU nine-man rotation. He also led the Tigers last season in assists and steals per game. Most impressive was his team high 33.4 minutes per game, a tremendous feat for the true freshman.
The departure of Swift and Smith have accounted for a total loss of nearly 38 percent of the Tigers’ points last year. This season LSU plans to move the focus to the guards by utilizing the motion offense LSU head coach John Brady used primarily in his six years at Samford University and in first two seasons with the Tiger program.
“We work on (screening) almost everyday now,” Bright said. “That’s going to allow our new offense get some better looks. We are going to run a lot of teams, so we have to be in shape.”
This trip should give the team an excellent opportunity to get accustomed to the new style. Senior Brian Beshara is the only Tiger with any experience playing overseas. Last year Beshara was part of an SEC team that toured Japan.
“This is my first time going overseas,” Bright said. “I think it’s going to be a good learning experience for the team, playing different types of basketball. It will be a good opportunity to see where the team is at right
Upon the Tigers’ return from Italy, they will next begin fall practice on Oct. 15th. At that time, incoming freshmen and junior college transfers will be allowed to participate with the team, and the Tigers can begin where they left off just over four months ago.
“Last year was very fun going all the way to the Sweet 16,” said Bright. “I learned a lot that I plan to carry over into this year. It should be a good year.”