Coach Wade Visits With Media To Lead Off Exhibition Game Week

by Kent Lowe | Sr. Assoc. Communications Director
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Coach Wade Visits With Media To Lead Off Exhibition Game Week

BATON ROUGE – Heading into a charity exhibition contest on Saturday, Coach Will Wade took the opportunity to visit with the media and discuss several topics concerning his 2019-20 LSU men’s basketball team.

Coach Wade thanked the many fans who came to the PMAC as part of the TAF tailgate to watch the team practice on Saturday before the LSU-Auburn football game and thanks those who have helped make the season ticket purchase total for the season, the highest in over 20 years. 

Among other things the Coach was asked about regarded style of play, the NBA draft process for those that left and those that returned for another season on the team, the scheduling aspect for this season and other topics regarding players and coaching style.

LSU will travel to Ruston on Saturday for a 4 p.m. exhibition game at the Thomas Assembly Center against Louisiana Tech. The game is an NCAA-approved charity event to help raise money for the relief effort from the tornado this spring in Ruston that among other things did tremendous damage to several facilities on the LA Tech campus. There will be no television for the event, but Chris Blair and John Brady will broadcast the game on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network beginning at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday.

The Tigers open the 2019-20 season on Friday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m. against Bowling Green. Season tickets are still on sale at LSUTix.net.

Here are some of Coach Wade’s comments on Monday;

Opening statement…
“I want to start out thanking everyone for coming out Saturday (to the TAF Tailgate Basketball Showcase). I thought the turnout was great. It was great for our guys getting their rings and being able to practice in front of everyone. I thought that was really good for our team, really good for our players. Another thing I’m excited about this season; season tickets are way up. Our fan excitement from last season has carried over in other areas. We’re just under 7,300 season tickets sold right now … It will be the most season tickets we’ve sold in over 20 years. I’m really appreciative of all those who have purchased season tickets. Hopefully we can add a few between now and November 8 when we play Bowling Green. We’re very, very excited about the interest level and the excitement of our team this far.

“This weekend we’re going up to Louisiana Tech to play in the road exhibition game. The proceeds from the game are going to help rebuild infrastructure in Ruston from the devastating tornado in the Spring. It’s something we got together with Louisiana Tech and certainly wanted to take part in and help out in any small way we can. It will be really good for our team. Louisiana Tech, on top of that, is a very, very good team. They return five of their six leading scorers. They got a waiver from a big 6-10 kid who played at West Virginia who’s from Florida. It will be a hostile environment. It will be a very good team we’re playing, a team that gave us everything we could handle here last year. Javonte (Smart’s) three hit four different spots on the rim before we could breathe easily, escaping by seven points. They return five of their six leading scorers. They’ve got a very good backcourt, very, very good guard play. It will be a tough game for us. It will be good to see how our guys respond in a tough and difficult environment when things are moving fast. We’ll certainly be in plenty of those games coming up this season. It will be very good to see how we do this weekend and what we need to adjust and what we need to be better at. 

“Overall, I’ve been pleased with our preseason. I’ve been pleased with our strides that our team has made. We’ve got to continue to get better and show that we can do it when the lights come on. Overall our guys have progressed well and we’re going to settle into our rotation in the next couple of weeks and get ready to get going.”

On the team’s health heading into the season…
“Everybody is as healthy as we’ve been. Aundre Hyatt is going to be cleared to go in the game against Louisiana Tech. He’s been practicing with us in a limited role with his knee injury, but he’ll be cleared to play. Javonte (Smart) had a little shoulder injury in practice, but he’s fine and will be practicing today and should be practicing all week. We’re really as healthy as we’ve been in a while. We’re a little banged up just like you are anytime going through preseason with aches and bruises and nicks, but in terms of injuries we’re doing pretty good.”

On how the additions and subtractions of the roster will change this year’s team…
“We’ll be different. You certainly have to play to your strengths. I’m actually much more – everybody’s talking about the adjustment – I’m much more used to coaching a team like the team we’ve got now. Last year was much more of an adjustment for me. We’ve never had two or three big kids. I’ve always had smaller and quicker teams. This team is much more normal to what I feel very, very comfortable coaching. Some of the stuff is a little bit overblown. I think last year was more of an adjustment. We had to change two or three times how we played because I just screwed it up a couple of times. Then we finally got into a groove and figured it out. I’m a little more used to playing with a roster that looks like this. 

“I think certainly we’ll be able to take advantage of our strengths. I know the strengths and weakness when you have a roster like this. We’ve just got to play to our strengths. The reality is we have a very good team and we’ve got very talented players, but we don’t quite have the margin for error as last year. Last year we had a little larger margin of error. If we made mistakes, we could erase those mistakes with some plays where we were the only team in the gym that could make those plays. Just because we won’t have the same margin of error it doesn’t mean we won’t have a very, very good year and could be just as good as last year and maybe better. We’re just going to have to be tighter in a lot of areas than last year. We’re going to have to really, really play to our strengths and minimize some of the high-risk stuff that we did last year. We’re just going to have to be a lot simpler and a lot steadier.”

On how rebounding and ball movement will be impacted by having a smaller roster…
“Ball movement is going to be huge. We’ve got to have ball movement, player movement, our pace has to be good. Last year we got a little stagnant with our pace. The lane is going to be open so to be able to drive it in there and create contact at the rim. Last year we were fourth in the country in percentage of shots at the rim. We shot almost 43-percent of our shots at the rim and that wasn’t like we fed the post all the time. So, we’ve got to be able to drive it in and finish and continue to draw fouls at the front of the rim. That will help us. The rebounding is where I’ve talked about, we have to be more solid. You can’t gamble as much and can’t do quite as much because once you get into rotation, we’ll get in major mismatches having guards blocking out bigs. We’re not as built for that. There’s some things schematically we’ve changed defensively to try to help with that and to try to make sure we’re playing to our strengths.”

On what he’s looking for in Javonte Smart replacing Tremont Waters at point guard…
“I tell people all the time that aesthetically it will look a little different, but (Javonte) is going to get the job done. He’s going to do a very, very good job. It’s going to be a little more station to station. It’s not going to be where we skip it over two different areas and throw a lob. It’s just going to be station to station, a little bit more solid basketball. Are the ‘wow’ plays going to be as plentiful? Probably not. I think our turnovers and things like that will be down too. We’re just going to be little bit more understated I think is the best way to put it. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be as effective or more effective. We scored 82 a game last year. We should average at least that this year. I think we’ll be better than that this year offensively, just because we shoot the ball better. There’s a lot of different ways to make things happen and get things done. We’ll be pleased with the results, but it will be a little different.”

On Trendon Watford leading the team in scoring during the Spain trip this Summer…
“I think Trendon is someone who is very versatile. He could lead us in scoring. He could lead us in assists. He could lead us in rebounding. He could lead us in a lot of categories just because he is such a versatile player. He’s one of our bigger guys. I think rebounding will be a huge area of emphasis for us. I was pleased he had 13 rebounds in one of our scrimmages against some good competition. That was a good sign that things are moving in a good direction. We’re going to be a team where we’ve got four or five guys that could lead us in scoring any night. I’m not sure he’ll lead us in scoring every night or even for the season. Certainly Skylar (Mays), Javonte (Smart), Darius Days – we’ve got a lot of guys that could make shots and score the ball for us. Trendon’s versatility is huge for us. We could play him at point guard if you have an issue where Javonte gets in foul trouble. We can bring him in and he can bring the ball up the court on offense and get us started. He can really play anywhere on the court. It’s like having a Swiss Army Knife and he can do a little bit of everything. “

On what to expect this season from Darius Days, Emmitt Williams, and Marlon Taylor
“We need large contributions from all three.  I think for Emmitt (Williams) the number one thing fans will see is that he’s expanded his range.  He can make shots now, but I think fans will still see the same junkyard dog, tough guy that’s getting rebounds and pounding the glass. At his core that’s who he is and that’s what makes him a great player.  I think he will still do all of that, but you will see that he expanded his range.  It’s going to make teams come out and guard us and make things a little more difficult on guys.  

“Darius (Days) is somebody who has worked extremely hard.  The number one thing with Darius (Days) is that he needs to stay on the court.  Last year he was one of the best offensive rebounders in the entire country.  He’s our best three-point shooter statically speaking.  He shot 42% from three so we just have to keep him on the court. When I talk about changing our defensive schemes a little bit, we have to make sure we got our guys guarding the right guys and keeping those matchups.  Last year we got cross matched a lot because we were doing some different things. We want to keep the matchups pretty even and we don’t want to be running around everywhere.  

“Marlon (Taylor) is someone who has continued to grow. I think one of the things that is going to be jumping off the pages is that he’s going to shoot it better.  I think that some of the other stuff won’t be as noticeable to maybe the average fan.  He’s just been a great athlete who plays basketball and now I told him that he has to be a great basketball player who is a great athlete.  He’s got to be able to incorporate some thinking, understand where to be defensively, and not solely rely on his athleticism.  That’s something he’s really improved on and he’s taken an interest to the film room.  There’s going to be a lot of things that he does that are going to be quite a bit better than last year, but people won’t notice the idea of getting there a half second earlier and making someone shoot an eight-foot jumper as opposed to a layup.  Marlon (Taylor) will be very improved and he’s going to bring what he brings.  This is why Marlon is such a valuable player.  There’s three plays every night and every practice that he’s the only player that can make those plays.  He’s the only player on the court that can make those plays.  When you’re in the SEC and 68% of the games are three possessions or less and you have a guy, who can make three plays that nobody else can that’s a valuable commodity.  That’s a valuable player and that’s exactly what he is.”   

On Emmitt Williams’ weight loss…
“He’s at about 220 right now.  We would like to get him back up to 225 where he will lose four to five pounds during the season.  He’s going to have to move, we are going to be a team that’s built on speed and quickness.  He’s got to be able to move a little bit better and I think our guys are in very good shape.  Our conditioning is going to have to be an advantage for us this season and hopefully we are working towards that.  He’s 6’7 and he’s going to have to be able to use his speed, his quickness, his pace to his advantage and our team’s advantage.”  

On returning players going through the NBA Draft Experience…
“I think that process has been great even though I know it caused a lot of angst between media and fans.  As a coaching staff you have a pretty good idea of who’s coming back.  I think all of the guys made the right decision. The guys who left made the right decision and the guys who stayed made the right decision.  You look at someone like Marlon (Taylor) who understands what he has to do at that level.  It really opened his eyes to some things and Emmitt (Williams) as well.  Skylar (Mays) went through the process and some teams were very interested in him.  I think he knows what he needs to do to improve on some areas.  With somebody like Skylar you give him a checklist of things to do and he will go after it with reckless abandon.”

On if he’s learned anything different about coaching five-star recruits…
“Oh yeah. You always make mistakes and learn and get better. I told Trendon (Watford) that in the recruiting process. I said you’ll be better off with me having gone through that process with other guys and learning from mistakes. Anyone that tells you that you won’t make mistakes is lying. With last year’s team, it took us a little while to gel and get going. I wish I had done a better job earlier on with some of those guys. Now I have a better picture of how it needs to go and what we need to do, and they need to do to be successful and how big of a jump it is. Not just the physical part, but the mental part is the main thing. It’s different, you’re used to going up against 17 and 18 year old’s in high school and on the AAU circuit. Now you’re going against 22 and 23-year olds, it’s different going against those grown men. I think Trendon’s been the beneficiary of us learning some lessons last year, me in particular. As we continue to get really good players, hopefully I’ll continue to get even better helping those guys out.”
 
On any specific differences coaching higher recruits…
“I’d just say I’m much more focused on making sure that we’re holding them accountable, but you have to build some confidence. I think last year, you had new guys that you want to knock them down a few pegs to make them understand what’s coming. You have to walk a thin line between what’s going to happen and what you need to prepare for, but if you do what you’ve been doing your whole life at a higher level and with a little more physicality, stuff like that. I’ve been much better at not just attacking everything head-on like ‘hey, we need to this better and this better.” Now it’s ‘hey, we have to do this better, but you do this part of it well,’ and try to give them confidence. They’re good players and ranked as highly as they were for a reason. Those scouts usually don’t miss on those rankings for those type of guys often. You don’t want them to lose and be paralyzed by what they’re not doing. Appreciate what they do well and let’s attack the areas they need to improve on and get better on that, but you have to give them some confidence, juice, and swag. You need them to be themselves and be the guy that got them to where they are, now they just need to do it at a higher level and higher conditioning, and you can’t take plays off. I think we’ve been better than that.”
 
On if the returning core means he gets to be hands-off with certain team aspects…
“You know, I certainly have a trust level with Javonte (Smart) and Skylar (Mays) and (Darius) Days, and a high trust level in one of the newcomers, Charles Manning Jr.. I’m always trying to be in tuned with what’s going on with the team. I do have a leadership council this year, which is something I haven’t done here yet. I think being three years into the program here, our culture is where we want it to be. I have that leadership group that I meet with and they can talk to me about the team and I can talk to them about some things. We always want to keep our pulse on what’s going on. It doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what they think or hear. I may think I give the best message before practice or a game and they could hear absolutely none of it and instead hear something that I didn’t even know I said. I think having that trust level with those guys helps with that, but you’ve always got to be on point with the guys and know what everyone’s feeling and thinking.

On what Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart need to improve on…
“I think everyone gets excited about the shiny new toy; they forget the really good players you have. Skylar has been so steady. I think the number one thing for Skylar is to shoot a higher percentage from three. I think if he can do that and is a little more solid defensively. The number one thing I would like from both of those guys is rebounding better. Big guards rebound. I tell them all the time ‘the big dogs get off the porch and go chase stuff, they don’t sit over there and bark.’ You have to go chase the ball down. We need both those guys to average five plus rebounds a game for us if we are going to be successful. Most teams send one or two guys back in transition defense, we are going to need our five guys to defensive rebound against their three guys. It is going to be like holding on for dear life some nights, but we are going to need all five of those guys in there rebounding. I think the biggest thing those two could grow and help us with is rebounding, especially on the defensive end.”

On the new three-point line…
“Part of the change in our offense has been to take advantage of that. We actually shot the ball from three better in Spain than we did last year. Of course, that is not saying a whole lot. It didn’t affect us as much shooting it. I do think there are some advantages to it in terms of opening the lane up, opening space up. It is going to make close outs longer on paint touches. I think there are some real advantages to it. Hopefully we can be the beneficiaries of that and take advantage of that. We spent a lot more time on spacing and pace than we have on running plays. In the past we have been much more set oriented.”

On the approach to the season’s schedule…
“It is going to be very challenging. Obviously, the SEC part is the SEC part, so there’s not a whole lot we can control about that. We have the Big 12 challenge; we go to Texas. Obviously, we open with Bowling Green. They are going to be picked to win their division in the MAC. They are going to be one of the favorites to win the MAC. They are going to win 20 plus games this year. We go to VCU, who is Top 25. In (Jamaica), we are playing Utah State, they are in the Top 25. We come back from that and have Missouri State who is picked to win the Missouri Valley Conference and 22 plus ball games. We have East Tennessee State, who is already picked to win the SOCON. You have Liberty who has already been picked to win the Atlantic Sun when we come back from Christmas. We have Southern California as well. It is a very challenging schedule. We are not going to blow a lot of these teams out at home. It is going to be a lot of close games for us at home. That is part of the deal. When you do a schedule like this you have to understand the benefits are numerically, we are going to look very strong. We have to win the games, but numerically it sets up very well for us. The number one goal is to make sure our numerics look good in March. It is going to be a struggle. We are going to struggle in some of these games. There are going to be a lot of close home games.”

On having returning starters on the roster…
“We talk about blue-collar, gold standard. We still want to be blue-collar, work hard, that’s what we do. We’re going to do everything to a gold standard. The highest standard we can possibly do it to. I think it’s validation that what we do, works. We don’t have to answer a lot of questions on, ‘Why did we do this?” or “Why did we do that?” It works, move along. We have really good leadership with Skylar and those guys that have been around, so we’ll be good with that. But we don’t like to talk about the past, we don’t like to talk about that. I was telling the new guys the other day that they don’t put championship rings on smooth fingers. You have to work. You have to get your hands in the mud, get gritty and grimy. You have to be able to work a little bit. It looked good on Saturday, but we worked really hard for that. There’s a lot of stuff you didn’t see that went into that. Don’t get memorized by the ring. At the end of the day, that’s over. We don’t talk about last year. I’ll talk about certain games or certain situations, but that’s about it. We have a new team and the challenge now is about moving this team forward and being great with this team. No one around here cares about last year. It’s time to move forward and win again.”

On Aundre Hyatt’s recovery…
“He’s been great. It’s going quickly. Shawn Eddy, our athletic trainer, and our doctors have done a really good job with him. Aundre is a competitor. He wants to be out there; he wants to play and help our team and he’s somebody that can help our team. He’s been progressing well, and he’ll be cleared to play Saturday. He really did some positive things for us in Spain. He really came along while he was there. I think the last game he played there he had 13 points for us, and he did a nice job. He can help us rebounding. He’s a big body. He’s 6’5 and he’s thick. He can do some things for us while also stretching the court with his ability to make shots. He’s going to critical for us this season, so we’re excited to have him out there and see how he does on Saturday.”