Tiger Basketball Players Go Shopping With Local Youth

LSU Hoops Notebook: First NET rankings; Coach Wade Comments

by Kent Lowe | Sr. Assoc. Communications Director
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Tiger Basketball Players Go Shopping With Local Youth

BATON ROUGE –– The LSU Basketball team enjoyed its annual Christmas shopping spree with a group of youngsters from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Baton Rouge on Monday, as Will Wade and the Tigers shopped their way around a local store. 

It’s good for our players,” said Coach Wade. “Our players enjoy it as much as the kids getting the gifts. It’s a good way for our program and our players to give back to the community.”

It’s an annual tradition for Wade that dates back to his days at Clemson working under head coach Oliver Purnell, and it’s the third such event since taking over at LSU.

“He started it and all of us who have worked for Coach Purnell have kind of kept it going. Even though he is out of coaching it is one that lives on through all of us,” said Coach Wade. “It’s a great tradition that he started and we are just happy to carry it on.

For senior guard Skylar Mays, he has been a regular part of this event. 

“It’s like my favorite time of the year,” he said. “Just getting to hang with these new guys and little kids who probably couldn’t do this stuff like this. It always warms your heart. We had a really good time.”

The fruits of LSU’s non-conference schedule and its play this season is showing off as LSU was No. 26 in the first NET rankings of 2019-20. 

LSU has one quadrant two win presently (Rhode Island), three quadrant three wins and three quadrant four wins. Of course the values will move up and down each day as the NET is updated throughout the season. 

Auburn (7), Arkansas (23) and Tennessee (25) are in front of LSU in this first ranking from the Southeastern Conference. Undefeated Liberty, which LSU plays on Dec. 29, is ranked at No. 19.

LSU’s present schedule and rankings has the potential for the Tigers to play 14 more games among teams ranked in quadrant one or two of the NET rankings. 

Coach Wade met with the media on Monday regarding Wednesday’s 6 p.m. home game with East Tennessee State (tickets available at LSUtix.net and the LSU Athletic Ticket Office) and here are some of his comments:

Opening Statement…
“Big week ahead. It starts with East Tennessee State. Very, very good ball club. They’re 9-2 on the year. One of their losses is to Kansas. They are an elite, elite offensive team. They have one of the top 35 offenses in the entire country. It’s not just their offense performed well against Kansas – their offense was better against Kansas than BYU, Colorado and Duke on a points per possession basis. They’ve got a very efficient offense, very good offense. They bring their leading scorer off the bench, (Tray) Boyd. They shoot it well from three. They’re top 40 in the country for three-point percentage. It’s going to be a big, big challenge for us and a chance for us to enhance our resume. 

“We’ve got to get off to faster starts. We’ve got to get off to a much better start against them than we’ve been getting off to. We can’t dig ourselves holes like we have been because a team the caliber of East Tennessee State, we’re not going to be able to dig yourself out of that hole like we were able to against New Orleans and even against Northwestern State there for a little bit. I think we’ve practiced well. We’re getting better. Hopefully it will show on Wednesday.”

On if Marlon Taylor will return against East Tennessee State…
“Yeah, we’re hoping he is. He’ll have a minute restriction. We had a little bit of a setback yesterday. He was a little sore yesterday so he didn’t practice. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go (Monday) and then ready to go on Wednesday. It won’t be like he’s going to play 30 minutes.”

On what the emphasis was over the last week in practice…
“A couple of things. Offensively – cutting down on the turnovers, screening better, cutting a little harder we spent some time on that. Defensively we worked on some new wrinkles that we want to try whether it be in the full court or in the half court. We need to speed the game up. We need to take people out of what they do a little bit and force some more isolations. We just worked on some different concepts that we can use over the next couple months.”

On the players being done with finals
“I hate to call it a distraction, but there aren’t any distractions right now. You don’t have class, you don’t have other things going on. Not to say class is a distraction, but you don’t have 40,000 other people on campus with you, it’s just a very small amount of people. You need to lock in, narrow your focus and focus in on basketball. We need to get better individually. We need to get better as a team. We have plenty of time. Right now we have all day where you don’t have classes, you don’t have tutoring, you don’t have study hall, you don’t have different appointments on campus so there’s a lot of time there for you to work on your game. Then we have more time as coaches to work on our game with them. I think this is a good time for us and a time where we have to continue to improve.”

On if Marlon Taylor will be a game time decision…
“We’re hopeful he’s going to play. We think he’s going to play. He’s cleared to play. It just going to be his pain tolerance and how sore he is and how he feels. Hopefully he’ll feel better (Monday). I haven’t seen him yet (Monday), but hopefully he’ll feel better today.”

On how having no distractions helps benefit the younger players…
“I think its big benefit. It’s good that they can come in the summer and get adjusted in the summer. It’s different though when everybody’s here. In the summer you’re taking one or two classes, now you’re taking four or five. You’ve got a lot of different things going on. I do think it will slow back down for the younger guys a bit. We are counting on – you’ve got Charles (Manning Jr.), you’ve got Trendon (Watford), you’ve got James Bishop who have all played major minutes for us as young guys. We’ve got to get them to continue to settle down and be better. This is a time where we can work with them and spend extra time with them. It’s not just on the court – I’m talking about in the film room, you just don’t have the time sometimes during the semester to do that. This will allow us to carve out that time with these young guys and hopefully, I think they’ve all made jumps. I think they’re getting better. Particularly the last week in practice, Trendon and James have really started playing at a higher level. I’m hopeful that will translate to the game on Wednesday.”

On how the rotations might change as Marlon Taylor works his way back…
“That’s a good question. We’ve talked about that as a staff. Obviously we’ve got to take the minutes from somewhere. In reality, we’re playing some of these guys quite a bit and probably a little bit too much. You get diminishing returns after a certain amount of minutes. Some of it’s going to come out of the major player’s minutes and if we can take them from 36-37 minute to 32-33 minutes, there’s five minutes for two of those guys right there so there’s 10. We’ve got some other things that we can cut in to. But like I said, it’s not like early on we’re just going to put Marlon out there 25 minutes and say have at it. It’s going to be 12-15 minutes, 15-18 minutes, 18-20 minutes – you know, it’s going to be a gradual build over the next couple weeks. He’s been out there practicing, but he’s not in game shape. He’s not used to the speed. There’s a lot of thing that he’s got to continue to adjust to.”

On how he has seen Trendon Watford improve in not turning the ball over as much…
“Trendon’s getting better with that. He’s getting more used to the pace and the speed of the game. Peoples closing speeds are a lot different at this level than they are in high school – even the high level AAU and other high level basketball he played – it’s just different. I think he’s adjusted in that and learning and will continue to get better as we move forward and play more games. I think every game he’s getting better and I think that will continue.”

On what can be attributed to some of the team’s slow starts…
“We’re not as locked in mentally and as focused mentally as we need to. We give up way too many easy baskets off of scouting reports early in the game. We’ve got to be more locked in mentally to what we’re doing and more locked in to our game plan and execute it for 40 minutes. We’ve got to play a full 40 minutes. It’s got to be beginning, middle and – complete game, 40 minutes. It can’t be 30 minutes, 32 minutes. That’s what we’ve been playing for the most part this year. We’ve got to take that next step and play complete games. That means execute and being focused, being locked in to our attention to detail beginning, middle, end. That from the jump until the last possession. You look at every possession matters. Everything matters when you get to this point in the season. We’ve got to buckle down and play that way.

“I thought for the majority of the Utah State game we were locked in. I thought the Rhode Island was the best we played.”

On how he feels about the offense so far…
“Our offense is good. We just have to screen better. Like I said earlier, we’ve got to cut a little bit harder. The turnovers are moving in the right direction. I think Javonte (Smart) has played tremendous at point guard. Skylar (Mays) has been in a little bit of a lull here, but he’s picked it up in practice. He’s been really good so I think he’s getting ready to break out and move forward. Offensively we’re top 10 in the country in just about everything. There’s room for improvement. There’s nine other teams between where we are and where we want to be. We need to get our offense in the top five and we can (by) screening better, cutting harder – you watch how East Tennessee State cuts and how we cut and it’s night and day how hard East Tennessee State cuts and how they screen and how they come off their staggers and how they curl their staggers. It’s night and day how much harder they cut and play offensively than we do. Like I told our guys, we’ve been relying on our natural gifts and natural talents here for about the last month. It’s great – we’re talented. We’ve got natural gifts. We’ve got natural talent. We’ve got good players. But we’ve got to execute at a higher level. We’ve got to screen. We’ve got to cut. We’ve got to continue to value the ball.”

On what East Tennessee State does on offense that makes them so good…
“They cut hard. They’ve got great schemes. They’re well organized. They have the right guys. They put you in tough spots – they’ll have a guy rolling and then they’ll have their best three-point shooter filling up on that side so you’ve got to stay with the three-point shooter. Then they’ve got big kids. They start a seven-footer (Lucas N’Guessan). (Jeremy) Rodriguez is a guy that could have played in the SEC. He could have played anywhere in the country. He went to Northwest Florida State then left with (Coach) Forbes. The really good mid-majors are separated by – they all have good guards and they’ve got really good guards. Bo Hodges was Mr. Basketball in Tennessee. (Tray) Boyd, who they bring off the bench, was a prolific scorer in Division-II and then went to Junior College and was a scorer there and now he is their leading scorer and Hodges is their second leading scorer. Patrick Good’s a kid I’ve known for years. He’s a great shooter. They’ve got great shooting. They’ve got really, really good offense. They’ve got big guys that can protect the rim. They’ve got big guys that can rebound and they’re going to be right there at the top of the Southern Conference and have a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament.”

On Coach Steve Forbes’ teams that have a blue-collar personality on his teams…
“He’s been unbelievable successful wherever he’s been whether it’s been as an assistant when he was at Tennessee or Wichita (State) and all those places … He does a great job of getting guys who fit his system and what he does. Coach (Jason) Shay, (Brooks) Savage, his assistants do a good job. Coach Savage worked with me for a while. They’ve got really, really good players. They do a good job of recruiting. They get good kids out of the Junior College ranks. They get really, really good high school kids out of Tennessee which is what (Bo) Hodges is. They do a good job of finding those kids and they really coach those kids hard and put them in position.”