Tigers Host A&M Saturday at Maravich Center, 11 a.m.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf Has Jersey Retired At Halftime; LSUTix.net.

by Kent Lowe | Sr. Assoc. Communications Director
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Tigers Host A&M Saturday at Maravich Center, 11 a.m.

BATON ROUGE – A special ceremony and an important SEC game will be on the menu Saturday when the LSU Tigers host the Texas A&M Aggies in a Saturday morning 11 a.m. tilt at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. 

At halftime, the jersey of one of the great scorers in LSU Basketball history, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, will be unveiled from the rafters of the Maravich Center joining Bob Pettit, Maravich, Durand Macklin and Shaquille O’Neal from the men’s program and Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles of the women’s team. 

The game will be televised on ESPN2 and broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network with the “Voice” of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU head coach John Brady on the call. Fans can listen to free streaming audio around the world at www.LSUsports.net/live.

Tickets are available at LSUTix.net and the ticket office will open on the upper concourse of the Maravich Center beginning at 9:30 a.m. 

Abdul-Rauf, who played at LSU from 1988-90 (then known as Chris Jackson), scored more points than any freshman (965) and averaged 30.1 points a game. For his two years, he posted 1,864 points and averaged 29.0 points a game. He scored in double figures in 63 of 64 career games. He was the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year both years and a two-time first-team All-America selection. 

The present-day Tigers are 10-5 on the season and 19-9 overall and tied for third after a difficult 81-66 loss against Florida in Gainesville on Wednesday night. Texas A&M is 8-7 in the league with a 14-13 overall record after a loss at home against Kentucky on Tuesday. 

The two teams met back on Jan. 14 with LSU scoring an 89-85 overtime victory in College Station at Reed Arena. LSU was down six with less than two minutes to play and LSU hit two three pointers to force overtime and then a three-pointer to open the extra session to take the lead for good. 

Coach Will Wade and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf met with the media on Friday at the Maravich Center and here are some of their comments from their respective media sessions:

Opening statement…

“We’re getting ready for (Texas) A&M. They’re obviously playing very, very well. They played Kentucky close. Beat Alabama last time on the road. They’re a lot different team than the first time we played them. Offensively, they’re making more shots. Savion Flagg is playing will. (Josh) Nebo is as good of a big as there is in our league. They’re playing extremely, extremely well. We’re going to need to play with great energy, great effort, great enthusiasm (Saturday) morning. We’re excited about the opportunity to get back on the court and compete with a very good A&M team.
 
It will be a good day. Obviously with Mahmoud’s (Abdul-Rauf) jersey being retired. I think it’s well, well deserved. Two-time conference player of the year. All-time freshman scoring average in NCAA history – he averaged 30 points a game. It should be a great day in the PMAC. Hopefully we can cap it off by playing well.”
 
On why Texas A&M is playing better…

“I think their offense; they’re running a lot more isolation plays. They’re getting the ball in to Nebo a lot more. A little more screen the screener action. I guess I would say their offense when we played them the first time was a little more of a delayed offense where they were trying to run clock to shorten the game. I think coach (Buzz) Williams – I’m not trying to speak for him, he’s a great coach – but I think he’s probably a little more confident in his team and confident in his guys offensively. I think they have a better understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish defensively. We’ve got to fight that a little bit. We took 60 shots against them the first time. Over half our shots were from three against them which is exactly what their defense wants. You’ve got to walk a thin line because you’ve got to – when you drive it in there, they’re going to take charges. They’re going to flood to the ball. We’ve got to, still, do what we do, but within the framework of what they’re going to give us. We’ve got to be a little bit sturdier with balancing that.”

On the mental state of the team…

“I think we’re good. I feel good about our group. We had a good day (Thursday) and I think we’ll bounce back strong and be ready to go. I think we have a good group, but we just didn’t play well. Sometimes you just don’t play well, and we picked a bad night not to play well. I probably didn’t have them prepared well enough as I should have but I think we have a second wind coming down the stretch. We have a little more energy and I’m excited to see how we play tomorrow.”

On the respect the team has for Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf…

“I tell them he was Steph Curry before Steph Curry. That’s the best way you can describe it. They’ve seen video and that sort of thing. For him to average 30 points a game as a freshman is incredible. I think his third game he had 48 against Louisiana Tech. Just think about the growth it takes sometimes as a freshman. It takes some freshman the first month to score 48 points. I think our guys have a healthy understanding. He spoke to our team last season right before the Tennessee game. He came to practice and spoke to the group before practice and he’ll speak to our team later on today. He’s a tremendous player. Most of our guys actually know him from ‘The Big 3.’ There’s not a lot of sports programming going on there in the late summer when that’s on, so most of our guys know him as a great scorer from ‘The Big 3,’ and to be able to do that at 50 years old.”

On what the team did yesterday…

“We did some yoga and film yesterday. I was judging body language and I thought our guys did good.”

On James Bishop’s new role…

“I thought Bishop did some good things. We’ve always maintained he’s a good player and somebody that can help us. We were searching for stuff against Florida. Bishop did a great job. He caused a couple turnovers defensively, he played very aggressive. It says a lot about the kid. We always tell our guys, ‘Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.’ He hasn’t been in a game in a month. I think the last time we played him was at the end of the first half against Ole Miss at home. For him to be able to stay ready and to be in that moment says a lot about him. He’s someone you can count on, somebody who is dependable. I thought that was a real positive from Wednesday. There weren’t many but that was one.”

On Charles Manning Jr.’s injury…

“I’d be lying if I said he was okay. It’s pretty devastating. I’m no doctor but when we got back from South Carolina, we took him to our scan machine, and I could tell it was broken. It was a clean break. It happened with like 27 seconds left in the game trying to pass against the press. It was just a freak thing. I told him yesterday, ‘Now we have screws in both feet so at least it won’t happen again.’ It’s disappointing. He’s a very good player, he’s a cerebral player, he’s a player you can count on in the moment. We’re hopeful we can get him back this year and part of that depends on how we play down the stretch. He’s our best defender and our team is a lot better when he’s out there. I think he was just now rounding into form. Everyone gets excited about when a kid can come back, but after that they still have to get in game shape, get used to the speed and pace. We were conditioning him in an underwater treadmill and all that stuff, but when you’re on a court, cutting and playing, it usually takes two or three games to get back into shape. He had surgery on Monday. We knew it was broken Saturday and it was confirmed Sunday. He’s a great kid, a great person. He does everything the right way. You hate to see it and especially from a junior college kid. He only has two years and he missed eight games early on and now more time. 

On what he wants to see from the team in the final three games …

“Wins. We need some wins. We just got to continue to improve and continue to play a little bit better. Get a little bit better each game, each day in practice. I’m more excited about the practices and continuing to grow through film and practice and that sort of thing. We’ve got a lot of great things in front of us, hopefully. We just got to continue to improve and continue to get better and try to finish this thing out strong.”

On if he is concerned about the offense or considered changing his approach …

“I mean you’re always concerned about everything. I thought Florida was probably our poorest offensive performance from an efficiency standpoint, from everything. You don’t have to be John Wooden to figure that out if you were watching the game. It was pretty obvious that we were disjointed offensively. Florida’s defensive had a lot to do with that. They were aggressive and put us on our heels and took some things away that other teams had not taken away. We’ll adjust as we’ve done all year. I think our offense has been more than fine most of the season. Our poor offense contributed to our poor defense because we were frustrated with some things that were going on, on offense. We’ll get it corrected. I think we’ll play better offensively and I think we’ll play better defensively as well. On top of some of the other stuff, it was not one of our finer moments offensively. Like I said, Florida and their personnel had a lot to do with it. A lot of people can have a game plan and that sort of thing. You got to have certain personnel to carry out the game plan. Florida had very, very good personnel to carry out a very good game plan against what we do both offensively and defensively.”

On if he will continue to take Emmitt off the bench …

“Yeah. You need some energy off the bench. Emmitt (Williams) actually came to me and asked to come off the bench. He said if he feels like he can watch the game a little bit and see what the other team is doing it helps him settle in the game and allows him to really hit the ground going once he gets in the game. I do like his energy off the bench. I think it gives us some pop off the bench. We’re going to keep doing that. Kind of like Javonte (Smart), he felt the same way last year. We brought him off the bench. Javonte has done a phenomenal job this year as a starting point guard. He has the best assist to turnover statistics in the SEC. He’s just played phenomenally for us in SEC play. Some people it’s different for different folks. Emmitt’s energy it kicks our defense up a notch when he comes off the bench, our talk, just everything, our energy. I think we’re going to keep doing that. I think it benefits him and I think it benefits our team. It’s a win-win. I got to give him a lot of credit, ho w many people would say that. We’re in a losing streak, haven’t been playing well. He said, ‘Coach, I think I can help out team and help our bench and help our defense.’ He’s certainly done that. He played really well at South Carolina defensively. Obviously, offensively at Florida he did a tremendous job, one of his better games. Just got to keep it going with him.”

On what he hopes his team will gain from talking to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf today …

“I think all great scorers, all great shooters, all great players just have a next play mentality. Sometimes I think you just get so caught up in what happened in the past or so worried about what’s going to happen in the future. You forget to just stay in the present moment and be where your feet are so to speak. I think anytime you’ve got a prolific scorer or prolific shooter, I haven’t done a study on this; one of the great traits would be that even the best shooters don’t even shoot 50%. They’re missing more than they make. Being able to move past that and being able to stay in the moment and focus on what’s important in that moment as opposed to worrying about the past or worrying about the future. It’s a good trait to have in basketball or anything that you in life.”

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Opening statement …

“It’s a pleasure to be back. It’s been a long time. I don’t know how long. I don’t know if it’s been quite 30 years yet, lot of great years here, great experiences.  We didn’t win the big one but all the talent we had, we had a great time with each other. Like I said, a lot of the people I met over the years, I’d like to say contributed. I think we all look to be successful. You never know if we are actually going to live out our dreams. This was certainly the beginning stages of that for me, attending this university. Being given the freedom to explore, to be creative by Coach Brown. He saw something in me and let me go. It just so happened that the ball ended up falling for me for these two years. You never do this alone. I don’t think anything in life happens on your own. There are always experiences and people associated with your so-called rise to the top. Teammates, coaches, people whom you’ve worked for, people who have rode the bench for years, followed by me. All those people contributed to my growth. Again, I’m just super excited to be here. Thank you.”

On when he knew he could excel and dominate on the court in his two years here …

“I didn’t know that I could do that until I got a feeling I could do that after my second game. First game I had about 12 or 13. Second game I had 21. That’s when things felt a little usual. I felt like I was back in high school on the playground. Not to sound arrogant, it felt a little easy.  I didn’t want to say anything; I was a little superstitious a little back then. I didn’t want to interfere with the moment. Then especially when Dale Brown pulled me to the side after that game and he said look, we need you to score more and I said I’ll try. I think it was Louisiana Tech, here, I had 48. At that moment I was like, okay, I think I can do this. You never truly know because anything can happen, I think that’s what always kept me training hard in the basement gym so much. I was always expecting that they’re going to change things up, they’re going to double team, triple team. Hoping that this type of thing would continue but you never truly know.”

On what he most wants to be remembered for …

“That’s tough. For me, Dale Brown used to say back in the day, this was sort of his saying … At the time my name was Chris Jackson of course, that ‘Chris is a great basketball player but he’s a greater person than he is a basketball player.’ … The most important thing for me is the person that I am and leaving that type of legacy. Just being a great person, standing up for what’s right. That means more to me than the game of basketball.”