Tigers Close Out Regular Season Saturday vs. UGA
Senior Tribute For Class Of 2020 At 12:45 P.M.
BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers close out their 2019-20 regular season looking for a second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference when the Georgia Bulldogs come to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Saturday afternoon.
Fans are invited to arrive at the Maravich Center by 12:45 p.m. for the Senior Class of 2020 ceremonies honoring Marshall Graves, Marlon Taylor, Skylar Mays and the late Wayde Sims. Sims, who would have been a senior this season, will be represented by his father, former LSU Basketball player Wayne Sims and Wayde’s mother, Fay.
Game time is 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Guaranty Media flagship Eagle 98.1 FM in BR) with the “Voice” of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU head coach John Brady. The game will be televised on ESPN2 with Kevin Fitzgerald and Jon Sundvold.
The Tigers are 20-11 and in a three-way tie for second with Florida and Auburn at 11-6. LSU is guaranteed one of the four double-bye spots to the quarterfinals in the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville next week but can assure itself of at least a tie for second place in the league with a win on Saturday.
LSU could be either the 2, 3 or 4 seeds when the games are finished Saturday evening.
Auburn travels to Tennessee and Florida hosts Kentucky in other games Tiger fans may be keeping an eye on.
Georgia is 15-15 on the season and 5-12 in the SEC under second year coach Tom Crean. The Bulldogs are coming off a 68-54 loss to Florida on Wednesday night in their final home game.
The Tigers will be looking for their 15th home win this season, which will mark the second straight year and the 10th time in the Maravich Center’s 49 years that LSU has won at least 15 home games in a season.
Mays, who has cracked the top 10 in nine career statistical categories at LSU, needs just two points to hit 1,600 career points. As has been the case most of the year, LSU has five players averaging in double figures, one of seven teams in Division I, with five or more players in double figures for the season.
Coach Will Wade met with the media earlier on Friday and here are some of his comments:
Opening Statement …
“Georgia is coming in with one of, if not, the best player in the country, the best prospect in the country, with Anthony Edwards. He’s a phenomenal talent. It’s just a matter of if he’s going to make his shots. You can’t really stop him from getting shots, it’s just whether he makes them or misses them. I think Rayshaun Hammonds is a huge key for them. When they play well, he played very well. We have to do the best that we can on (Anthony) Edwards, but we have to focus on Hammonds. Sahvir Wheeler is tremendous, I saw him play in AAU a lot when he was committed to Texas A&M and he does a great job of getting the ball into the paint quickly. They’re fourth in the country in transition points so our transition defense has to be much better than it’s been. Tyree Crump is also a guy who has really hurt us in the past. So, we need to play well, play better, play with great energy, and play how we need to play to honor the seniors, particularly Skylar (Mays), Marshall (Graves), Marlon (Taylor), and Wayde (Sims). We need to play better and play how we would to honor those guys.
On how Saturday will be emotionally …
“You don’t know until you’re out there, but every senior night is emotional. Skylar (Mays) is somebody we’ve coached for three years. I said this yesterday, he’s made an unbelievable progression and I give Coach (Johnny) Jones a ton of credit. He recruited Skylar (Mays) and rode with him as a freshman, you have to ride through a lot of freshman mistakes, and I think that Coach (Johnny) Jones did that with Skylar (Mays) and that allowed him to grow. A lot of times in recruiting, freshman will ask me, ‘What position am I going to play?’ and I say there’s two positions, on the court or on the bench. You can get into numbers all you want, but you better be on the court if you want to have a good career and position yourself to where you want to go. Coach Jones rode with him early and he had a steady progression. I think he averaged 8.3 points per game as a freshman, 11, then 13 or 14, and now 16 or so this year. He’s our rock. He’s steady. He leads our offseason programs with workouts, getting guys in the gym extra, and doing everything that you need to do to win. I haven’t been doing this as long as others, but I was telling coach (Kevin) Nickelberry yesterday, but the only player I’ve ever had anywhere close to [Skylar Mays] is a kid named Cliff Hammonds who was with us at Clemson. He’s an architect now, he was an architecture major back then. He used to stay up all night, like Skylar does, and roll right into team breakfast. It was the most incredible thing I’ve seen. Like I said, I’ve been doing this for 15 or 16 years, I’ve had two players in those years like that in Cliff Hammond and Skylar Mays. It’s just unique and you appreciate it. You appreciate his hard work and everything he’s done for our program. He’s seen a lot of up’s and down’s, but he’s worked his way through it, and he’s done a phenomenal job.
“Then Wayde (Sims)… I saw his mom after last game. I don’t know what to say really. You never want to lose a player and still wonder to this day what you could’ve done to help. His locker is still the same in the locker room. I still have his name and number in my phone. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody as a coach or a program. It’s just terrible. His dad, Wayne, is the strongest people I’ve ever been around. I’ll never forget showing up at that hospital and he was the first one that met me. We were the first group of people there and he was a rock. They’re great people. He’s just an incredible kid. He’s had his up’s and down’s, but he really turned the corner. He was going to be an unbelievable story. He turned the corner in a real positive direction. Just as he was turning a corner, things got cut short. It’ll be tough knowing he should be a senior and should be out there, but he won’t be.
“It’ll be tough then to see Skylar (Mays) and Marshall (Graves) has been here for four years. It’s very rare you have two kids that you’ve been with for four years and Marshall (Graves) is on Wayde (Sims) scholarship. When Wayde passed away, we had an open scholarship and Marshall (Graves) had earned it. Everyone knows by now, but Marshall, Skylar, and Wayde were all very close. It’s funny how life works out because you’ll have Skylar out there, Wayde’s family out there, and Marshall who is on Wayde’s scholarship. Everything comes full circle. It’ll be tough but Wayde would be mad if we were too sad. He would’ve said ‘C’mon, man. Pick it up, cheer up.,’ but it’ll be tough.
On Skylar (Mays) and what he does on and off the court with his academics …
“He’s in a walking class right now. He needed it for graduation. I said, ‘you’re the only one that saves the easy credits for last, everybody gets the easy credits out of the way early on’. His weeks are packed. He gets more done in a short amount of time than most folks. He’s up early; he’s an early riser. A lot of times he gets his basketball work done in the morning so he can clear his day for academics. He’s got labs that some of our other guys don’t have. We maneuver our practice schedule around his classes and labs. His day is packed. You’ve got to look at it this way; this is why he is going to be so successful. I know I said this yesterday and I’m going to keep saying it. He’s going to be a basketball player first, and then he’ll get back to the medical stuff. He’s competing in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball, at the highest level. He’s one of only six players to average 16, five and three in our school’s history. You can go through the stats all you want. He is competing at the highest level here. He’s competing at the highest level in one of the most challenging majors on our campus. He basically wins at both of them. That is extremely, extremely challenging and difficult. That’s a testament to his parents, to his upbringing, to him. He is just a high achiever. He is going to be good at whatever he puts his mind to, whatever he wants to be good at. Basketball and class are the two things he puts his mind to.
“He’s been great. Sometimes as a coach its tough with him. He’s got problems too, he’s got stresses too. He gets caught up in some of the other guy’s stresses. He makes an 89 in a test, he’s bummed for two weeks. Most of my guys, they make an 89 they’re running in there yelling at me, ‘I made an 89!’ You just got to understand, it’s different with him. He’s got some different stresses and I’ve tried to be more cognizant of that the last year or so. With him, just trying to manage his energy level. It takes a lot of energy out what we do basketball wise. It takes a lot of energy out what he does academically. He’s as good as a student athlete as you’ll find. He’s very, very disciplined. We’re on the road, he’s in the business center and he looks like a mad scientist. He’s got papers scattered all over the desks at the business center, studying for tests when we get back. We may get back, one, two in the morning he won’t go to sleep through the night and just cram for the test and get up and go do well. Not a lot of us would be doing that. There’s not a lot of people at LSU and in college that would be doing that as well.”
On if he remembers a trademark Skylar Mays play in a game …
“I don’t know about that. Really the stuff I remember about him is when we got here how he just set the tone for what we wanted to do. When we got here and we got in that first team meeting I said, ‘oh my gosh, what have we gotten into here,’ Then he pops out and says, ‘hey coach can we work out tomorrow morning?’ That gives you a little pop as a coach. I think his work ethic and how he would drag people in the gym with him, that’s the stuff I remember. Everyone always gets excited about the game stuff, obviously the shot at Mississippi State this year was huge. That was pretty cool for him. I’ll remember more, being in here at 6:00-6:15 in the morning and watching him work. Bringing in other guys in with him. That’s how you start a program. Him and Marshall (Graves), Marshall gets a lot of credit, Marshall is in here working just as hard doing a lot of those same things. That’s the stuff I enjoy. The games are fun, that’s what everybody gets to see. I enjoy more getting in the gym and when we’re away from everybody and it’s just us in there working. Just seeing how much he’s improved and how much he’s gotten better. That’s the fun part of coaching, to see guys improve and to see guys get better, see guys make strides. That’s really what I’ll remember, just the gradual progression and how much better he’s gotten. He’s been rock solid for us for three years. He’s been the rock of our program for three years. He’s had a lot of teammates come and go, he’s been here through all of it. He’s been a critical, critical piece for us for three years. Great player, great person and really good representative of our program and LSU for sure.”
On playing through the senior day emotions against Georgia …
“Yea you worry about that, but you just have to go out there and play. I think we will be fine. We have been playing for Wayde (Sims) all year, we still talk about him, his locker is still there so it’s not like he’s out of sight, out of mind. We talk and joke about him all of the time, Skylar (Mays) wears 44 on his wrist, our coaching staff still wears the 44 pins. He’s still around us, with us, and we do events with his parents. His parents have been at the games and in the locker room so it will certainly be emotional, but I think we will be able to play through it. Wayde would say get on and let’s get going, let’s go kick somebody’s ass and stop worrying about all of this other stuff. That’s what he would be saying so hopefully we can adopt that and move forward.”
On facing Anthony Edwards from Georgia …
“He’s big, he’s physical and he can get his shot off whenever he wants, it’s just can you contest it enough to try to force him to miss. He’s he an elite talent, there’s a reason he’s a top three pick, the lowest he’s going is three. There’s a reason that he is a consensus top two or three pick. He’s a great player and a tough cover. Coach (Tom) Crean does a great job; they put him in a ton of isolations and when teams deny him a lot, they will let him play point guard. They do a lot of different things to make sure he’s going downhill, attacking the rim and playing well. He’s an unbelievable talent, they put him in space and in good positions to be successful.”
On comparing Anthony Edwards to other players …
“I’m not big into comparing guys. There’s an old saying, comparisons are the thief of joy. Comparing yourself to other folks can take the joy away from what you are. That’s Teddy Roosevelt, not me. I tell our guys that all of the time, don’t compare yourselves to other folks. He’s Anthony Edwards to me and he’s going to be a heck of an NBA player. He’s going to play in the NBA for a long time, a decade plus, and he’s going to be very, very successful at that level. I don’t like to compare guys or any of that because he’s his own guy. He’s worked hard and put himself in a good position to be a great player. He’s had a very successful freshman year at Georgia and will have a very successful NBA career as well. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”