Peek at the future

Young LSU trio brings swagger and confidence to the basketball program, and all three should factor greatly into 2011-12 plans.

LSU's basketball future was on display on Monday.

Not on the court just yet, but in front of microphones and digital recorders.

The Tigers' three incoming freshmen spoke with the local media, a little less than a month before their first seasons officially begin.

The questions – and answers – were wide-reaching as the trio got comfortable.

There wasn't a lack of confidence from the crown jewel of the class, 6-foot-9½, 260-pound forward Johnny O'Bryant.

Point guard Anthony Hickey didn't hide his feelings about wanting to be a starter by the time the season rolls around in early November.

And John Isaac, the lone in-state recruit of the group, wasn't shy about what he thinks the three new players can bring to LSU's roster.

One common thread emerged: Although all three have veterans planted in front of them, each of the three freshmen flashed the confidence that they can battle for starting jobs.

"We've all played real well in the pickup games we're playing right now," Isaac said. "We're trying to fit in and feed off the older guys as much as we can, but we also feel like we can contribute a lot and help the team a lot."

Not surprisingly, O'Bryant drew the biggest media crowds and he didn't disappoint.

The highest-profile recruit in coach Trent Johnson's four-year tenure, the big man from the Mississippi Delta didn't shy away when asked about the idea of being a one-and-done player.

"Of course I want to have a big impact," said O'Bryant, who produced 21 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked 5 shots a game for East Side High in Cleveland, Miss., last season. He was named to the McDonald's and Parade Magazine All-American teams and fared well in both national all-star games.

"From day one I knew when I signed here, a lot was going to be expected of me. I'm just going to try and accept the role and that's why I work so hard every day. Hopefully I won't be here too long, but if I (am), I'll try to help the team as much as I can."

If, in fact, O'Bryant departs for the NBA Draft after one year, he would be the first player in Johnson's tenure to do so. The topic of one-and-done isn't one O'Bryant and Johnson have spent a ton of time on.

"He just tells me to make sure I get better every day," O'Bryant said with a smile.

Hickey said he has talked to Johnson about being the starting point guard for the Tigers, a spot that seems ripe for the taking if he can show what he can do quickly.

Senior Chris Bass has never truly seized the starting job and a last season Andre Stringer played there, but never seemed totally comfortable, in large part because his forte is more as a shooter and scorer.

As a senior at Christian County High in Hopkinsville, Ky., Hickey averaged 18.5 points, 8.3 assists and4.7 rebounds and guided his team to a state championship. Hickey earned Kentucky's Mr. Basketball honors, but didn't get much recruiting attention from big-time programs, including the in-state UK Wildcats or Louisville Cardinals.

So when LSU jumped into the picture and Hickey saw a potential immediate opening at point guard, his interest was piqued.

"I never imagined myself playing here, but when they started calling me and came and saw me, it felt like a good fit," the 5-10 guard said.

Now he's trying to carve a place with Bass and particularly Stringer, the player he is likely vying against for the starting job at the lead guard spot.

"We're battling go back and forth every day, trying to make each other better," Hickey said.

"I can score, but I only want to score if I have to. I like distributing the ball and getting it to guys who need it. Andre can do that, too, but he's a better shooter and scorer than me."

Isaac might be the least heralded of the newcomers, but is a player LSU has had a connection to for several years.

The 6-4, 200-pound guard from Pickering committed to Johnson as a high school sophomore and never wavered despite recruiting overtures from bigger-named hoops programs like Kansas, Texas and Florida.

As a senior in 2010-11, Isaac generated 22 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists and led Pickering to a 29-5 record and the Class 2A state quarterfinals.

With a bottleneck of veterans at the two-guard spot, including Ralston Turner and possibly Matt Derenbecker, Isaac may have the toughest time cracking the starting lineup.

"Really, I feel like I can play the one, two or three," Isaac said. "I'll play wherever Coach Johnson needs me to. I can pass it, score it – whatever he needs from me, I'll work hard to bring it to the team."

One area where Isaac thinks all three freshmen can chip in is as leaders.

Besides Bass, the only other seniors are Storm Warren and Malcolm White. Bass and Warren have been around since day one with Johnson, but both are more laid-back leaders than demonstrative.

"We didn't have leadership and players to step up in hard times and get them going last year," Isaac said. "Me, Anthony and Johnny bring that to the team.

"We need to work hard because we need leaders on the team and we need to push ourselves every day to be the best players we can."

Green departs

Senior forward Garrett Green was granted his release Monday and he will pursue a Master's degree at another school and play his final season there.

NCAA rules allow players who have graduated to transfer to another school and play right away if their current school does not offer a Master's program of their choice. The Green is scheduled to graduate with his Bachelor's degree in sports management on Aug. 5.

The 6-11 California native said Monday night that within hours of being granted the release, he had heard from coaches at Arizona State, Long Beach State and Indiana. He has scheduled an official visit to IU for this weekend.

Green saw action in all 32 games for the Tigers last season, averaging 18 minutes a game. He averaged 6.3 points and 5.1 rebounds a game, both career-highs, and led LSU in rebounding eight times.

"Coach Johnson has given me every opportunity to be successful here at LSU," Green said in a statement issued by LSU. "I'm getting my bachelor's degree, had a chance to play in the SEC, and be a part of a great basketball program. I really appreciate everything Coach Johnson and LSU have done for me, but I look forward to my next opportunity."

Tip-ins

O'Bryant said he weighed in at 272 pounds when he arrived on campus and is down to 260 now. Johnson has set 250 as his playing weight once the season begins. … Hickey is the second Mr. Basketball from Kentucky to sign with LSU in the last nine seasons, joining Ross Neltner. … Isaac said he his surgically repaired left knee is back to full strength and flexibility. He blew it out between his sophomore and junior seasons, missing the 2009-10 campaign altogether before coming back with an All-State senior year.


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