LSU will take the floor against UC Irvine without one starter for the second game in a row and perhaps without a freshman spark plug as well.
Stringer has undergone a series of tests, but still faces several more before a determination is reached on his immediate future.
“I’m worried, I’m just worried,” Johnson said. “You’re talking about a kid who loves playing. He’s got a great family. Just the sooner we can find out the better off. But I’m worried.”
Guard John Isaac’s ailing left knee has been easier to diagnose, but Johnson said he’s inclined to hold the 6-foot-4 freshman out for one more game.
“He probably could play (Thursday), and we’ll see how he practices,” Johnson said. “My gut is to hold him out.”
Moving all over the floor has been a part of Eddie Ludwig’s role since he got to LSU three years ago, and now his versatility on defense could lead to more minutes while Stringer and Isaac are on the mend.
Ludwig got his first start of the season last Saturday against Boise State and played a key role by checking Broncos’ leading scorer Anthony Drmic in check.
Drmic entered the game averaging 15.6 points and finished with none.
“Whatever coach needs me to do, I’m ready to do,” Ludwig said. “There have been plenty of times when he’s called on me to play the 4 if our big guys were in foul trouble.
“I’m confident in whoever I’m guarding, not just in myself but in my teammates behind me.”
By showing he can check a smaller guard like Drmic, as well as bigger post players, the 6-foot-9 junior has settled into the kind of role former Tiger Garrett Temple manned for four years – the willingness and ability to guard any opposing player, regardless of size of position.
Ludwig deflected that notion quickly, but said emulating Temple is something to aim for.
“I’m nowhere close to that level yet and not many people who have played here are,” Ludwig said. “That’s something for me to strive for. It’s a lofty goal.”
About the Anteaters
UC Irvine runs a similar style as Boise State, with every player on the floor ready and willing to shoot the ball from the perimeter.
The Anteaters aren’t as prolific as the Broncos, who came into the LSU game averaging 84.9 points a game and managed only 45.
But UCI is also bigger than Boise, especially off the bench, and more athletic at most positions.
Anteaters’ coach Russell Turner and Johnson share a common thread. Both men spent time as assistants under current Cal coach Mike Montgomery. Both worked with him at Stanford and Turner followed him to the Golden State Warriors. Turner also coached current Tigers’ assistant Nick Robinson in Palo Alto.
“Cal Irvine is playing a lot better than they were at the beginning of the year,” Johnson said. “Early they were real competitive versus California (and Montgomery). They had a game (Wednesday) night against Wyoming, they could have won.
“Offensively, their system is like it was when their coach was with the Warriors. They really want to push it with four perimeter players and a post. They want to get up after you defensively. Our preparation has been similar to preparing for Boise State because they play similar. They are quick and very athletic.”
Guard Daman Starring paces the Anteaters with 12.9 points a contest and is shooting 51.7% from 3-point range. Small forward Michael Wilder is scoring 10.7 points and grabbing 5.4 rebounds a game and leads UCI with 22 made 3s in 55 tries. Reserve forward Will Davis II is his team’s top rebounder with 7 a game and is supplying 9.2 points a game.
One signature of this year’s LSU team that – at least for now – makes the Tigers seem better is their penchant for taking charges -- they took three in the win against Boise State.
“I have always believed in (taking) charges,” Johnson said. “When you block a shot sometimes, you don’t get possession. With charges you get a foul, so it’s like a four-point play. We’re not very explosive on the back line in terms of blocking shots, and we are not extremely quick out front. Systematically, we’ve had to make adjustments, and we made them going into the Italy trip. We had to force teams to the sidelines, rotate over and front the post, drop the weakside. If we’re playing well and doing things properly, the ball is not in the middle of the floor. They get it on the wing entry we have to force him one way. That creates the charge opportunities.”
“We’ve got to get them all operating on all cylinders and we’ve just got to continue to get better. There’s a lot of room for growth with this team. We’ve got a long way to go.”
--- Johnson on his team’s progress through nine games.