Q & A: Johnny Jones

First-year coach Johnny Jones is off and running on the court and in recruiting in advance of his inaugural season leading LSU basketball.

Ben Love: What has your life been like the past few months between all the travel, recruiting and speaking to various groups in the community?

Coach Johnny Jones: It's been tremendous. I've really enjoyed having the opportunity to get out, speak to different groups and organizations and attend different events, be it a baseball or football game or a student group. It's been really good. For me to have an opportunity to be around our fan base once again and try to get them energized with what we're doing is just great.

BL: How do you view the role of Corban Collins this year? Is he someone you expect to come in and compete with Anthony Hickey for time at the point? And can those two play together at times?

CJJ: Well, they both have good ball-handling skills. Both of them are very strong, solid defenders. I think both will definitely be competing at the point guard spot, but there may be times throughout the season and during games where they can find themselves in there together. That's not something I would say that can't happen. Certainly Corbin has the ability to play the two as well because of his ability to shoot the ball.

BL: But you don't enter this season with any kind of presumed idea of who your starting point guard is?

CJJ: Oh, absolutely not. I think there's an opportunity for both of those guys to be vying for that spot. Obviously there's an edge for Hickey because he has played Division-I basketball. He's been at this level. But the good thing for me and those guys who I have is that all of them know they will have a great opportunity and a great chance to play and make an impact on this team. I think regardless of who starts there will be ample playing time for both of those guys.

BL: Shavon Coleman a guy who could play some time at the four in your system? And do you even put that kind of definition on positions or is it more about the best athletes?

CJJ: Sometimes it's not about your size or position. The best situation is having the five players who play best together. That's something we're going through, trying to make sure the chemistry is right with these guys.

Shavon definitely has the ability to be on the floor. He's more of a wing, perimeter-style player. If he we happen to go small, and I mean maybe 6-5, 6-6 guys, that may put us in a position to possibly put several guys out there, and all of those guys have to be ready to play that four spot at times. It's not something that we'll be against, but we have several guys about Shavon's size that could possibly catch themselves there.

BL: With Trent Johnson's teams here, their best chance at success was winning games in the 50s or low 60s. Will your teams be more successful scoring more and playing at a faster tempo?

CJJ: Well, the biggest thing for us is winning. (Laughs) There may be a game where we get caught in the 50s or 60s, and if that's our best opportunity to win that night then so be it. But, because of the way that our team is built and the kind of guys we have on our team, I think it's real important for us that our approach is to play best up-tempo. We'll get that up-tempo team style from our guys. Our preference would be to score more and be a high-powered scoring team, and if that should happen for us, that would be more beneficial for us. That's what we're looking to do.

BL: You're able to be out there with your players for limited windows now. What have you seen from those guys, especially the newcomers?

CJJ: Yes, we're allowed to be on the floor with them for a couple of hours a week, four guys at a time. I have had the privilege and pleasure of doing that. I've definitely had some success with those guys, and I really like what I've seen from some of those guys and their abilities. It will only get better as we continue implementing our system. We have some guys who are very capable. The only drawback for us right now is the lack of size in the post, but I think our perimeter guys have a chance to be successful.

BL: Is there anybody so far that has come back with a different body type – be it cutting weight or adding muscle?

CJJ: I don't necessarily know about that, but I will tell you one who has impressed me and one people should be really excited about is Johnny O'Bryant. He's worked extremely hard this offseason and through the summer as well. We'll count on him to play some quality minutes for us.

The biggest thing I want from Johnny is his strength. That will be key for us. We want him to get bigger, get stronger and become more of a complete player because I think Johnny has a lot to offer … Whether he's at 250 or 240 (pounds), I don't think there's a big difference. I think it's more about his strength and conditioning over his size.

ON RECRUITING

BL: It seems like you've been out there beating the path not only locally in the United States but globally when recruiting. Could you discuss the emphasis you and your staff are putting on scouting and ultimately bringing in players from outside the U.S.?

CJJ: I think the big thing for us is not to try and limit ourselves in terms of what we're doing and who we're recruiting. We obviously want to get the best kids from here in the states, especially regionally, but at the same time we're going to try and get the best people and players to fit our program. That's important. With the great staff that I've been able to assemble, it allows us that opportunity to not limit ourselves just locally.

BL: I've heard that Australia is a place that your staff has specifically targeted a good deal since the start of the summer. Is that something you can talk about? And does having Brad Wing and Jamie Keehn on the football team help that cause?

CJJ: We've been very fortunate to have a guy who practically grew up in Australia on our staff right now in David Patrick. That's been a big plus for us. He is one of those guys who can really help us there. Now, I had the good fortune of playing with a guy from Australia in Andy Campbell. And then obviously Coach [Dale] Brown has his connections with Eddie Palubinskas and those guys who've had that experience.

But I think with the success that our football team has had over there, with the guys they have, it's only going to help and enhance our ability to go over there and attract good players as well.

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