Eleven minutes into his sophomore season, big man Johnny O'Bryant (6-9, 258) was forced to a leave a game that had already seen him pour in 13 points and eight rebounds. The Cleveland, Miss., native was experiencing pain in his lower left leg, and he left late in the first half of LSU's season-opening 77-63 win over UC Santa Barbara.
O'Bryant, rumored to be dealing with a strained calf, sat out the Tigers' 73-48 home win against McNeese State in the team's second game of the young campaign.
Monday afternoon, at player interviews, O'Bryant said he has rejoined the team, practicing yesterday for the first time since he went down with the injury. He's looking forward to going again today.
"I haven't heard any word," O'Bryant answered when asked if he'd play tomorrow night versus Northwestern State. "I'm definitely going to practice today, and however that goes we're going to see. So I don't really know yet."
The Tigers' main and really only legit option in the post, O'Bryant indicated he understands that taking about nine days off after the scare is something in the best interest of both himself and the team.
"Me and Coach [Johnny] Jones talked, and he said he was going to give me as much time as possible, as much as I need. Better now than later is what he said," explained O'Bryant. "I definitely understand that. It's a long season. We have twenty-something more games up ahead, so it's a long season. We've got the team to hold it down, so I'm not really tripping on injury."
Among the biggest reasons O'Bryant gave for the team's success, even in his absence, is stellar guard play. He hinted it's not even a contest when discussing this team's athletic ability in the backcourt to last year's perimeter players.
"Our guards are definitely athletic. They really can roll," O'Bryant continued. "[Anthony] Hickey is fast with the ball, then [Andre] Stringer, [Charles] Carmouche and Malik [Morgan] can jump. Shane [Hammink] is very explosive and stronger than people think. So I definitely think we're going to cause some problems for teams. As the season goes on, we're going to get better."
Back to his game, O'Bryant said his outburst from the outside early in the Santa Barbara game is something he's capable of, but not necessarily the direction his game will always take. It's about how the opposition plays him, according to O'Bryant.
"I just try to play basketball and take whatever shot the opponent gives me," said O'Bryant, a former McDonald's All-American and participant in the Jordan Brand Classic. "I guess I shot a lot of perimeter shots, and they fell that game. Like I said, I'm just playing hard basketball."
One area where O'Bryant does feel immense responsibility, though not pressure, is in pounding the glass for rebounds.
Eddie Ludwig, Jalen Courtney and Shavon Coleman may masquerade as power forwards in this makeshift LSU system, undermanned in Jones' first season on campus, but O'Bryant recognizes he's the true burden-carrier when it comes to rebounding.
"Coach Jones tells me all the time, ‘Johnny, you've got to go to the glass every single time. We need you at the glass every single time, offense and defense,'" O'Bryant recalled. "So that's why I guess I'll be trying to get a bunch of rebounds early on in the game, setting the tempo, then continue going to the glass as things go on."
With Northwestern State, projected to be more talented than the team's first two adversaries, coming to Baton Rouge Tuesday night, his presence will be much needed.
Time will tell if Jones thinks it's pressing enough to insert O'Bryant back in the lineup.
The Tigers and Demons will tip at 7 p.m. inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
O'Bryant "not sure" if he'll play Tuesday
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