Malone finding his way at LSU

Although freshman Darcy Malone stands seven-feet tall, he's been a versatile chess piece all over the floor for Johnny Jones in preseason practices. The Aussie talks with TSD's Ben Love about his versatility and the recent commitment of fellow countryman Ben Simmons.

For a number of reasons, Australian athletes just seem to fit well at LSU.

The tradition goes back decades, with the likes of Ed Palubinskas joining the basketball program in the early seventies, but the trend has been undeniably accelerated of late. Les Miles has tapped into the Aussie pipeline twice in a row to nab his two latest punters, Brad Wing and Jamie Keehn.

The latest import from the land down under, however, does his work on the hardwood.

Freshman Darcy Malone (7-foot, 229 pounds) is entering his third week of preseason practices at LSU, and the Canberra, Australia, native told TSD he's catching on to life on and off the court.

When it comes to the south Louisiana lifestyle? "Yall are different," Malone said with a big laugh, knowing how much he struggled to get that first word out. "Yeah, I'm adjusting to the culture. I love the people, good atmosphere and they seem to love their college basketball."

On the floor: "I think I've adjusted really well," continued Malone. "It's a lot faster than I was anticipating, but I think I've been able to sort of catch up and keep up with the rest of the guys. I think quite a few of us are on the same level; we haven't really had that experience before with college basketball."

One look at the Tigers' roster reveals, as Malone pointed out, a host of new faces. LSU has four true freshmen eligible to play this season, one first-year JuCo transfer and two new walk-ons. Given all that newness, Malone said the team is very much still in the process of coming together.

"I think at the moment we're just trying to bond and get that chemistry working," Malone explained. "We did that a lot over the summer, but now of course because we can train as a group, we're just trying to find out what works best for us and how we can succeed."

The same could be said for Malone himself, who readily admitted the coaches are experimenting with him in the early portions of the preseason, particularly on the offensive end, where the 7-footer gives Johnny Jones a stretch option capable of shooting from distance or posting up on the interior.

"I think I sort of benefit us with my flexibility," Malone said frankly. "I can run the trail or I can be the lead post. Depending on who else is on the floor, I may have to fill in and get rebounds."

On defense Malone is feeling out how he'll have to approach different types of forwards. He indicated he's seen a number of players, including Jordan Mickey and John Odo, in man situations so far through three weeks. Each has taught him a different lesson, preparing him for the varying assignments Malone expects to see in SEC play.

"We're going to play some strong (man) defense, so I've been able to try and find my position on defense and make sure I play against every one of the big men on my team so I can note the differences and get experience playing against every one of the styles," recalled Malone.

Making life even better for Malone is the fact that another Australia native recently announced he'd be joining the men's basketball program. 2015 five-star forward Ben Simmons, who Malone said he did work out with on several youth national teams, committed to the program Monday morning.

Malone can't wait to team up down the line with another countryman, and friend.

"I'd say I'm pretty good friends with him," Malone said of Simmons, who now plays his prep ball at Montverde (Fla.). "He was a member of the Institute of Sport. He's a really good kid and a really great basketball player. It's good that he committed here.

"I think he's probably a lot more used to America, since he's been playing here of course for a year or so. It'll be really good to have another Australian in the program."

The common denominator both Malone and Simmons have in terms of LSU connections is assistant coach David Patrick, whose background recruiting Australia dates back to staff stops at Nicholls State and St. Mary's. While at St. Mary's, Patrick was instrumental in landing Patty Mills (now with the San Antonio Spurs), who hailed from Malone's hometown of Canberra.

LSU fans may have to wait a few more years to watch Simmons in the PMAC, but in the meantime they'll get to take in something pretty rare in Malone – a legit 7-footer with range who can play inside and out.

Come to think of it, this Australian thing works out pretty well for LSU, too.

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