Depth perception

TSD's Ben Love takes an all-encompassing look at the depth situation heading into the 2014-15 LSU basketball season.

A recent conversation on TSD's premium message board about impending decisions for Shane Hammink, Jordan Mickey and Tim Quarterman got me thinking more about the 2014-15 LSU basketball roster.

One notion above the rest became clear in short time: No matter how these last few personnel wrinkles work themselves out, the Tigers will have depth concerns next season.

Consider the following …

LSU will make the transition from a two-guard to a three-guard lineup in the months to come, not only to adjust to the loss of two-time All-SEC forward Johnny O'Bryant but to accommodate the arrival of Josh Gray from the JuCo level and the activation, so to speak, of transfer wing Keith Hornsby.

So while Gray, Hornsby and Anthony Hickey are expected to start in the backcourt, the question of who's behind them results in a lot of head-scratching.

One of the lead suspects, Malik Morgan, is questionable to return by the beginning of the campaign, per head coach Johnny Jones. Morgan, who tore his patellar tendon in early February, is still in the midst of a long-term rehabilitation process.

"Hopefully (he'll be available) at the beginning of the year," mused Jones. "We are certainly going to have to monitor that very close in whether or not he is one of those guys that you try to prepare and get ready for midseason or wind up redshirting him because you don't want him to waste a year because we think that Malik will be a very good basketball player."

In the event Morgan does take a redshirt, the Tigers will be paper-thin behind the starters on the perimeter. That renders transfer decisions from Hammink and especially Quarterman to be pretty darn important to overall numbers. (TSD's latest intel is that Hammink is likely to stay while there's little to update on Quarterman, who even Jarell Martin acknowledged last week is the subject of transfer whispers in the locker room.)

Two things bear mentioning on the recruiting front: First, LSU has been connected with at least one grad-transfer wing, so it seems apparent Jones & Co. are attempting to fill this sizeable hole when it comes to perimeter depth. Second, there could be an issue getting signee Jalyn Patterson (academics) on campus, which only further exacerbates the problem but would also free an open scholarship spot for that potential grad-transfer.

Moving into the post, the situation is better in terms of overall numbers, though the quality and experience level of the depth is a major question mark.

Assuming Mickey follows Martin's cue and returns for his sophomore season, that duo will be your starting frontcourt in 2014-15. It will be an extremely athletic one-two punch inside, but it obviously will be a tandem that lacks some brawn and beef on the interior.

When perusing the backup options, there are two players Jones can turn to who up the "beefy" quotient, but it's fair to wonder how ready/capable they will be for next season. John Odo, a rising senior, can give some defensive support, five fouls and putbacks on the offensive side but is fairly limited elsewhere. Incoming freshman Elbert Robinson, hovering around 300 pounds, has size for days but will have to improve his conditioning and adjust to the speed of the college game.

I'm not sure either will be able to contribute more than 12-14 minutes an outing.

The remaining alternatives in the frontcourt are cut from a different cloth. Sophomore-to-be Darcy Malone is more of a stretch four who has legitimate offensive range but must bulk up in order to rebound and bang with SEC bigs. Aaron Epps, another incoming freshman, could be the dark horse in this discussion of depth. He also is a stretch four, but Epps, a high-flyer, is capable of playing the three and could combine for an ultra-athletic lineup should Jones roll with Epps, Martin and Mickey from time to time.

One final name to throw into this mix is Brian Bridgewater. Jones said last week that Bridgewater, who was ineligible for the 2013-14 season, will factor into the team's plans for next year. If that ends up being the case, Bridgewater could be a bulky three who steals some occasional minutes, but, like the other four reserve frontcourt players above, won't be capable of playing extended minutes.

So the bottom line is that LSU will have to rely on its main horses just as much if not more than this past season, when the Tigers barely went seven-deep for a while after Morgan's injury. The situation is more dire with the guards/wings than the forwards, so it's also reasonable to expect that will be the recruiting focal point over the next few weeks and months.


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