Already we’ve taken a stab at projecting the starters.
Now we’re capping off a five-part installment honing in on the biggest talking points surrounding the Tigers, posing important questions and then providing insight in answering them.
From Monday: Who will run the point?
From Tuesday: Is there enough inside?
From Wednesday: How will team chemistry form?
From Thursday: Who takes the last shot?
Today’s final segment picks the brain of former Tiger great and current LSU basketball color analyst Ricky Blanton, also a former head coach at Nicholls State and assistant for the Bayou Bengals.
TODAY: Q&A WITH RICKY BLANTON
Ben Love: When you look at this team and developing chemistry, what are some of the challenges and hurdles they’ll have to overcome to succeed this season at the level they want?
Ricky Blanton: First of all I think you have to integrate the best high school player in the country into your program, which from a talent standpoint is not going to be a problem. Everyone will agree Ben Simmons is very, very talented and very, very skilled. But he is making a jump from the high school level to the college level, and he’s going to have to kinda find his way through the game.
It should only take a week, maybe a month, but that’s on the floor. There are a lot more pieces to a college basketball player than just on the floor – weight room, the conditioning, the film, what goes into scouting reports, how you prepare for practice, how you play in practice and then (knowing) your teammates. I think once that happens a lot of the pieces will fall into place.
Hopefully it won’t take as long as normal because you do have some pieces coming back. When I say that, three players jump out to me right away – Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby and Jalyn Patterson. They played significant minutes in the SEC last year and were big contributors to this team’s success.
BL: Well let’s keep talking about those three guys. LSU not only integrates Simmons but also a couple of talented perimeter players, especially Antonio Blakeney. It almost seems like a given that with Blakeney’s presence, one of those three you mentioned may have to come off the bench. How does that change this team’s dynamic?
RB: Taking the three we mentioned and then Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson, all those guys will have an opportunity to impress the coaches on whether they should be in the starting five or not, based on their play, approach and how they take care of business. But it would not be out of the realm for this team next year, based on personnel, to have a three-guard front. So then you’d have one of those guys competing for that fourth-guard spot in the rotation.
Because, as you know, very seldom will you have one guy playing 40 minutes in a game. In a perfect world these coaches, especially early on, like to keep the minute count in the 30-32 minute range. So there’s an opportunity for four guys to be in the rotation and one guy to be the odd man out. That’s what you’ve got the summer workouts for and the preseason practices, to figure that out. It should lead to some healthy competition with the guards.
BL: With Craig Victor there’s still a chance, I hear, that he could be eligible for the first semester. But let’s play out a hypothetical: If he doesn’t get his hardship waiver, how does that affect the development of this team and what would LSU have to do in his absence?
RB: Good question. So if Craig Victor’s not eligible until the end of the first semester, it really puts a strain on the interior defense and the post presence offensively for this team because you’re thin there after losing Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey. Then all of the sudden our conversation changes. Maybe Darcy Malone or Brian Bridgewater right away get opportunities to get in there and produce.
If they don’t take advantage, then you maybe play four guards and Ben Simmons. Does that put you at a deficit in some areas? Rebounding the ball and defensively, absolutely. But on the flip side it puts a lot of pressure on the other team to guard you on the offensive end, and they’re going to have to really scheme some things to slow this team down offensively. With four guards and Simmons, everyone on the floor can dribble, pass and shoot. That’s pretty tough to guard.
Publisher’s Note: Please take note of a point Blanton made there that I confirmed – In the event Victor can’t play the first semester, he’s eligible as soon as that semester is complete in mid-December, not in early-to-mid January when LSU starts back up for the spring semester.
BL: With the full roster healthy and available, including Victor, do you think this is a top two or three roster, talent-wise, in the SEC?
RB: I think you have to wait and see a bit until the (SEC) schedules come out, but all things being said, I definitely think they’re in the top four. But that’s kinda like when I looked at Auburn football last year. Their schedule just made you saw ‘Wow!’ It was unbelievable. Very good football team lost four or five games because of their schedule.
I think if LSU has to end up going to Florida, going to Kentucky, going to Arkansas, playing Texas A&M twice, things change. LSU is a talented team, has some very good pieces to the puzzle and hopefully will have a good year based on Ben Simmons and all the returning players plus Craig Victor.
BL: I know you have a prior relationship with (new LSU assistant) John Treloar. What can you tell us about him and what are you optimistic he can do with these players in terms of development?
RB: I played for John Treloar for the Wichita Falls Texans in the CBA (from 1992-93). He was my head coach in the early nineties. An assistant was Mike Davis, who later became the head coach at Indiana and John Treloar was his assistant there. So my relationship with him goes back to the nineties.
He is a basketball man. He brings a lot of basketball experience to the staff and to the team. One thing that stood out to me about Coach Treloar and his staff is they were big on developing the player. Every guy in the CBA, which is kinda a AAA affiliate if you use the baseball analogy, was trying to get somewhere. John Treloar was big on helping you get better at your game. If you got better at your game, the team was better. If your team was better, it enhanced your chances of going to the next level, whatever you wanted to do. In our case, get back to the NBA.
I think in this case he’ll take that same approach. He’ll do whatever the head coach asks him to do. He’ll work with each player to develop their game. When their game gets better, it’s going to help LSU as a team. When LSU’s team gets better, it enhances the opportunity for all these guys to play professional basketball, wherever it may be because the game is truly global now. That’s what he’s going to bring. If you’re a player, you’ve got to be excited. You’re going to have to adjust to the way he likes to work, but I think you should be excited if you’re an LSU basketball player to have John Treloar as one of your coaches.