LSU's team is set to get back to work this week into the weekend in preparations for its 2016-17 season. Johnny Jones talked about how it seemed like yesterday the team lost in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, but the team is excited to be back.
"Knowing the season is right around the corner for us and not a lot of time, the guys are really chomping at the bit for the opportunity to get back on the floor."
The team had plenty of attention on them with Ben Simmons on the roster and Jones (below) said the big crowds the team played in front of will only benefit the returning players. Jones said the rest of the team will have to educate the newcomers and show them what level the team works at.
“I wanted them to realize what they were able to go through last year. They were a team that had the opportunity to take everybody’s best shot," Jones said. "These guys went through a lot last year and they should be able to benefit from that."
Last year, LSU went 8-1 at home and hopes to put a better product on the court for fans to support.
"Each year our fan base has improved and the one thing we will still have on our chest is ‘LSU’ and that's what our fan base is about. If we continue to play the right way and have success on the floor our fan base will welcome that because that's what they are."
Makeup of the roster better suited for success
Even though LSU had two big-time players last year in eventual No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons and guard Tim Quarterman, it didn't lead to success for the Tigers as the team missed the postseason all together. This year, with a few new pieces like freshman point guard Skylar Mays, JUCO center Duop Reath and guard Brandon Jenkins plus others, the team has a better chance to mix together.
“We recruit guys because they can make points and score baskets. We were second leading scoring team in the conference at the end of last year and one of the top three in terms of field goal percentage," Jones said. "The emphasis was really on the defensive end on the floor and getting stops. We wanted to make sure we got better on that end and were an overall improved team."
Jones said forwards Reath and Aaron Epps (below) will provide two defensive presences in the paint that will be able to affect shots of opponents and change the way the Tigers are able to defend. Jones touched on Reath and the expectations for the 6-10, 230-pound Lee College transfer.
“We’re going to expect a lot from Duop Reath on both ends of the floor. He’s good on the inside and I even think he’s good on the perimeter because he’s got good feet and good length. He’s a shot blocker along with being able to rebound the ball well, so a lot will be put on his plate early on."
The return of Antonio Blakeney gives LSU a pure scorer and leader on the court in the sophomore from Sarasota, Fla. His decision to return to the team and pull out of the NBA Draft was "music to our ears," Jones said.
"He has a chance to make an impact on this team. He knew that there were some areas where he needed to continue to improve and get better and take some of the questions out for his draft status," Jones said. "I think he’s one of those guys you would automatically look to as someone projected to be a leader of this year’s team. I think he’s taken ownership of that."
Forward Craig Victor II (below) is the player for LSU that brings it the most everyday and Jones said players like Elbert Robinson III, Epps and others need to play on that level.
“You want guys like Craig to play as hard as they can, and you’re hopeful it rubs off on his teammates. With the minutes that those guys get I think that if we can put that type of pressure on our opponent night in and night out. They all have to play at the level of Craig.”
No timetable on Branden Jenkins return
Johnny Jones said on Tuesday that LSU will be without guard Branden Jenkins, who had knee surgery and will be out for a couple months, a source confirmed to Tiger Blitz. How long his recovery takes is something Jones didn't dive too much into.
"We’ll probably have to wait and see on him because we’re not sure when he’ll be back full speed.”
The 6-4 junior guard played last season at Lee College and is an Illinois native. He's expected to bring a lot of energy and an edge to the defense.
"Branden Jenkins provides something that we didn't have last year. He’s an energy guy that's extremely fast and plays tenaciously on the defensive end of the floor. He really takes pride in how he plays on defense."
Big things expected of Skylar Mays
Freshman point guard Skylar Mays (below) is a Baton Rouge native, who left for his senior year for more exposure and better competition at Findlay Prep. Jones says that experience has helped the guard, who he has known of for almost seven years now.
"I thought it helped him, I think he’s improved due to the caliber of competition he played against out there and the work load the was put on him. I’ve been extremely impressed with him since he’s come back this summer," Jones said.
Jones said Mays' work ethic has taken a jump since going to Findlay Prep and that was evidenced by his play overall for the prep school.
"The amount of time and hours and energy he’s put into the gym alone to try and get better paints a picture of how much better he’s gotten since his high school days until now, and the impact he made taking his team the national tournament last year.”
Jones said he expects Mays to push Jalyn Patterson right off the bat for minutes.