Jones with serious praise for Duop Reath after SEC honors
LSU Basketball coach Johnny Jones met with the media on Monday afternoon ahead of the team's home matchup against Southern Miss and immediately addressed LSU big man Duop Reath earning SEC Player of the Week honors.
“I want to congratulate Duop Reath, he had a phenomenal offseason for us and for him to put himself in position in his first college game to be listed player of the week in our conference I think speaks volumes of the impact he’s had on our team and the impact of the work he’s put in," Jones said.
Reath posted a double double of 23 points and 14 rebounds with three blocked shots in LSU's win over Wofford. The junior college transfer became the sixth player in the Johnny Jones era at LSU to have at least one game of 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Jones said that Reath's work ethic has impressed the team during his time at LSU and you can credit some of that to being raised in South Sudan, where everything is earned.
“He’s a very driven kid and I think he’s been extremely focused even during his time here and I think that's on and off the floor," Jones said. "I think his attitude is on display everyday about how grateful he is for the situation he’s in and the opportunity that has been presented to him here. I don't think he takes anything for granted and he’s really shown up to work every day and we’re thrilled to be a part of his growth."
While LSU is currently playing against weaker competition, Jones said that Reath's want-to is there to be great and he gets plenty of quality competition in practice.
"He has more to give. They (Wofford) got some catches in there in the paint and he was disappointed," Jones said. "We've got pretty good size in practice. Gotta go against Craig Victor and Elbert Robinson."
Young players showing signs of maturity in early games
Jones touched on the young players fitting in well to LSU's system right off the bat. Contributors like guard Skylar Mays, guard Kieran Hayward and versatile wing Wayde Sims showed against Wofford that they might be poised to contribute in a big way for the Tigers.
Mays had 10 points and six assists, Sims had 13 points and eight rebounds and Hayward made a three-pointer and picked up two rebounds. Hayward had a nice showing against Reinhardt shooting the ball from beyond the arc, so the hope is the Australian freshman can continue to provide that scoring threat on the perimeter.
Jones said Mays and Sims we're ready to go from what the staff saw from the pair from Baton Rouge in high school and now, as teammates at LSU.
"When you look at the mindset that Skylar Mays came in with and how hard he worked during the offseason on his body, on his game, in the strength and conditioning program, and on his shot as well, I think that was on display the other night," Jones said. "Wayde Sims has been so sound over the years. All through high school he’s been that guy that's been extremely sound and has been a high percentage guy whether it be rebounding or scoring. The good thing about him is versatility out on the floor."
For Mays, who appears to be taking the reins of the point guard position for LSU, is developing as the staff had hoped because he's not satisfied with not improving every day.
"We were pleased, but not surprised because he’s a guy that we expect a lot from and we know that he’s capable of delivering for us. He’s passionate about it and that’s the beauty of watching him grow each practice and each game and just taking it in," Jones said. "We know he had unbelievable basketball IQ and it’s always on display with him."
Hayward's well-rounded game garnered praise from Jones too.
"You take a guy like Kieran Hayward with it being his first time being around this high caliber competition and for him to come in and there was no drop off at all. I thought he defended well, I thought he shot well and I thought he did a great job of taking care of the basketball for us."
With Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson struggling against Wofford, Jones was encouraged to see other players stepping up.
"We scored 91 points and our two top returning perimeter scorers returning didn't have great shooting nights but I thought they played hard on the defensive end of the floor. I thought a lot of our execution from our other guys who made shots," Jones said. "That says a lot about the potential of our offense, being able to score that many points and it be spread out so much from Aaron Epps to Duop Reath to Wayde Sims to Mays and Patterson and on down the line."