A quick peek at hoops

Planned renovations to the arena, a stellar recruiting class and a core of veteran ballplayers that all have NCAA Tournament experience - is everything finally falling into place for John Brady and the LSU Men's Basketball team? <br><br> The Tigers are coming off of another roller coaster season that saw them lose six of seven conference games before bouncing back to win seven of their last eight games, including two wins in the SEC Touranment.

The late season surge secured an at-large bid to the NCAA Touranment, LSU's first since the magical 1999-2000 season, in which the Tigers reached the Sweet 16.


LSU must replace four starters from the 2002 squad as Torris Bright, Ronald Dupree, Brad Bridgewater, and Collis Temple III all completed their eligibility last season. While they will be missed, their time and service helped put LSU Basketball back on track. These four players came to LSU while the program was in shambles in the midst of NCAA sanctions. While they struggled everyday to attain the levels of success which was achieved, these guys will be remembered at LSU more for what they did for the program instead of on the floor.


While talented players, Bright, Dupree, Bridgewater, and Temple served as the building blocks of what Brady has been trying to accomplish at LSU. Along with Stromile Swift and Jabari Smith, these former Tigers laid the foundation for Brady and his staff to go out and be able to successfully recruit the best players in the country, and that's exactly what they did.


The sixth-year coach out of Samford landed what many consider to be the best recruiting class in America. Along with several local products that chose to stay close to home, the LSU coaching staff raided high schools across the country filling out 2003's historic class.


Brady's recruiting run spilled over into late August when Glen "Big Baby" Davis of University High, one of the top high school seniors in America, verbally committed to the Tigers.


In addition to outstanding players, the 2003 class is big; something that plagued LSU teams in the past. No recruit outside of guard Tack Minor is under 6-7.


Baton Rouge product Brandon Bass (6-8, 250) headlines the 2003 class of newcomers. The former Capitol High star was named to the McDonald's All-American squad after averaging 19 points and 14 rebounds in his senior season. With Bridgewater gone, look for him to contend for the starting power forward position.


While Bass looks to be the Tigers inside force, the 5-11 Minor will give the Tigers just as lethal of an outside threat. A superstar at Booker T. Washington High School in Houston, Minor averaged 37 points and eight assists to go along with eight rebounds.


What Brady does with Minor will be the most intriguing part of the 2003 season. Coming out of high school, Torris Bright was a scoring guard and had numbers similar to Minor's. But for his first three years in Baton Rouge, Brady turned Bright into a distributing point guard before realizing how valuable of a scorer he could be his senior campaign. Will he follow the same path with Minor?


Another local product, Woodlawn star Darnell Lazare, will provide the Tigers with another big body in the front court. The 6-8 Lazare averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds last year helping lead Woodlawn to their second consecutive 5A state title.


When you think about a Mr. Basketball, particularly out of the state of Kentucky, you probably think that is someone LSU will have to play when the Wildcats come to town. Not this season.


The Tiger coaches lured Ross Neltner out of the basketball-rich state of Kentucky. At 6-8 and 225 pounds, Neltner averaged 20.2 points and 10.6 rebounds a game his senior season. He provides the Tigers will a duel threat whereas he can play inside as well as shoot from the perimeter.


Last, but certainly not least is Regis Koundjia. The 6-7, 200-pound forward from the Central African Republic may turn out to be the best of them all. Koundjia averaged 20.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists last year helping lead his prep school to a national title. Like Neltner, Koundjia can play inside as well as outside and is very athletic.


By themselves, these five players form a pretty imposing starting five, but Brady will mix veteran talent in giving him perhaps the most talented squad in his previous six seasons at LSU.


Darrell Mitchell showed flashes of brilliance throughout the 2002, but must work on his consistency. Xavier Whipple played a very solid point guard late in the year, surprising many people. Jaime Lloreda proved he was one of the most physical and valuable players in the conference last season crashing the boards on a consistent basis. Speed guard Tony Gibson also returns after missing the second half of last season due to academics.


On paper, this is a squad that should challenge for the SEC Western Division title, if not the conference championship. Like any other team, the Tigers must avoid injuries and must have a little luck on their side; something that Brady has not been accustomed to while at LSU.

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