Brady previews 2001-02 Tigers

LSU basketball head coach John Brady says his 2001-2002 Tigers may not have the talent of the team he led to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 two years ago, but it is certainly just as tough. Last year's LSU team was a tough one, too, said Brady, but this year there are more experienced, battled-tested players at his disposal.

Brady and his team met with reporters on Wednesday for LSU Basketball Media Day to discuss his thoughts on the up coming season, which begins for the Tigers on Nov. 5 with an exhibition game against Global Sports. Because he has more veterans and newcomers with potential to turn to, Brady said he expects to see improvement from last year in an area he's always deemed crucial to the program's success – defense.

"I think that this team is going to be pretty good offensively," said Brady "We have a nice collection of players that are skilled and that can pass and catch the ball. They can also shoot the ball and if we can get our percentage a little better in any of those areas, then I think our team can be successful.

"My philosophy has always been to get your team to think defensively because players, by nature, think offensively. If a player comes up to a coach and says that he has been working on his game, I'll bet you that he means that he has been shooting jump shots in the gym. He didn't go in the gym and break down his defensive stats or do closeouts or those kinds of things that will help his game defensively.

"Players think offensively by nature and it is the job of the coach and the coaching staff to get them thinking defensively, and that's what we need to do with this team in order to have some considerable success."

The four returning starters on the LSU basketball team are already familiar with Brady's defensive demands and hope to improve upon last season's 13-16 record and 6th place finish in the West division of the Southeastern Conference. Giving Brady reason for hope is how the Tigers finished the year. They were 2-2 in the final two weeks of the season with a win over nationally-ranked Ole Miss and an upset of Georgia in the SEC Tournament.

Brady has set his sites high for junior forward Ronald Dupree, the top scorer in the SEC last season with an average of 17.3 points per game. Dupree was also No. 2 in the league in rebounds with 8.8 per game but was only recognized as a second- or third-team member of post-season All-SEC squads.

"I think that Ronald Dupree will show this year that he has a shot to be MVP of the league," Brady stated. "I think he can do that if our team will progress as it should and win some more games because a lot of those accolades at the end of the season our based on winning. Stomile (Swift) averaged less points than Ronald Dupree, less rebounds per game than Ronald and he was MVP of the league."

The rest of the returning starters for LSU are junior guard Collis Temple III, junior guard Torris Bright and senior forward Jermaine Williams. Other experienced players on the roster are sophomore guard Charlie Thompson, senior forward Jason Wilson and junior forward Brad Bridgewater, who is fully healed from an ACL injury that ended last season for him before it started.

Temple took advantage of his redshirt season three years ago to get a jumpstart on his academics. The oldest son of former LSU basketball player Collis Temple Jr. earned his undergraduate degree in the off-season and could vie for conference honors after averaging 14.1 points per game last season.

"I always thought I could play in the SEC. I always had confidence in my game," said Temple. "I was put in a situation last year, unfortunately because of injuries, where I had to produce for our team. It was a position I grasped fully and took advantage of it.

"We didn't have the type of season we wanted to have, but I guess I had somewhat of a breakout season. Hopefully, I can continue with that and I expect our team to do well this year."

Brady forecasted the best season yet from Torris Bright, who was able to play at the 1 and 2 positions with the ability to use Thompson at point guard occasion. Bright starts this season as the point guard, but Brady said he may turn to Bright more as a shooter if Thompson and freshman Xavier Whipple can provide reliable play at the point.

Williams has built a strong reputation for himself as an unselfish player, although Brady says he'd like to see him take more the scoring opportunities presented to him. Williams is expected to be a contributor again this season after posting double figures scoring in seven SEC games last year.

Without a true low post player on his team, Brady will once again employ the "41" screening and cutting offense. A perimeter of four players will move around one player in the post with the goal of creating scoring opportunities on the outside and opening lanes to the basket.

LSU will use a committee approach down low this season. Bridgewater and Wilson have the most experience in the role, while junior college transfer Thomas Davis will probably enter the mix once he gains experience within the system. The main area Davis needs to improve upon before he can see regular duty is his toughness, said Brady.

"I've pretty much taken a pounding (in practice), but I think it will help me in the long run," said Davis, a native of Alexandria, who came to LSU from Kilgore (Texas) Junior College. "They say the SEC is the most physical league in the nation, so I think I need to get used to it. With Brad and Jason's help, I think I'll get used to it."

In addition to Davis and Whipple, other new faces for LSU are freshman guard Antonio Hudson and sophomore guard JueMichael Young, a partial qualifier who had to sit out last season to gain his eligibility. The task in front of Hudson is to improve on his defensive skills, while Young should expect to make immediate contributions after being able to practice with the team last season.

As soon as they are done with football, freshmen Marcus Spears and Michael Clayton are expected to lend their talent and depth to the Tigers. Both were recognized as high school blue chips in basketball as well as on the gridiron.

A recognizable walk-on for LSU is freshman Josh Maravich, the youngest son of the late LSU basketball legend Pete Maravich. The 6-1, 175-pound guard from St. Paul in Covington was not highly recruited but decided he wanted to attend LSU to honor the legacy of his father and grandfather, the late Press Maravich, who coached at LSU when Pete was on the team.

Brady joked that it's been fun to call out the name "Maravich" in practice sessions, but his realistic projections for Josh involve him filling the standard role of a walk-on.

"I'm just going to bring whatever I can to the team," said Josh, "which will be on the practice court this season since I'm a redshirt. Hopefully, I will work hard and earn my spot next year."

Along with Maravich and Thompson, LSU's walk-ons include junior guard Brian Green, senior forward Pete Bozek, freshman forward Paul Wolfert and sophomore guard Ross Chouest.

Brady says he won't waste the luxury of having all these extra bodies to turn to. His plans include employing versions of a full court press in an attempt to create turnovers, and therefore scoring opportunities, for the Tigers.

On the recruiting front, Brady has three scholarships to offer for the signing class of 2002. He already has a verbal commitment from forward Jaime Lloreda of Dixie Junior College in Utah. Various recruiting sources have ranked Lloreda as the nation's top juco forward.

Although Brady couldn't mention Lloreda or any other recruit by name, he did say the signs are pointing to him adding one more signee in the fall and another in the spring. A possible candidate for the fall is Selma, Ala., forward Chuck Davis, who visited Baton Rouge last weekend for the football game with Florida.

Last season at Southside High, Davis (6-8, 210) averaged 25 points and 11 points a game in leading his team to a 25-4 record.

Practice begins for the 2001-2002 Tigers on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Maravich Assembly Center. Tickets for the upcoming season are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 225-578-2184.

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