LSU Hoops: Fans seeing double

Those who have been to LSU basketball games this season have seen double. Senior forward Jaime Lloreda has enjoyed five consecutive games in which he has reached double figures both in points and rebounds, including two last week. <br><br> Those who haven't come watch the Tigers play have "missed a pretty good team," Coach John Brady said. However strong the Tigers may be, Lloreda is in large measure responsible for that success.

When LSU couldn't figure out how to attack a zone and get the ball inside, it lost three consecutive games. Now that adjustments have been made, and Lloreda gets the ball in position to score more often, the Tigers have the momentum of four consecutive victories going into their showdown Saturday at Florida.


More than that, though, Lloreda can match most anyone with his rebounding ability. Even during the throes of LSU's offensive inactivity, Lloreda could clean the boards with his yeoman-like efficiency.


Brady will tell you that rebounding, like defense, is so much desire and hustle and want-to. Lloreda has all those traits, which transcended into a career-high 17 rebounds, plus 18 points, in a 65-52 victory over Arkansas last Saturday.


Lloreda plays with the consistency of effort that Brady and LSU football coach Nick Saban so often talk about. Lloreda never relaxes. He never lets himself, or the opponent, rest. He's learned not to expend needless energy, both physically and emotionally, but take the game as it comes and play accordingly.


It hasn't always been easy. An emotional person, Lloreda's quick temper often landed him in the doghouse with Brady, who benched Lloreda for the Tigers¹ two preseason games and their season opener against Southern. Lloreda¹s petulant behavior also incurred the wrath of officials and impeded his production. Now that Lloreda seemingly has learned to channel that aggression into performance, he's elevated his play and that of the Tigers.


"I put too much pressure on myself," said Lloreda, who focused so much on winning and losing that he lost sight of what needed to be done to ensure victory. Having redirected his vision, Lloreda not only has improved his game but also enhanced the Tigers' well-being.


"He's the kind of guy you can put your hat on in crunch time," Brady said. "I appreciate his effort."

When officials allowed rough-house play to continue with Arkansas, Lloreda responded with muscle and power around the basket, and did so without fouling. He finished with only one late-game foul and one turnover in an otherwise dazzling exhibition.


When officials began to restrict play, Lloreda recognized the difference and reacted accordingly. In the closing minutes, with the outcome still in the balance, he slipped inside and scored off Antonio's Hudson feed from the right wing. That the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Lloreda didn't dunk the ball is indicative of his approach to the game.


Lloreda said he doesn't think his legs are strong enough to dunk more often, but in reality it may be because Lloreda recognizes that a layup is "more easy," as he said, and more certain than a dunk. Both of them, he pointed out, are worth two points.


Lloreda doesn't profess to be anything but what he is -- a driven, hard-working powerhouse around the goal. The results have been 13 double-doubles in the first 20 games.


A native of Panama, the Spanish-speaking Lloreda has shown marked improvement with his command of the English language. Still, when asked if he were a flashy player, he had to request an explanation of the meaning. Even if Lloreda had understood, flashy in basketball is not part of his lexicon. He's efficient, not spectacular -- getting at least the same results as someone with heightened theatrics.


"He's not like Stromile (Swift)," Brady said of Lloreda in relation to the Tigers' mercurial forward who helped LSU to the Sweet 16 in 2000. "He's not going to jump over the rim."


In that sense, Lloreda is like his role model, Dennis Rodman, whose NBA exploits Lloreda would see televised in his homeland. Lloreda's appetite for rebounding began with Rodman and has since grown into an insatiable appetite. Lloreda said he even went so far as to color his hair, as did Rodman, although, thankfully, Lloreda has outgrown such behavior.


Lloreda, though, still plays  with that same unending will to get the ball no matter where it is. Freshman forward Brandon Bass marvels at how Lloreda seems to make the ball "stick to his hands." That comes from Lloreda's strength.


Bass also likes how Lloreda always seems to be in position for "easy baskets." Lloreda often makes it look easy because he has a knack for getting himself in the right position to make plays.


If the public still is slow to appreciate Lloreda's talent, Brady said Southeastern Conference coaches recognize Lloreda for his skill. The shame of it all is that others won't fully understand Lloreda's worth until he's gone and they've realize what they missed.

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