For the first time in four years, the LSU Tigers will take the floor this fall without the services of its 6-9, 300-pound front man, Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
Davis, who left LSU after his junior season, recently signed a contract with the Boston Celtics after being selected in the second round of last summer's NBA Draft.
With Davis' departure, John Brady and his Tigers begin searching for a new image. Dating back to the year 2000, LSU basketball has been all about big men. The Tigers' gameplan has been centered essentially around its post players.
Stromile Swift, Jabari Smith, Jaime Lloreda, Brandon Bass, Tyrus Thomas and Davis have been the marquee players for Brady's teams the past seven seasons. Brady has stressed defense and rebounding as the building blocks to success, that and getting the ball, inside to dominating post players.
That won't be the case in 2007-08.
LSU will feature an entirely new frontline and will look to taller, leaner post players and bigger, more offensive minded guards to get the job done this year.
"The difference is, we've had (players ranging) from Stromile to Jabari to Jaime Lloreda, Brandon Bass, Glen Davis…real power guys around the basket," Brady said. "This team is a little bit different. We've gone back to more of a five man flowing offense. We've got different guys who can play off the post. We have big guards that we're going to try to take advantage of off the post."
In the past, LSU has locked opponents down with pulverizing defensive efforts, but have lulled fans to sleep on the offensive end of the floor. That's all about to change.
"This team is going to be a team that's going to run up and down the floor a little bit and have different guys shooting the ball because I think that's one of our strengths, driving the ball to the goal and possibly getting fouled," Brady said. "A little different than running sets that go directly to the post and trying to score off the post."
While the Tigers lose their highest profile player in Davis, LSU returns a trio of important junior starters in guards Terry Martin and Garrett Temple and forward Tasmin Mitchell.
Mitchell was the Tigers' second leading scorer a year ago averaging 14.5 points per game. The 6-7, 230-pound forward grabbed 5.2 rebounds per contest while shooting 46-percent from the floor.
Martin, who came on at mid-season last year after transferring from Texas Tech, started 16 games and scored 10.5 point per game. A 6-6, 200-pound shooting guard, Martin also averaged 28. rebounds per game and shot 38.8-percent from the free throw line.
"I think the improvement of Terry Martin and Garrett Temple's experience and Tasmin Mitchell's experience, I think those guys will give us a good nucleus to work with," Brady said.
The two players who have everyone buzzing are freshman big man Anthony Randolph and junior college transfer, guard Marcus Thornton.
Randolph, a 5-star prospect by Scout.com and the nation's No. 6-rated power forward, is a 6-10, 210-pound post player from Dallas. Thornton, a product of Baton Rouge's Tara High School, is a 6-4, 200-pound guard who transferred to LSU as a junior from Kilgore Junior College.
Brady said Randolph and Thornton are the newcomers expected to contribute the most, however, he doesn't want to oversell his new players before they get a chance to show their skills.
"I get reluctant to talk about guys like that because I'd just rather them develop their own way by how they play and let people draw their own conclusions," Brady said. "But certainly Anthony Randolph was a highly recruited player, a Parade All-American, 6-10, long and can really run, jump, shoot it and with added strength and experience he'll be one of the premier players in this league."
Brady said Thornton has already showed his abilities as the team participated in a tournament over Labor Day weekend in Canada.
"I think Marcus Thornton is going to be an explosive scorer for us," Brady said. "The first game in Canada he had 19 for us in the first half and wound up with 30 in his first appearance ever, playing with a new offense and a new set of teammates. I think as we coach him and we progress in our development as a team, I think those two players will really have an impact on both ends of the floor for us."
Beyond the projected starting five are a number of players that will contribute including guard-forward Dameon Mason (6-6, 185, Sr.), guard Bo Spencer (6-1, 180, Fr.), forward Garrett Green (6-10, 205, Fr.), center Chris Johnson (6-11, 190, Jr.) and forward Quinton Thornton (6-8, 225, Jr.).
"Bo Spencer is going to be a solid point for us," Brady said. "Quentin Thornton will be able to rebound, defend a little bit around the goal and find his role on the team. Certainly he's not a Tyrus Thomas, Glen Davis or Brandon Bass. But with the right mix of players around him I think he can add something to our team. Garrett Green is another 6-10 young man who I think is going to develop into a great player here."
Brady said it will be a fun and exciting team to watch, but will no doubt be different from his teams of years past.
"The strengths we've had in the past, the ability to rebound the ball regardless of the opponent is something we're going to have to stress with this team," Brady said.
"Although we're long and athletic and tall, I don't know that we have the girth that we've had in the past so rebounding is going to be a primary concentration in the practices."
Brady voiced a concern about how lean the Tigers will be down low and defending the goal against other big men might be one of this teams' major shortcomings.
"(One problem will be) our ability to defend around the goal consistently," Brady said. "We've been a predominantly man to man team and we're going to continue to use that as our base. But we're also going to do some things defensively in terms of playing a little more zone, maybe some match-up zone, some odd front, even front zones to keep some teams off balance so they can't just concentrate on attacking us around the goal during the course of the game."
BIG BABY IS ALL GROWN UP
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