Bridgewater welcomes big additions

No one would ever mistake LSU forward Brad Bridgewater with a small man. At 6-foot-8, the senior forward from New Roads stands above most students on campus.<br><br>But all of this has changed with the arrival of juniors Shawnson Johnson and Jaime Lloreda, a pair of athletic 6-foot-9 players who will share the inside positions with Bridgewater this season.

"That helps my game out a lot," said Bridgewater. "That helps the team out a lot. When you get a big man and he's the only person banging out there, he gets tired and gets worn down because that's a hard job on the post. When you've got fresh guys, they can come in and do the same or better.


"It's great, for the team and for me because I feel like I can go that much harder when I'm in the game instead of trying to conserve myself throughout the game."


Along with the sizeable company Bridgewater has on the LSU roster, he has also met bigger and stronger opponents throughout his career. Although he occasionally gives up a few pounds or inches in certain games, he says he can enter the game with a mental advantage.


"All through high school, I was so much bigger than everybody. It was so much easier," said Bridgewater. "Now that everybody's the same size or bigger, it's a whole lot tougher. It's just a mental thing. You've got to go out there and think, ‘I'm tougher than this guy.'"


Bridgewater was put through his paces last season after missing the 2000-01 campaign with a torn left ACL. He averaged 23 minutes over 34 games and recorded 6.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per outing in head coach John Brady's 4-and-1 offense.


He made his first career start in 2001 and shot 54.7 percent from the field for the season. His 18 blocked shots were the second most on the team.


Bridgewater had nine double-figure scoring games, including a career high of 16 points against Houston on Dec. 20, 2001, on a 8-of-11 shooting night. He recorded a high of ten rounds against Nicholls State on Dec. 30.


His junior season highlights also included a 6-of-7 game against Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Tournament that he sealed with a late dunk to seal LSU's win over the Bulldogs.


A sturdy, athletic and mobile player, Bridgewater is highly suited for the power forward position but played center due to the Tigers lack of size. But in playing so close to the basket all the time, he fine tuned his low-post moves and developed a sweet jump hook that's quickly becoming his signature shot.


This year, the Tigers will use a high-low post with support from the perimeter, meaning the bigger guys will get to move around a bit more on offense. But it will still require Bridgewater and the post players to bring a physical style of play to the court. 


"I got in the weight room, gained about 15 pounds. I'm up to 270 right now," he said. "I'm a lot stronger and I've been working a lot more on going to the basket. And since we started on our new offense, I have to work on my jumper."


Bridgewater also went to work on his academics in the off-season, completing his degree in General Studies in July. He admits to taking his class work lightly in his first year at LSU but turned everything around when school quickly became his only option.


"When I tore my ACL, I really realized basketball could be gone just like that," said Bridgewater. "I really needed to get my education. I kind of buckled down, got it out of the way and now I can focus on basketball."

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