Making strides

Very rarely are fans so impressed by a scoreless performance. Chris Bass played 26 minutes in relief of injured sophomore Bo Spencer on Wednesday against Arkansas. The true freshman point guard didn't score a single point in the Hogs' hostile environment, but he did contribute five assists and not a single turnover.

“I know my role,” Bass said. “My role is to come in and be energetic on defense, try to run the team when I get in and get everybody involved.”

LSU Head Coach Trent Johnson planned on playing senior guard Garrett Temple at the point the majority of the night, but made the switch to Bass in the heat of the moment.

Bass entered the game for the first time at the 16:37 mark of the first half for Terry Martin, who started in place of Spencer and played 15 minutes on the night. Martin checked back in at the 11:02 mark, but Bass subbed in for Martin again at the 8:17 point and never left the floor again until the Tigers headed to the locker room down 32-26 at the half.

“[Bass brought] more continuity, more energy offensively,” Johnson said. “Also, it enabled Garrett to slide down to where he’s been playing all year long and play with a three-guard front … In terms of [Bass] taking care of the ball, in terms of him being put in a situation where it’s 26 minutes that we had to leave him on the floor in crucial times when we were behind, there’s no question [he played a good game.]”

Johnson has to be happy with his freshman’s progress, as Bass is the first member of the Trent Johnson era at LSU. Both Johnson and Bass recall with clarity their first meeting at an AAU tournament in Houston.

“He pounds [the ball]; he just dribbles the living hell out of it,” Johnson said. “He handles the ball and we needed a guy that wanted to be here that had some strength and had some quickness. As you see, with Bo’s situation … we needed to have another guy here who could handle the ball … he’s been great for us.”

Bass spent a season at Lee Academy, a prep school in Maine where he had gained offers from Arkansas State, ECU and TCU. But with his obvious LSU connections, he didn’t hesitate when he heard about Johnson’s interest

“He really liked me, and he contacted me about three weeks before I was about to come home [from Lee Academy],” Bass said. “He told me that if J.P. Morgan was going to back out, then I was the first person he was going to sign. I really wanted to come here.”

Bass’ commitment made him the second Bass to make his way through LSU in recent years. Chris’ older brother Brandon averaged 17 points and 9 boards in 30 starts with LSU in 2004.

“He’s more of a laid back big man. He likes to rebound and dunk. I like to get everybody involved and play good defense,” the younger Bass said, who has 38 assists and only 13 turnovers on the year. “We’re a lot different from each other. He told me to just enjoy it. He told me that not everybody comes in and dominates their first year at the college level.”

Johnson will be elated if Bass can produce at the point the way his brother did in the post. Bass is averaging just 11.3 minutes and one point per game, but Johnson sees the growth in his young floor general.

“Like most kids in high school, he wants to play fast,” Johnson said. “Most of them don’t see a lot of structure against athletes and skill position people where you have to read defenses and things of that nature. He’s gotten a lot better at recognizing what we want done in terms of what we want done, in terms of whether it’s man or zone.”

But the head man says there’s plenty of work to be done, and plenty of time to do it.

“In the second half [against Arkansas] where Marcus was on the baseline, [Bass] dribbled right in front of our bench,” Johnson said. “He came across half court and dribbled down into the corner going 900 miles per hour … and that was my fault, because I wasn’t out there telling him to slow it down. But the second time he didn’t make that mistake, and he’s gotten better in that regard.”

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