LSU men’s basketball coach Trent Johnson met with the media on Tuesday with only 10 days to go until the Tigers take the floor for the first time in the 2009-10 campaign.
The Tigers will open the season against ULM on Nov. 13 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and Johnson took the typical response you would get from a head coach when asked if his team was where it needed to be with the opener right around the corner.
“In ten days from now we are going to have to line up regardless of what the situation is,” Johnson said. “Any coach in America that said that they would be ready now they would be lying to you. I’d love to have more experience and more games and a healthier team than I have right now. Ten days is a long time so it is my responsibility that whoever is out there is ready to go and we are working towards that.”
The health issue that Johnson alluded to centered around two players that were going to be held out of Tuesday’s practice.
“Just from an injury standpoint we are going to hold Storm (Warren) out (Tuesday). We are also going to hold Aaron (Dotson) out,” stated the headman. “Both guys are having problems with their knees.
“Aaron, regardless of what he says, has probably been at about 70 percent since he has been here and he is probably starting to have a little tenderness in his back. We need to be careful and be smart so we are going to hold those two guys out so that will give them about two days off.”
With LSU having only nine scholarship players available for this season, along with four walk-ons, not to mention several players recovering from injuries in Bo Spencer, Storm Warren, Aaron Dotson and Garrett Green, Johnson has to be careful with the physical nature of his practices. That makes the mental part of the teaching process all the more important right now.
“Physically, because of the situation we have in terms of injuries and not being able to go five-on-five and not being deep, I have to make sure there are constant reps and a constant mental approach that they understand when they play in a week or two weeks from now they are going to be playing five-on-five and be physical,” said Johnson.
Johnson feels that his players have taken well to that approach and are developing fine on the mental side of things.
“It’s fine,” he said. “When you say mental development they are doing everything we ask. There are breakdowns when certain guys are trying to do too much at certain times. There are certain guys lacking confidence at times. Certain guys are dropping balls at times. They also understand that the guy they play for and our program is always in search of perfection. Mentally they are where they need to be but they also understand that they haven’t been up against anybody.”
The Tigers have held several scrimmages thus far in pre-season camp and a few things have jumped out at Johnson with 10 days to go until they face the Warhawks.
“We are going to really have to take care of the ball,” he said. “We are going to have to rebound and really make sure we manage the clock and get the shots that we want to get and make sure we get the ball in the right people’s hands at the right times.
“We are probably going to have to mix some defenses here and there so really from my standpoint there is nothing that surprised me. The good thing for us is that we are probably as healthy as we have been. If we had a game tomorrow both Storm (Warren) and Aaron (Dotson) could both play.”
As for who the starting five will be when the Tigers take the floor for the first time in a real game, well, that’s still up for debate.
“It is still a little early. I am still looking at combinations and obviously the two veterans (Tasmin Mitchell and Bo Spencer) have to be on the floor,” said Johnson. “It is too early for a lot reasons. It is not coaches speak; it is just from an injuries standpoint.
“Storm Warren is nothing like he has been when he is favoring his knee. There is a lot that is going to happen in ten days and we are going to get another good look on Sunday against a very explosive Houston team and then we are going to go three of four days in a row pretty hard to gear it up a little bit.”