Turning a New Leaf

After an 11-20 season, the LSU basketball team hopes to turn a new leaf. At Monday's final team press conference, Trent Johnson talked about moving forward, which began with the dismissal of senior guard Bo Spencer.

Team Banquet Honors

Sunday evening the LSU basketball team held its annual team banquet, where Tasmin Mitchell was named the MVP and most inspirational player. Votes were casted by members of the team.

Coaches Award – Eddie Ludwig

Most Improved Player – Eddie Ludwig

Sixth Man Award – Dennis Harris

Best Defensive Player – Storm Warren

Most Inspirational Player – Tasmin Mitchell

Most Valuable Player – Tasmin Mitchell


Spencer Gone For Now

Senior guard Bo Spencer, who has started 63 games over his three years at LSU, has been suspended from the basketball team indefinitely. Johnson would not go into detail on the suspension, but did confirm that it was academic related.

“Bo Spencer has been suspended indefinitely for lack of fulfillment in his responsibility academically,” Johnson said. “We are in a situation where, outside of him and a couple of other guys, we do a good job in the classroom. He hadn’t met his academic responsibilities. It is pretty short and simple.”

Johnson did not rule out the possibility of Spencer’s return to the team in the fall.


Figuring out the Numbers

Spencer’s suspension comes at a time when the numbers are unclear. With five scholarships available for 2010, the Tigers have already signed four players and have a commitment from a fifth. For the second period, the initial signing date is April 14 and the final signing date is May 19. With the staff still recruiting both high school and junior college talents, the picture for next November is still being painted.

“I’m always recruiting other players because of the status of some of our guys academically,” Johnson said. “This program won’t be in the situation like it was this year because of lack of depth or an injury or two. The fine line is that we have APR issues that we have to work out.

“Without looking at the numbers, it is important that the guys on this team take care of business in the classroom and become eligible going into the summer semester.”

With seven scholarship players returning from last season’s roster and essentially five spots secured from the 2010 class (K.C. Ross-Miller, Matt Derenbecker, Jalen Courtney, Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner), the number of walk-on names will go down.

While Zach Kinsley and Daron Populist became familiar to fans this past year, there spots won’t be guaranteed when the team takes the floor next season.

LSU’s four walk-on players – Chris Beattie, Taylor Jacobsen, Populist and Kinsley – have been excused from the program with walk-on tryouts again scheduled in the fall.

“They were great for our basketball team and our program,” Johnson said. “In fairness to the kids who want to walk-on, we will open it back up in August.”


The Start of Workouts

With seven bodies returning, Johnson will begin individual skill development sessions on April 12. Prior to the start date, Johnson has advised each player to make 1,000 shots per week. The team will lift weights four days a week starting at 6 a.m.

“Our deficiencies in terms of shooting the ball from the perimeter and the post were obvious,” Johnson said. “Other than that, it’s the weight room and skill development.”

Skill development workouts will be broken down into three groups and three 40-minute sessions per week.

“Storm Warren, Malcolm White and Garrett Green will be one group, Dennis Harris and Eddie Ludwig will be a group, and Chris Bass and Aaron Dotson will be the other,” Johnson said.


The New Kids on the Block

After a disappointing Southeastern Conference season, the Tigers are putting their hopes on the impact of the new signing class.

Johnson is adding wing players in Derenbecker and Turner and guards in Ross-Miller and Stringer. The lone post player is Courtney, a 6-foot-7, 210-pounder. On Monday Johnson called Derenbecker, Stringer and Turner the three best players in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, respectively. Both Derenbecker and Stringer recently repeated as Gatorade Player of the Year winners.

“We have some young bullets, you better believe it,” Johnson said. “I feel good about knowing that from here on out, we are in a situation where there are no excuses.

“The incoming class is going to have to grow up fast,” he continued. “We wanted to get out and visit with each of these recruits individually so they have an idea of what they’re getting into mentally. We’re not going to sit up here and dwell on the negatives. We have an opportunity to make a big jump from where we ended up this year to where we’re going to end up next year. I’m as excited as I’ve ever been.”


Change of Plans

While lack of depth and talent left last season’s Tigers draining possessions and running 40 minutes of the 2-3, the offensive and defensive strategies will change with the influx of talent.

With non-conference games including the likes of Memphis, Houston, Virginia, North Texas and Rice, the time for ironing out the details will be short.

“I would like to think that we are going to be a much more balanced team,” Johnson said. “These past few weeks have given me some time to reflect, evaluate and recruit. It’s really obvious that we need to get bigger, stronger, quicker and faster. We need to develop our mental toughness, and quite frankly that started [Monday] morning.”

While the results from the returning names will be familiar, the unknown production from the incoming talent will be what defines the team’s offensive identity.

“You know what you get from Storm. You know what you get from Eddie. You know what you are going to get from Dennis [Harris] and then Malcolm [White],” Johnson said. “Garrett has to really improve. The guys that are coming in, forget the experience factor, they are skilled, they can shoot it, pass it and catch it.

“If everything goes well, we have a chance to be really balanced and have a bunch of guys that will get you 8, 9, 10 and 12 [points].” 

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