Will Wade is turning the heat up on this players ahead of a 5 p.m. road tipoff against Arkansas (SEC Network)
Gus Stark

Will Wade: "We Need People Uncomfortable"

Cody Worsham
Cody Worsham
Digital Media Reporter

There are few situations in which Darius Days is not at ease.

Will Wade calls his freshman forward “The Mayor of Campus” because of his comfortability in conversation with anyone on campus, from his teammates and coaches to complete strangers in the quad. It’s a truth that applies on the court, too, as Days is a versatile talent capable of guarding all five positions and playing anywhere on the floor – at the rim or behind the arc.

(Listen to this story on the latest episode of Boot Up: The LSU Basketball Podcast)

But put a camera in front of his face – especially after Thursday’s practice – and ask Days about his head coach, and things get little uncomfortable.

Which is exactly how Wade likes it.

“Coach is on us way more,” Days said in between some awkward laughter, when asked about Wade’s demeanor in practice. “He’s very dedicated to his job. Everything he does, he does for a purpose.”

It’s at this point that Days could no longer answer the question. The awkward chuckles took over, forcing reporters to ask: why the laughter.

“Come on,” Days eventually said. “Y’all know Coach Wade. Come on now. It doesn’t have to be explained.”

Read between the lines – and the laughs – and it’s clear: LSU is not resting on its laurels heading into Saturday’s road matchup with Arkansas. The Tigers (11-3, 1-0 SEC) may be just one of four undefeated teams left in the SEC after two rounds of conference play, but Wade’s seat is far from cozy, and the same principle applies to his players.

He’s the one applying it, after all.

“I do not like comfort,” Wade said Thursday. “You cannot get better with comfort. If you are not stretching yourself, you are not going to get any better. You can’t get better uncomfortable. We need people uncomfortable, so we have to constantly make sure we have people uncomfortable.

“You have to change your best every day and get a little better. What is good enough today is not good enough tomorrow.”

In other words, what was good enough in an 88-79 home win over Alabama on Tuesday will not be good enough in a road trip to Fayetteville, where Arkansas traditionally enjoys of the nation’s most imposing home court advantages. Though the Razorbacks have dropped three home contests this season already – including a Wednesday defeat to Florida – they entered the season with the eighth-most home wins in the country since head coach Mike Anderson took over in 2011.

LSU, meanwhile, has not won a road game in a year – since, fittingly enough, a Jan. 10 trip to Arkansas last season. 

“My expectations are a little different,” Wade said. “I expect to beat Alabama at home. I won’t slap myself on the back and slap the team on the back just because we beat Alabama at home. I mean, that’s the expectation here.

“I understand what we have in front of us. This is going to be a brutally tough  road game and I’ve got to get through to our guys how important this is and how tough of a game this will be in this environment and the way that they play.”     

The way they play is quite discomforting. Arkansas is one of the fastest teams in the country, with an average offensive length of possession of just 15 seconds – the 17th-quickest pace in the nation. They force a ton of turnovers, as their foes cough the ball up on 21.2 percent of their possessions, fourth in the SEC.

“We turned it over 16 times and beat Alabama,” Wade said. “If we turn it over 16 times, we are not winning on Saturday. You can write that in your game story: we are not winning on Saturday with 16 turnovers.

“We have to be able to value the ball and not toss it around the gym against their pressure. If we do that and at least get a shot on the basket, I think we will give ourselves a chance to win.”

Communicating that difficulty starts in practice, and Thursday’s, by all indications, was about learning how to cope with Arkansas’ atmosphere and up-tempo style of play.

In particular, Wade is focused on focus – or an apparent lack of it.

“I wish,” Wade said, asked if there was a different level of focus at practice Thursday. “I think our group is still feeling itself out. I wish I could say ‘yeah’ and sit up here and say it is all roses, but we are just kind of chugging along here.

“I think we have to be able to sustain our focus for longer. We stay focused for 15, 20, 25 minutes in practice and then we lose it a little bit, and that is the way we are in a game and all of that translates. I wish we could stay focused longer. I do not think it is a lack of focus as much of it is as being able to stay focused. If we do not play 40 minute games, this league is unbearable.”

Practice may not have been unbearable, but there was more energy from the sidelines, according to Days.

“Way more energy.” he said. “Way more.

“That’s one good thing we like about (Coach Wade). He’s going to be the same person, day in, day out. He’s going to be in your face.”

Making things uncomfortable, of course.

“I do not like it when people feel comfortable,” Wade said, “so we are working to make sure that is not the case.”

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