Men's Basketball
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Former Tiger Ricky Blanton
Photo by: LSUsports.net, LSU Athletics Publications
Blanton, Macklin Discuss Final Four Reunions
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Published: January 20, 2011, 09:42 PM (CT)
Updated: January 20, 2011, 09:46 PM (CT)
by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent), Sr. Associate SID

BATON ROUGE - Rudy Macklin of the 1981 LSU NCAA Final Four team and Ricky Blanton of the 1986 LSU Final Four team met with local media Thursday at the new indoor practice facility in anticipation of "Reunion Weekend" of the two 1980s final four teams.

The weekend begins Friday night with an invitation only reception involving the two teams, followed by a visit to the Sixth Man Booster Club and autograph session prior to the LSU-Ole Miss game on Saturday. Both teams will be introduced at halftime.

The game tips at 12:47 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Tickets are available at LSUtix.net and on game day at the upper concourse ticket windows beginning at 11 a.m. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and ESPN3.com and broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network.

Macklin and Blanton were both named in 2009 to the 16-member LSU All-Century team commemorating the 100th anniversary of LSU basketball's first game.

The 1981 team won two games in front of 30,000-plus at the Louisiana Superdome to advance to the NCAA Final Four in Philadelphia, this after a 26-game winning streak that included 17 consecutive wins in league play. The 1986 team at the time was the lowest seeded team to advance to a Final Four at No. 11 (a mark since tied). That team won its first two games in the then-named LSU Assembly Center before defeating Kentucky, for the first time in four tries to advance to the Final Four in Dallas.

Here are some of the comments from Thursday's media session with Macklin and Blanton:

FORMER LSU PLAYER RICKY BLANTON

On if it's more special because both teams are going to be honored together for the first time ...
"For me it's kind of nice because the teams were just five years apart and we all know each other. A lot of us that came in 1984 as freshman -- Rudy (Macklin) and a lot of the guys were still playing. We all had an opportunity to play together in the summers so we all know one another. I think the 1981 team was far superior than the 1986 team no question, and I think the record will show that, but there is still a great respect among all the guys because we accomplished the same thing. It's going to be fun because we had a lot of junior and seniors on the team when I played and those guys know all the guys from the 1981 team because they're closer in age. I know Friday night will be fun and I'm sure the whole weekend will be as well."

On if it's easier to support a coach that recruits players who will stay for four years ...
"I think so, no question. I think the track record of what Coach Johnson has done speaks for itself, and obviously this class is the building block moving forward. I think he has the right idea and I think a lot of this is going to be interesting to see how it plays out when the NBA has their new collective bargaining. If they go back to the one-and-done it's going to have a great impact on the college game, but if they mandate that you have to stay three years I think a lot of program's will change their philosophy. The NBA collective bargaining has a large impact on college basketball in relation to the high school kid."

On LSU and the New Orleans Hornets having attendance problems and how he feels about the Hornets staying in Louisiana ...
"For me personally I would love for them to stay because I am a basketball fan. I do think it has a positive impact for LSU. When you look at these kids bios they are fans of Chris Paul and the Hornets, so from a recruiting standpoint it is positive to have an NBA franchise in the state. I know we're all aware of what the challenges are for the Hornets, but I hope they stick around because it's positive for everyone."

On how hard it is to build a program and compete in the SEC ...
"I think it's difficult because we lose sight of the competition. It's easy to say you are the flagship university and that's what people talk about, but you're still competing against other SEC schools and other top 25 and top 30 schools. It's challenging, but again I think the right person is at the head of the ship. His record shows he can get it accomplished, but there are a lot of factors that go into success and failures in college athletics. We're progressing in the right direction as far as LSU basketball team is concerned in my opinion."

On his favorite memory from the 1986 Final Four season ...
"I was part of the chickenpox era with four games in five days, so that was quite fun. Then we beat Kentucky in the regional final to go to the Final Four. Those are two easy memories."

On former head coach Dale Brown ...
"For me I was caught in the middle. Coach Brown had a little success with the 1981 team, so the fire was burning when he coached me. He had a taste of it and he wanted to get back there and wanted to win it. I was in that stage where he had a lot of fire. You can imagine what days were like in practice with his energy and competitive nature, it was great. He was the head of the ship. There was no question we had players, but he made sure we brought it every day when we played and competed. I will always have that memory of him. He was a great guy and a great humanitarian, but he was very competitive. When we played he made sure we competed."

On Coach Brown as a motivator ...
"I can tell you one thing, probably nine out of ten times when I went to play after he talked to us I could have told you I could run through that concrete wall and you couldn't convince me I could not. That's the way it was in the locker room with him and it was consistent. Looking back I think his intellect and IQ was so high that he could come up with stuff and position it to tell a story that no matter what it was it got you believing. When I ran out of the floor in the PMAC I was ready to go, no question."

FORMER LSU PLAYER RUDY MACKLIN

On what LSU needs to do to be a consistent NCAA tournament team like it was when he played ...
"Getting the players to stay in school. You've got guys that are one and done or two and done. I could have left early, but I decided to stay because I felt there was a loyalty that I owed to the school, my coaches and my teammates to try and win a national championship. In order to be a power in college basketball today, we need to find a way to get these young student athletes to stay in school. I have always been a fan of four years. Why not stay in school? The NBA isn't going anywhere, the money's going to be there and if you get hurt modern medicine will fix you up and have you ready to go in two months. From the players we had from Tyrus Thomas to Anthony Randolph, if they would have stayed for four years they would have had winning seasons. It's like a domino effect. Trying to get guys to stay four years is a tough thing, but I like what Coach Johnson is doing by recruiting players he can develop and will stay the entire time, because there is nothing more valuable than a college degree. Also, your game will be even more developed by the time you reach the NBA. That's why you see a lot of inconsistency with a lot of schools, not just LSU. It's watering down the talent pool. The talent pool is watered down because a lot of guys are coming down too early."

On LSU and the Hornets having problems with attendance and how they feel about the Hornets staying in Louisiana ...
"I think it's a good having them down the road, but it's hard to judge Louisiana fans in general. This is still by in large a football state. When we started with our run, and Ricky's team's run and Shaq's run our fans became a little spoiled, because when the program has to start from scratch there are going to be some bumps in the road and it's going to be a tough start. That's what this team is going through right now. Places like a Kentucky, if they have a rough start or have to start over and had down seasons they still had 23,000 people in the stands because it's a basketball school. If you have a rough start in football in this state they want to lynch the coach. We're still in a football state, and once Coach Johnson gets on a roll and starts winning like the old days then they're going to be back in there. This is just something we have to live by, and the Hornets have to go through the same thing. Once they go deep in the playoffs then they will sell out every night. This is the mentality we have here in this state as far as anything outside of basketball, if you don't win and win big we aren't going to come. We are trying to get people to just be as loyal as we are with the mentality that we're going to be there whether you win or not and we're going to do what it takes to help you win."

On the parity of the current college basketball landscape ...
"Back in my day everyone dreamed of going to a few schools. UCLA, Kentucky, Maryland and Louisville were the basketball powers and you dream of going there. Now the great players and McDonald's All-Americans are going to other schools too. The talent is spread out because of AAU, USA and the Junior Olympics. The talented kids are going elsewhere and going where they can play right away, they don't want to sit. I did it too, I came here because I wanted to play right away and didn't want to wait. A lot of kids are doing the same thing. Another thing that is watering down basketball in general, and I am kind of old school, is I am not a big fan of the three point line. Every kid, even my own son when he started to play, the first thing he wanted to do was shoot the three. It has hurt basketball in general because anyone can get a three at anytime, and all offenses in college basketball are all predicated around the three point line, and the small forward has disappeared. I don't like the three point line. In the old days we practiced drills playing one-on-one and how to score in the mid-range. I like that old school game, and when you look at NBA basketball and the finals you can see the top teams are the ones who play the old way. The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers play the old way."

On his favorite memory from the 1981 Final Four season  ...
"For the season itself, what sticks out is what got us going, which was when we lost to Arkansas in Alaska. We were ranked pretty high in the nation and we thought we would just walk out there and everyone would bow down to us, but it brought us back to reality. We realized no matter how good we think we are, every time we step on the court we had to perform. That was a wake-up call and that's what really catapulted us on the 26 game run. Winning every home game was a pretty exciting thing and also winning on the road, no matter how many points we were down we knew we had a chance to come back and win.  Of course the big attendance in the Wichita State game in the dome too. Those were the highlights."

On former head coach Dale Brown ...
"He won't shut up and he won't sit down. There is nothing you can do about that, that's the way he is. He was a fiery guy like that when we first met him and he's still the same. He will probably outlive everyone in this room. He's just one of those guys whose glass is always full and there's always a better way of doing things. He's always thinking and he always has a new idea. That's how I would like to be if I can get that kind of energy. I don't know where he gets it from, for a man his age he is just as energetic and in shape as I am. Just being around him you feel youthful."

 

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