Johnson Recaps 2011-12 Men's Basketball Season

LSU head coach Trent Johnson
LSU head coach Trent Johnson
Steve Franz
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE - LSU men's basketball coach Trent Johnson met with the media on Wednesday afternoon for his annual post-season review of the basketball program and look ahead to the upcoming 2012-13 season.

The session was held in the practice facility media room and featured questions on various players and positions, his thoughts toward next year and recruiting needs for the upcoming year. The Tigers finished the season 18-15, 7-9 on the year and advanced to the first round of the NIT.

Here are some of the comments of Coach Johnson from Wednesday's session:


Opening statement ...
"Before I open up for questions, it would probably be appropriate for me to address (Tuesday) night. We ran into a buzzsaw. For whatever reason, our ability to defend sort of disappeared in about a 10 minute stretch, and we were never able to recover. We shot the ball well at times. We scored, but Oregon was clearly better and had more energy. We just couldn't get them stopped. One of the things I addressed to the team immediately afterward was disappointment for the seniors. Obviously you want them to go out on a better note and have them play better individually and collectively as a group, but don't lose sight of what this group has accomplished up to about three weeks ago. There are some positives and there are some negatives, but I tend to dwell with the positives. The positives are we were 17 and 10, 7-6 and had everything in front of us. The negative is we didn't get it done, but that's a positive in the sense that they need to have that taste in their mouth going into the spring and going into the summer, individually and collectively for the returners and the veterans, I made sure they understood that sooner than later, they're going to be very, very proud of Storm (Warren), and I'm talking about Chris (Bass), I'm talking about Malcolm (White). I'm talking about unselfish and the guidance they have for these younger guys moving forward with this basketball program. That was (Tuesday) night, it was a bitter pill to swallow, but it is what it is.

"Moving forward, we're going to have to change our banquet date. We were scheduled to have a banquet March 25th, but we're going to change it to April 5th because of certain commitments I have from a recruiting standpoint and then some personal things I have on the docket. Then, I want to say immediately after the championship game, we will start weights, and we will start individual workouts, three 40-minute sessions, and get ready for next year. The kids have spring break, as you all know, April 9th through the 13th. They've been advised just to take care of their academics and make sure they take care of each other, and to keep grinding. One of the things I'm always leery of once the season is over is that's when you see a lot of guys in athletics, or athletes period, spring break, you start to see bulletin board material in terms of not taking care of your business socially and for the most part, we've been pretty good in that regard. We haven't had a bunch of our guys have problems, but I'm always worried about that."

On taking the next step in 2013 ...
"Providing, we are injury free in key positions and one of those positions could be a kid like Justin (Hamilton), could be a kid like Johnny (O'Bryant). I'm very confident, but also, I understand the challenges in front of us. The reason I'm so confident is because of what these guys experienced (Tuesday) night, but also what they experienced in the SEC Tournament. I'll always talk about competing at a high level and having a good understanding and what that feels like. They felt that against Kentucky. A lot of them individually have never been there. But also, they understand how hard it is to make the next step. They also understand on a national level, and on a local level, that when you play well and you win and then you struggle, it changes every week. Your ability as a player and a person to stay locked into what's in the locker room, not what's been said on a national level. That's what it is. What's important is the grind, the process. If you never lose sight of that, you're going to be as good as you can be, and these guys get it. I thought Anthony Hickey's comments when it was addressed to him about the fan support, I thought he said it with his heart. What you have to understand is he's a kid from Lexington, Kentucky, from that area. He sees a different fan base, but what he says wasn't coach-speak, it was a 'You know what, all we need is each other.' Ultimately said and done, that's what sports is about. These guys, they get it. There's going to be a lot of competitiveness in the spring. Malik Morgan is going to help this team in the worst way. Obviously we've got some work to do in terms of trying to get two more guys in this basketball program, maybe three. But we have to improve our athleticism ... My confidence doesn't come from my past, in terms of everybody wants to take a look at what happened in Nevada. My confidence comes from what's in that locker room."

On needs for team improvement ...
"We have to get bigger and stronger. Obviously we have to, individually, we need to improve our perimeter skill. We have a lot of catch and shoot in our perimeter. We have to make decisions off the bounce. But more than anything, it's something that you can't put on fast forward, is you've got to go through it. Your mental toughness, your physical toughness, you have to go through it. I mean, it's hard for me to sit up and be critical of Justin Hamilton. Nobody in this room, with the exception of maybe some coaches in that locker room, thought he could have the kind of year that he had, but it was a grind. It was a grind for him. Anthony Hickey, for him to be put in this situation, so the mental toughness aspect of 'Alright you're tired now, because you lifted an hour in the morning, and you had three 40 minutes sessions of individual workouts. It's the same old grind, but now it's more intensified. Are you going to come back in the gym at 11 o'clock at night, and are you going to make 400 shots?" Those kind of things."

On Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner on being 38 percent shooters ...
"You can't live with it, and I don't believe that's what they are. I think it's just a combination of just what I addressed. It's about your mental toughness. The first year, you could say it was shot selection. The second year, you can't say that. Obviously, we chart a lot of shots, but I think more of it is quite frankly, them wanting to win so bad that they don't have a unique ability to relax and just say, 'Look, make plays.' Andre (Stringer) turns to his decisions and his defense. He went from making horrible decisions his freshman year and then periodically at the start of this year. Now every time he makes a bad decision, it magnifies, but his assist to turnover ratio in the last four games has been pretty good. His ability to guard the ball has been really good. It's a process. Ralston (Turner) works and consumes as much as anybody. He had a horrible year in his mind, but he is one of those guys that was always in foul trouble because he was being committed to guard. Again, that's mental toughness, that's confidence, that's getting in the gym, that's experience, all that kind of stuff, but not an excuse. They don't make excuses and I'm not making excuses for them, I'm just answering a question with cold, hard, honest facts."

On the seniors as a whole ...
"Seniors are always hard to replace when they've been in your program for four years. They're always going to be hard to replace. I can't talk about Storm (Warren) without talking about Chris (Bass), and I can't talk about Storm (Warren) without talking about Malcolm (White). I think when you talk about the three of those guys have been very, very unselfish. They've been very giving to this school and to their teammates. We'll have three quality seniors next year, hopefully, if nothing happens. Justin Hamilton will be a senior, Eddie (Ludwig) will be a senior, Andrew (del Piero), whose made some major improvements, will be a senior. It's taken us a while to get to the point where we have staggered classes. You have three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, three freshmen with your younger players being more talented, not better players, but being more talented. So, that's what you want, and hopefully in the future that will make you sustain a level of consistency with how many games you win and how you play. This is an interesting stat that was brought to my attention about three weeks ago: in 20 years in SEC play, LSU's been over .500 5 times. Here ... we were on the verge of that. I don't pay a lot of attention to stats, but I thought that was really interesting. So, we start looking at our program, I don't anticipate that being a problem here in the near future. I really don't. With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, the level of play, the level of competition, the level of all that stuff, the stakes go up and the competition gets better. But we're in a position now, because of the quality of the kids in the program, the quality of the players in the program, and the maturity in the program, then all we have to do is continue to put better players, better people that are going to play for this school, play for each other. Then when they're done, they're going to be ambassadors for this school. When something's going wrong with relation to this LSU basketball program or this team, you're not going to have an alum or you're not going to have a guy on the street not supporting this group. That's what programs are about. I guess what I'm saying for me is you talk about Storm (Warren), you talk about Chris Bass, you talk about Malcolm White, I wish you could've seen what they had to say to these guys individually when that game was over. They weren't talking about each other. Their comments were 'Hey, you know what, moving forward, come hell or high water, we're going to be with you.' That's what a program's about. That's not where we're going, that's where we're at right now. All we have to do is put the wins together on a consistent basis."

Looking at player losses this year, what you are looking for the future...
"First of all, game-ready; every kid we're going to recruit here forward is going to be game ready. I don't think you can recruit guys that aren't going to be as good or have a chance to be better than what you have in the program. If you look at what's happened the last two years, that's pretty much been the case. That's a tribute to those guys in the locker room for not being selfish and understanding that we want to be better. Good players like to play with good players. So, we need to improve our overall quickness. I'm not really concerned with bringing in a big body or post guys, I'm concerned about bringing in the best possible player we can bring in. Now as it relates to Anthony (Hickey) and Andre (Stringer), we're in a situation now where we're going to be a lot more versatile in terms of guys being able to play in multiple positions. One of Anthony's big responsibilities, and we're going to spend a lot of time with him in the summer and the spring, is being able to play off the ball. Andre's already gotten to a point where he can play off the ball. Malik, coming in, is a guy who is multi-talented. He's a scorer out of high school but has good ball skills. Ralston (Turner) has improved his ball skills so he can be a primary handler at times. John Isaac's going to improve his primary ball-handling skills. That's where we're at. For me, this team next year, with the exception of maybe Johnny (O'Bryant) and Justin (Hamilton), we need to get to the point where we have more balance. Jalen (Courtney) and Eddie (Ludwig) are as big as anybody in what happens next year, because we've been spending a lot of time on them. Jalen needs to be healthy, but there are two guys that can play the four and can play the three. You look at what's going on in college basketball, it's very hard to play with two true posts unless they're bonafide pros and one can move. So, Jalen's ability to play in on the perimeter, be strong and rebound the ball at the four, and Eddie's ability to be a senior and be bigger and stronger and healthy is going to be key."

On his coaching approach ...Can you coach maturity ...
"I don't know how much I've done well, but I think that since I've been here, especially with this group and this dynamic and this culture - it's a different culture - is knowing when to push and knowing when to back off. My demeanor is to drive, drive, drive, drive. That first year, I had a group of guys that you could drive maybe two or three, but you had to let them play. Then, obviously when we were going through the growing pains of the effect of the APR and the injuries, you have to understand that sometimes when you're not physically as big and strong, regardless of what my demeanor is, how long I want to practice, what I want to do, you have to back off. This group has very young guys, mentally at times, and I think knowing when to push and knowing when to drive them has always been a delicate ... but moving forward, I didn't have to tell them, they know. They know what's coming. For me, it's drive them hard. It's something that they have to go through. I don't care how good a player, how talented a player, how great a player, you have to go through it. As much as everybody wants to talk about winning, competing is hard and winning is extremely hard. It's hard to win at this level of play. Andre (Stringer), you can hear him talking to (Anthony) Hickey, and when he got here, Hickey was full of confidence and ready to take on the world. Andre was being very honest and Ralston (Turner) said 'understand what you're getting into in terms of getting your sleep and getting your rest and listening to coach.' There were times when Hickey, I love his honesty and courage, there were times when I'd go talk to him and say 'Now you know what the hell they're telling you' 'yeah' You have to go through it."

On coaching at LSU for four years ...
"It's everything I imagined. That question's been asked to me a lot. There haven't been any surprises, there really hasn't. The one thing for me is, I just wish we didn't have to go through what we went through last year (2011) with a couple of injuries. I'll tell you what's amazing. Everybody talks about the league and what goes on in the league. Everybody talks about fans and all that, but this is a different era. The social media and the Facebook and all that is different. It changes week to week. For us, you go from we're from 17 to 10, 7-6 the program's on and taking off. Then a week later, it's going downhill. That's why I always talk to these guys about staying on an even keel. There haven't been any surprises, and like I tell them, I talk to them about this all the time. If you're a student-athlete, there is nothing like this conference, because you're watching. If you're not competing and you're not playing, in that baseball game you're watching some of the best in college and pros, like football, same deal, women's basketball, soccer, you can go right down the line. There is no question about it. It's something that guys need to understand and not take for granted."

On Johnny O'Bryant III ...
"He just has to continue getting better. One of the biggest things he needs to do is he has to learn to take care of the ball, and he will. He's an 18-year-old with a man's body. Everybody goes through it. He'll be fine, and he'll get better.

On O'Bryant III taking the next step...
Conditioning. Getting bigger, stronger ... on the track and in the weight room. He has to, like a lot of guys, Justin (Hamilton) too, those two in particular. Those two are going to log a lot of minutes, and they should be, because it's hard to get a player of that caliber and that size to come in and have an impact, like they can have. There just aren't a lot of guys out walking around like Justin and Johnny right now out of high school and junior college."

On the vocal leaders of the team moving forward ...
"One guy that's emerged is Justin (Hamilton), and Anthony's (Hickey) going to emerge. What I like is Andre (Stringer), Ralston's (Turner) been around a little bit, Eddie's (Ludwig) quiet but he's been around a little bit. Jalen (Courtney), believe it or not, everybody likes and talks to. In an ideal world, it's your point, and it's your post. But I think Justin and Anthony will be the two guys that will probably emerge, but the rest of those guys have been around so it'll be a good deal."





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