In Focus: PMAC Revival

Find this article on page 177 of this week's LSU At the Game program.
Find this article on page 177 of this week's LSU At the Game program.
Graham Reilly
Graham Reilly

Johnny Jones is Back With a Passion

New Coach. New Team. New Season.

On Friday, April 13, 2012, Johnny Jones received a call that turned a dream to reality. The phone call defied all myths of Friday the 13th being a day of bad luck. On the other end of the phone was LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva calling to offer Jones the head basketball coaching position at his alma mater.

Jones, a native of DeRidder, La., played in 121 games for the Tigers and was a part of the 1981 NCAA Final Four Team under Coach Dale Brown. Three years later, after finishing his eligibility as a player, Brown asked him to join his staff. Jones would spend the next 13 years on Brown's coaching staff, where he would be part of teams that went to an NCAA Final Four in 1986, an Elite Eight in 1987 and 10 straight NCAA Tournaments from 1984-1993.

For the past 11 seasons, Jones has served as the head coach at the University of North Texas. At North Texas, Jones posted 190 wins, making him the second winningest coach in school history. Jones led the Mean Green to two Sun Belt Conference championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances.

Jones not only brings a record of success to LSU, but also a stirring style of play.

"We are going to play a fast brand of basketball," said the new coach. "We're going to push it, but it's going to be organized and not just chaos. We're going to make sure that we take good shots, and be under control, but we will play fast and we will do that with a passion. It will be a style of play that my players enjoy playing."

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Sophomore guard Anthony Hickey claims the up-tempo style is nothing new to him.

"I'm used to the style," said the Hopkinsville, Ky. native. "Being from Kentucky, we're always up-and-down with pick and rolls. It's a great thing. I'm glad Coach Jones got the job, because he brings that type of play that I was always coached by."

Hickey started in 31 of 33 games last season as a freshman while averaging 8.9 points per game and 3.8 assists. He is one of six players returning this season.

Being an alum and former player at LSU, Jones takes pride in the program and is adamant in bringing "LSU Basketball" back to the fans.

"He talks about pride all the time," said sophomore forward Johnny O'Bryant III. "He wants to change the place around to get it back to when people used to camp outside for the games."

O'Bryant, along with juniors Jalen Courtney and Andre Stringer, and seniors Eddie Ludwig and Andrew Del Piero, join Hickey as returners to the team who look to lead by example. Five newcomers -- senior/graduate student Charles Carmouche, junior Shavon Coleman, and freshmen Corban Collins, Shane Hammink and Malik Morgan --  hope to contribute from the start.

Although the team enters the season with a shortage of depth, there are plenty of possible combinations on the floor for the Tigers.

"I think because of our lack of numbers, there is not a whole lot that we can do," Jones said. "We have to really deal with it. I think that when you look at Malik Morgan, who has been really good, Shavon Coleman, and Corban Collins who has come in and done an excellent job, there are a lot of combinations we have an opportunity to go with."

Though Carmouche is new to the team, he has plenty of experience in college basketball. He spent two seasons at UNO and played at Memphis, where he graduated in May. The New Orleans native will use the graduate school transfer rule allowed by the NCAA to be eligible immediately.

Coleman also comes to LSU with two years of college basketball experience at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas where he averaged 14.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season.

O'Bryant believes this new-look team shouldn't be taken lightly this season, regardless of size and numbers.

"We're going to shock a lot of people this year," the Cleveland, Miss. native said.

The Tigers will tip off the season in an exhibition contest with Arkansas-Monticello at 7 p.m. Monday in the Maravich Center. Admission is free for that contest, which comes just four days before the Johnny Jones LSU era begins with the Tigers' season opener at 7 p.m. Friday against UC Santa Barbara in the PMAC.

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