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LSU head coach Johnny Jones
Photo by: LSUsports.net, LSU Athletics Publications
Jones Looks Back on 2013-14 Basketball Season
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Published: April 01, 2014, 06:46 PM (CT)
Updated: April 02, 2014, 08:15 AM (CT)
by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent), Sr. Associate SID

BATON ROUGE – Following the conclusion of the announcement press conference of LSU forward Johnny O'Bryant III, LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones returned to the podium to discuss the LSU Tigers season which concluded in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament with 20 wins and a 9-9 record in the Southeastern Conference.

The media opportunity covered several different areas regarding present and future players and topics concerning college basketball and the SEC.

The Tigers’ second-round NIT appearance marked the 27th post-season appearance in LSU history. Coach Jones is just the second LSU coach to take a team to post-season play in one of his first two seasons as LSU head basketball coach.

He also in his first two years has more overall wins (39), SEC wins (18) and winning seasons (2) than any coach at LSU in the SEC era in their first two years.

Three SEC players accumulated seven total SEC honors, the most since the 2005-06 team had three players accumulate 10 All-SEC honors.

LSU’s first round NIT win at San Francisco marked LSU’s 20th win of the season, the 20th time in the history of the program that LSU has won 20 games in a season. Johnny Jones has been at LSU as head coach, assistant coach or player for nine of those 20 seasons.

LSU finished in a tie for sixth in the SEC, up from a tie for eighth in the 2013 season and loses, besides O’Bryant III, seniors Shavon Coleman and Andre Stringer.

Here are some of Coach Jones comments from today’s “state of the program” media session:

Opening Statement…
“With the announcement of Johnny O’Bryant [III] leaving, it certainly leaves a void in our team in terms of what can possibly return next year in terms of rebounding and scoring with the other two graduating seniors that we had in Shavon Coleman and Andre Stringer. Those guys leaving, but we’re hopeful through recruitment that we prepared ourselves for that. Hopefully, with the return of the other underclassmen from this basketball team, that we will put ourselves in a position to continue to challenge – move forward with what we feel like is a great foundation that has been laid here to move forward for the future.”

On Brian Bridgewater
“Brian is one of those guys – our expectations of him from a year ago to possibly give us some leeway or depth in terms of being able to play the four [power forward] and three spot [small forward] because of his size, strength and athleticism. He’s going to be one of those guys who are more durable more so like a Jarell Martin in being able to play that role and position for us. We will know more when we have an opportunity to be on the floor with him. He has an opportunity to compete against these guys at this level on a daily basis. He’s done a tremendous job. There’s not a lot I can say in terms of his academics. He’s done everything that has been asked of him. We’re certain that he will be a part of what we’ll be doing in the future.”

On his thoughts on Johnny O’Bryant III’s decision to go pro…
“I’m happy for Johnny. I think what Johnny did at the end of last year – when other guys went home for the break, he decided to stay here and still get up at 6:30 in the morning, 7 o’clock with our strength and conditioning coach 1-on-1. I thought at that time that he was possibly leaving and putting his name in the draft last year, but it was in preparation for getting ready for this season. He had gotten hurt during his sophomore season because I didn’t think that he had worked as hard in preparation and getting in games. I thought he learned his lesson from that. I think that’s why he went through this season healthy. With that being said, I think Johnny’s numbers have gone up each of his years here. He’s shown improvement. At the same time, he’s shown even more improvement this season than he did last year. With that being said, I think he’s got a bright future. I think he’s got a great deal of potential. If he continues to work the way that he has, I think some great things are in store for him.”

On Jarell Martin’s decision to come back next year…
“Well, it’s exciting. I mean you’re talking about one of the best players in the country – a guy who was on the All-Freshman team in this league and who had gone through some injuries this year unfortunately at the beginning (of the season). (He was) one of the players that was asked to do more than anyone else on our team. He played center in high school, but we asked him to play small forward here. At the same time, he had to learn the power forward position as well, which are two totally different positions in things that we do offensively. For him to have an opportunity to pick up on those things throughout the year and I think to see him really come in to his own the latter part of the year – one, because he was free of injury and then had the concept down of what we were asking him to do, some great things happened for him. So, we look forward to a tremendous season for Jarell next year because we know how hard he will work this offseason to continue to get better.”

On Jordan Mickey’s timetable to make his decision for next season…
“Not a lot – not a lot of discussions with him or Jarell. Jarell just got I think – he obviously said to you guys what he’d said before. Jordan’s deal – we want to make sure that he has an opportunity to process everything and make the right decision that’s going to be best for him and his family at the end of the day. I’m for certain that he will be able to do that at the proper time. The good thing is – I’m excited because we’re talking about two guys that are freshmen that there is an interest out there for them. When you talk about that type of talent level, I think it goes a long way and says a lot about the program that we’re in those types of discussions with the young people that we have here.”

On if any of his players are not returning or transferring…
“We’ll probably at the end of – near the end of the semester, we’ll have a closer idea of what should transpire there in terms of meeting and what’s best for maybe some of the other guys in the program and their future what they need to do, but there hasn’t been any decisions made as of yet.”

On if he is still recruiting the class of 2014…
“Yeah, we are still active because you never know. I think it’s real important that you be proactive in terms of recruiting and then put yourself in a position that something should happen, that you’re prepared and you’re ready.”

On the status of the program…
“I think when you look at our numbers, they are an indicator. The team that we had, the young guys that we had in our program, you’d have to certainly think that we’ve moved forward. I mean we played in postseason play – not only played in it but won a game. We won 20 games. We started two freshmen all year. At times, we had three freshmen out there on the floor in terms of the starting lineup. When you talk about progression, you’d have to think that we’ve had the ability to take those types of steps. We challenged people at a different level. You go into Kentucky, an overtime basketball game, in that type of atmosphere. You challenge in Arkansas as well, and you have an opportunity to beat a top-10, top-11 team here at home in Kentucky and at the conference tournament and all of those things. I think when you look at the grand scheme over this year and last year in terms of what we did throughout, you have to like what has transpired with this team.”

On how his recruiting class compliments his returning players…
“I think Josh Gray has the ability out there on the floor in terms of being a ‘quarterback’ – his ball-skill level, his ability to score and create opportunities for other people. That’s huge for us. We didn’t have possibly enough of that maybe this past season. I think that’s something that stands out. I think when you look at Keith Hornsby, who sat out this year – the size, strength that he has, his ability to score and defend from different positions especially at the two spot – that’s going to be beneficial for us as well. Then, we’re hopeful because of our post guys that we have coming in. When you look at [Aaron] Epps or [Elbert] Robertson and those guys, it’s going to be a big difference for us out there. There’s a void going to be left by Johnny O’Bryant III because of his ability to score inside and out, rebounding, which we knew that. This is a guy who’s played in that league for quite some time. Those are some good pieces for us, but I think our play-making skills are two of the big things that we’re going to you need. I think that you get that primarily from Keith Hornsby and Josh Gray. That’s some areas I thought this year in a few games it could have been big difference makers for us.”

On replacing the leadership that Shavon Coleman and Andre Stringer brought…
“That’s hard to answer. You’re talking about losing a “glue” guy in Shavon Coleman. He’s not as heralded as Johnny O’Bryant III or Andre Stringer, but what he brought to practice every day and what he was able to bring to games – that’s something that’s going to be hard to replace. We need that because that’s the difference of wins and losses when you have a guy like that. That’s what Shavon brought to our team, and he’s one of the most competitive people that I’ve ever been around. Stringer, a tremendous shooter, could certainly stretch the defense night in and night out. You knew what you were going to get from him and just a quality person. That means a lot. Those two guys will be, just like Johnny, really hard to replace as well. Shavon, I can tell you, be it in practice because of what he would give you regardless of what jersey he had on and compete whether you’re starting or coming off the bench – he’s a different breed.”

On how big of a step forward was taken and if it was as big as he wanted for this year…
“I think for us we wanted to be very competitive. We won nine games in conference last year, we won nine this year. Was it a different nine that we won because of the challenge we had in front of us and the caliber teams that we were playing? You had three teams sitting there in the Sweet 16 from our conference we didn’t have that a year ago. We played one of those teams (Kentucky) three times this year. So, I think for me, I want to be in the top tier in this conference year in and year out. But at the same time, I realize where this program was three years prior to me having an opportunity for me to take over. With that understanding of where we are and moving forward, my goal is to hopefully be in one of those (NCAA Final Four) games this coming weekend. That’s what you thrive for, and that’s what you get excited about. Those are the challenges that you put out there in front of you. Sometimes, anything short of those things, you feel like there is always more out there for you. But when you understand what you have, exactly where you are and what you are trying to build to, you have to understand when you are making progress. You have to understand that, trust in that and know where you are going.”

On defensive issues during the season…
“I think we wanted to play. I think my history states that before numbers that we have been able to guard and defend in certain areas. We’ve led in defensive field goal percentage and at the three point line and all those things. You have to give teams credit that we played. Sometimes, they had some tremendous nights in knocking down shots, making plays and having unbelievable nights from shooting sometimes behind the arc. They have had good nights, but other nights we have played well. I think what will help us is some of these guys having birthdays playing at this level, a year older, a year wiser and that toughness. I think that we have recruited some of that, and I think we have a guy that possibly will be a part of that this year in Keith Hornsby. I think again Josh Gray. Both of those guys have that ability and that knack to bring a different mindset that will be able to help us and especially some of these guys that are returning too as well that have it. We just got to make sure that we are able to get it night in and night out from them. We have a lot of want to. We just have to make sure that we allow it and make it happen for us out there on a continuous basis defensively. We certainly fell short of the mark of where we wanted to be defensively as a team this past year.”

On whether Keith Hornsby would have been a contribution this year…
“I think so because he has the ability to score. He can put a defense on their heels. He can score up over top because of his size that he has. He can get to the rim and finish because of the strength that he has as well. He can defend a certain way as well, and you can switch with him because he is strong. He plays with a sense of urgency and has some toughness about him that we will benefit from. I can see that he would have had a lot of positive things that could have possibly have been with him and with this team.”

On Malik Morgan’s status…
“Hopefully, maybe at the beginning of the year – he is going to be down a little bit.  We are certainly going to have to monitor that very close in whether or not he is one of those guys that you try to prepare and get ready for midseason or wind up redshirting him because you don’t want him to waste a year because we think that Malik will be a very good basketball player. We really missed him this year after he went down because it hurt us in our rotation and the abilities he had. We think with a healthy Malik it gives us a great deal of depth. Another year with him getting bigger and stronger and being out on there on the floor and maybe practicing with us some at the end of next year, it would benefit him a great deal and us as well.”

On the non-conference schedule for next season…
“Well, we think we’ve got a good schedule set up for us now. Generally, a lot of BCS caliber schools, they don’t like to travel or put themselves in a position of going and playing on someone else’s home floor. It doesn’t happen a lot. Sometimes, you can get them in some neutral sites if there’s some type of event being held. The home-and-home is a little bit tougher. We’re fortunate that we’ve gotten into one with Texas Tech and UMass – a team that was in the Top 25 a lot this year returning a game to us. Outside of our conference play, that’s pretty good for us. Then, we’ll get on the road and play in some exempt events that will get us some stiff competition like we did Orlando during the holiday classic they had over Thanksgiving. It’s important that we play a good, balanced and challenging schedule. It’s going to help us and allow our team a chance to grow. At the same time, we want to give our kids an opportunity to be able to compete at a certain level so we’ll know exactly where our team is. We have to make sure we have balance in that, and we look forward to playing a challenging schedule outside of our conference next year.”

 

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