LSU Athletics Creative Services

Coach Wade Talks About Season Opener

Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE – On the opening day of the fall signing period with two four-star signees, Coach Will Wade turned his attention to his opening game as LSU head coach this Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against Alcorn State.

Tickets for the game start at $1 and are available at LSUtix.net. There will be a free fanfest in front of the Maravich Center from 5:30-6:30 p.m. with live entertainment, games and more.

Coach Wade met with the media on Wednesday afternoon and here are some of his comments:

Opening Statement…
“Obviously we are excited and ready to play Alcorn St. on Friday. This is what you work for. You want to play the games. Our guys are excited to play. They are ready to play someone else with the lights on, where it counts. Looking forward to that. We are as healthy as we have been. Everybody has been practicing. (Aaron) Epps has been limited in practice, but he been able to do some shooting and some other light work. We are moving towards having everybody as healthy as can be on Friday and we are looking forward to playing Alcorn. It will be a good challenge for us, they are a good team. They have (Regional) Johnson, their big kid, who is from Monroe. He has been picked as the pre-season player of the year in the SWAC. They have another play from Louisiana who has been picked as the defensive player of the year in their league. They have a guard (James Stokes), who is a very good player. He had a great year last year. He is a good player as well. They like to control tempo. They are very good on the offensive glass. They are going to challenge us to block out and defensive rebound. They play at a slow pace so we need to value the ball, value each possession and not give them extra opportunities on the offensive end.”

On the starting rotation
“Three of the five. We had a bad practice yesterday. Four man is open. I thought we had the four settled. I love (Wayde) Sims, but when he gets comfortable it just gets bad. We need Epps back so we have someone to push Sims. Four spot is open. We may start Combs there at the four and the five. Play a little bigger. We may start (Brandon) Rachal. Play a little smaller. Heck we may start Sims still, I don’t know. We are going to try it all out today. I have to decide tomorrow because I have to start sequencing all the plays with the different lineups. We haven’t had consistency in that spot.”

On not having starters at the three and four spot…
“It’s a little bit of lack of consistency. That is a nice way to put it. We also have guys that can only do certain things. Maybe our best offensive player at the four is our worst defensive option at the four. Our best offensive option at the three is our worst defensive option at the three. Are you going to play the two defensive guys at the three and four knowing Alcorn State is going to play 38 minutes of matchup zone defense and have basically two non-shooters at those spots? You have to balance all that out.”

On what kind of tone he wants to set vs. Alcorn State…
“If you are going to climb Mt. Everest your first step needs to be the biggest and the boldest. You can’t be tiptoeing up the mountain. You first step has to be big, bold, out there and ready to go. Certainly when you kick the season off, your first step, your first game you have to take a big, bold step and make progress and be out there.”

On getting the team to mesh with so many new players…
“It’s going to take time. We haven’t played live games against each other. We haven’t done that a ton so it is going to take some time for guys to get used to each other, know where guys are going to be, and play off of each other. That is part of the growing process as a team. We are going to need to do that quickly because we have good team we are playing and quick.”

On the crowd at the luncheon Tuesday …
“It is always fun to get out and see the fans. We appreciate everyone that came out. I am sure they are excited. We are certainly excited about the opener on Friday. We hope everyone can make it out to on Friday night. It would be should be a fun time as we kick off the season. I appreciate the fans. They are passionate about LSU. I think we have at least peaked their interest a little bit with the basketball. They are going to give us shot and it is on us to deliver a product that is worth people continuing to care about. That is on me and that is on our players to deliver that product and we certainly don’t take that lightly. It was a fun time at the luncheon. Great atmosphere and really good folks.

On the team’s performance in the scrimmage against Texas…
“We are nowhere near where we need to be to win tough, big games. We have to continue to get better there. We did not make a lot of shots against Tulane, we made a few more in the scrimmage. That is my whole point. We cannot be jump shot reliant. The one thing that I am proud of in both games is we significantly out rebounded the opponent. I think that is something that we need to do against Alcorn on Friday. They are an elite offensive rebounding team. We are going to do a great job. When they get the ball they are going to kick it out and waste another 25 seconds of the shot clock. It is going to be like a tractor pull. I was proud of our rebounding but we still have to dig in and get stops in man to man defense and not let people beat us.”

On if they will play Jeremy Combs on Friday or ease him back in…
“We have eased him back in. I expect him to be as close to full go as he can get. He is probably at about 90 percent. A lot of times his 90 percent is better that a lot of our guys 100 percent so we have to roll with it.”

On Combs embracing the garbage man role…
“He is good. The first time I ever saw him in live practice was 10 days ago. I would watch tape on him and it was like an apparition. He was around, but you didn’t know where he was or what he could do. He is good. He knows how to play. He is smart, he’s older. He knows where to move on the basketball court. He has very good feel. I think he is going to be able to help us this year. He is definitely a value added to what we are doing. We went from two months ago thinking he was hardly going to be able to play at all to now thinking he is going to play significantly and help us.”

On if Combs is a complementary player to Duop Reath
“He can sub in for Duop. He can play the five and the four. I asked him before the scrimmage on Saturday what plays he knew. He said he knew them all. I said ‘hook one out spread. Show me that one.’ He did and I thought ‘oh my goodness that was pretty good.’ He said ‘coach I have been sitting out the whole time learning plays so when I came back, you would not have an excuse not to play me.’ He knows all of our plays from the four and the five. You do that, it increases your chance to play. There are 40 minutes at the four and 40 minutes at the five. There are 80 minutes if you combine them. He has a chance to earn a fair share of those. I just told you that we are struggling at the four right now until we get Epps back. Sims has done good this year. He’s done a nice job. He just has to be more consistent and he was for a while. He played very well against Tulane and since then we just haven’t gotten much. We have to get more and we will. He is a good player and a good kid. We need it now. We play Friday. We don’t have time to wait around for this to come back out.”

On the Tremont Waters and Skylar Mays pairing at the one and two…
“I feel very good about it. I think I said yesterday that we are not the same team when Skylar is not on the court. He brings an IQ to us. He is a cerebral player. He just brings a lot of value to what we are doing. For Tremont, he is a freshman point guard so he is going to get seasick sometimes because it is going to be rocky. He is going to make some mistakes and we understand that. He is going to have some phenomenal games. In a three game stretch he is probably going to have one good game, one okay game, and one poor game. He’s a freshman point guard. He is going to be better off, and we are going to be better off having played him. He quite frankly is our best option. On the mediocre night and the bad night, to have Skylar out there who can kind of help us from being quite so rocky, he has a point guard mentality. He is critical for Tremont and being able to help him on those nights that are not going perfect. I think it is going to work extremely well.”

On if he anticipates Epps to be back next week
“I hope. We are hoping to get Epps back as quickly as we can. He solves our problems at the four because he is a good player and Sims is going to have kick it out of neutral and back into high gear a little bit. I think he solves our issues there. We are hopeful we will have him back. If not Samford, we want him back for Maui. We don’t play again until next Thursday so we have a little bit of time after this game Friday to recalibrate. We need him back.”

On the signing class…
We are excited about the guys that we signed today and the guys that we are going to sign today a little bit later on in the period. We appreciate the guys believing in us. We think it is a well-rounded class. We have a little bit at every position. We lose some front line guys with Duop, Epps, and Jeremey. We feel like we did a good job replenishing the front line. We feel like we added some pop to our backcourt and we are excited about those guys joining us.”

On the importance of getting a good first step in recruiting…
“Our assistants did a great job identifying guys. Greg Heiar is a bloodhound on the recruiting trail. He gets after it and does a very good job. I told him when he got here that I just want a highest level version of the guys we are used to coaching. Coach Tony Benford has been around a long time. He is kind of a cagey vet. He knows a lot of people and is able to wiggle our way into some creases there. Coach Bill Armstrong does a great job on the back end. He is great on the visits. He does a really good job on the back end making sure the paper work and the academic stuff goes through. He got here a little bit later than everybody else. We had him focus on our 2019s. He has done a really good job of getting us in on our 2019s by helping us with the collateral stuff. Our staff did a good job identifying guys. When you are able to get a point guard that other people like to play with and other people know and that kid has really bought into our situation. That helps a ton. I can’t tell you the amount of calls we get about kids wanting to play with him. We just had to kind of sift through it all and figure out who kind of fit and who didn’t.”

On getting fans to come in to watch before the football game the next morning…
“I know an 11 am kick is not best for our football. We would love for everybody driving in from around the state, who is coming in early for the game and would typically come on game day, to come check us out. You can get a ticket for basically nothing. We would love for you to come Friday night at seven o’clock.”

On how he feels about his first game as LSU’s head coach…
“It will be exciting. I was thinking about it a little bit in my office because I always text some people on opening day. I text my AD at Chattanooga who hired me at Chattanooga thanking him every day for giving me the opportunity. I was just kind of adding some people who helped make the LSU thing a reality. I am getting my texts ready for Friday morning. I am excited about it. We have so much work to do between now and then. We are just focused on Alcorn. It will hit me when we are playing and I am on a different sideline but there is not a lot of time to dwell on it right now. I am excited and looking forward to it.”

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