Men's Basketball vs. McNeese State, UMass
LSU men's basketball head coach Trent Johnson
Photo by:Chris Parent, LSU Athletics Student Photographer
Johnson, Tigers Hold Annual Media Day
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Published: October 13, 2010, 01:33 PM (CT)
Updated: October 14, 2010, 09:56 AM (CT)
by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent), Sr. Associate SID

BATON ROUGE -- On Wednesday, LSU men's basketball head coach Trent Johnson and his players spoke on the team's annual Media Day at the new LSU Basketball Practice Facility. Watch on-demand video of coach Johnson's press conference now at www.LSUsports.net/geauxzone.

 

LSU HEAD COACH TRENT JOHNSON

Opening statement...
"I'm very excited about this basketball team this year. Obviously going into year three, it seems like since I've been here we've had to start with a whole new group. The first year was a veteran group. Last year we lost a lot of talented players, and it seemed like we were teaching again. Now this year, for the first time since I've been here, we've got a group of guys that the fan base and you can all grow with. Our team is going to be in place for two or three years, so that's exciting. From a coaching standpoint, building this team from the ground up is going to be very exciting. From a player's standpoint, because there is so much teaching going on, I think there is going to be a level of frustration from their standpoint because as usual, players like to get out and play.

"Just in the short three weeks of individuals, from a team standpoint, from an individual standpoint, from the standpoint of these guys being together since June 7, I think the one thing that we have accomplished is that we understand that we have to play with an extreme level of intensity and compete at a high level all of the time. Make no mistake about it, as much as I hate to talk about last year, last year is one of those years where I don't care what anybody says in terms of what we didn't have or how young or inexperienced we were, the bottom line is we lost a level of respect, we lost a level of confidence and we're in a situation right now where these guys and us as a coaching staff feel really good about fighting our way back to respectability.

"In general, we are as healthy as we've been. Storm (Warren) has missed a couple of weeks because of surgery. Jalen Courtney, a freshman, had a scope or knee surgery. Everybody is healthy and ready to go on October 15, and we will start at 5 p.m., this Friday. We are as healthy as we've been and looking forward to this year."

On whom the starters will be ...
"I couldn't answer that. The one guy that I feel really good about right now putting on the floor is probably Malcolm White. I say that based off the fact that he is the only guy that has played at this level and has some experience, even though he sat out last year. However, he is the only guy that has been out there since day one. Obviously Storm Warren is coming back from an injury. I feel very comfortable with what is going on at the number two position, in terms of Aaron Dotson and Ralston Turner being very competitive.

"It is hard to say right now because these new freshmen are unproven.  You have always heard me say that I will have a better idea on that not in the middle of or on the first of November, I'll have a better idea on that after we go through scrimmages against Southern Miss on Oct. 23 and after we scrimmage Tulane the next week. I just like that we are solid. When I say solid I think we have a chance to be a very solid and physical team. There is good competition at each spot. It is a fresh start. Individually, the guys that have been out there for the most part every day, those are the guys that I am leaning towards. Eddie Ludwig, Chris Bass, Andre Stringer and Darren Populist have not missed a day since June. Aaron Dotson and Ralston Turner have been out there every day. I don't want to get caught up in who is starting as opposed to giving the young guys and the veterans a chance to prove themselves for the next month and a half or two months."

On the makeup of the team ...
"We are not going to have a guy on this team that you can look out there and say is an all-league performer, or a guy that is going to come up and hit you in the face with 25 or 30 points. We are going to have a bunch of guys who should score around nine, 10, 11, or 12 points and be really solid. That will enable us to play more guys for shorter periods of time and play harder."

On the addition of Malcolm White ...
"I think any time you have a guy of his caliber who is experienced and who is coachable and lets his actions speak over his words, in terms of how he goes about his business, I think it is immeasurable. He is very physical. He has a very good understanding in the low post and during individual workouts we try to expand his game to where he can shoot the medium-range shot out to 15 or 16 feet. His situation last year is much like Justin Hamilton's situation this year. The frustrating thing for us as a coaching staff is that Justin is a guy that you would like to have out there right now, but Malcolm White, from the standpoint of him sitting out last year and competing against guys in practice was immeasurable."

On the team being composed mostly of players he recruited ...
"This question was addressed to me about a month ago about this being the 'Trent Johnson Era.' This is LSU basketball's era. From my standpoint, every team that I have been affiliated with, with a staff, those guys have improved whether it has been the second or third year. I fully expect to see, from an individual standpoint, these guys improve. Garrett Green is a guy that five-on-zero, three-on-zero, two-on-zero, one-on-zero looks like a million dollars. But when the ball gets thrown between the lines and there is competition, he intends to take a step back. However, I anticipate him improving as a player. Storm Warren made a drastic improvement from the first to second year. I expect the same thing from Eddie Ludwig and Aaron Dotson. Chris Bass has done a very good job. Also, I think we are going to let him do the things that he is capable of doing. We are going to let him play fast in transition. It helps when you have more competition. Darren Populist is a much improved player and Andre Stringer has a chance to be a special player. I would anticipate all of these guys showing some improvement. If they haven't, then I am not doing my job."

On the incoming freshmen/If you have 10 good players, would rotation by 10 players ...
"If we have 10 players that deserve playing time, then they are going to play. As far as the freshmen, they look like freshmen at times. There is a lot being thrown at them. They all come from different basketball backgrounds. Some had a lot of structure, while some did not have enough structure. There is a skill level there. They listen and they very seldom make the same mistake. They are like sponges. Andre Stringer, Matt Derenbecker, Ralston Turner and Jalen Courtney are going to be good players in time. The sooner they adjust to the physicality and how violent the game of basketball can be against good teams and good players, the better off they can be."

On whether someone has stepped up into a leadership role ...
"It is going to take time. Obviously Tasmin Mitchell and Garrett Temple were special players and special leaders. I have always felt that if you have 13 guys on the team, leadership is 13 guys being accountable socially, academically and athletically. With this group, I think it will be done by committee until one guy emerges. So many times people in general think leadership is something just because you have been a year or two or have scored a certain amount of points or the leading rebounder. Your leader is somebody that you can trust. Your leader is the guy that makes the fewest amount of mistakes. So in that sense it could be a guy that is coming off the bench or not even playing. In general it is a guy that everyone respects and is not necessarily an extension of the coach, but is an extension of the basketball program and the values of the program."

On the team's schedule ...
"The first trip we are taking is to Hattiesburg, Miss., on Oct. 23. I think in general with this basketball team, regardless of who you play, when you play and where you play, you need to be ready to play because in college basketball there is so much parity. This schedule is certainly going to be challenging just because, looking at the backcourt, we have a lot of guys that will be playing a lot of minutes who are inexperienced. One guy who is the healthiest guy returning is Chris Bass. Aaron Dotson missed a lot of valuable time because of injury. We have our share of work to do in terms of getting this team ready to play early and often, regardless of whether it is on the road or at home."

On what positions the freshmen will play ...
"Matt Derenbecker, Ralston Turner and Andre Stringer are not going to be multiple position players. Matt is going to play the three position, Ralston will play the two and Andre is going to play point guard. I am not going to put those guys in situations where they are trying to learn too much. Matt has a very high basketball IQ. The speed of the game has probably hurt him a little bit, but he will come around and be fine."

On Andre Stringer and Chris Bass ...
"Andre Stringer has a chance to be special. I think he was 6-foot-1 when we signed him. Now he is about 5-foot-5. That is the only thing that I don't like about him right now. They are going to have to get it done by committee. Chris Bass causes lots of problems for people because he is explosive and is the quickest guard maybe in the league and possibly even in the country. The thing that Chris has got to overcome is that he has got to play within himself and embrace the idea of being physical and taking charges and understand his role of taking the ball to the rim instead of taking a jump shot. I think he is ready to do that. Whereas Andre is a guy that right now is going to have lots of freedom and we'll let him see what he can do offensively. Defensively, none of them have any freedom. We are going to defend with a high rate of intensity and build off of charges and things of that nature."

On the team being able to shoot better ...
"I feel good about the skill level for guys. I feel our ability to pass and catch is very good. I am optimistically cautious, though, because when you go up against competition, you have to find out how guys are going to react. But I think Andre Stringer will react at the college level like he did at the high school level. I think Ralston Turner and Matt Derenbecker will be the same way. We should be a better passing team. Against certain teams, we should be able to play faster as long as we play well. We are going to play fast as long as we can play well. As far as Dennis Harris, we are going to try to play him at the number three position. I think his best and most comfortable position will be at the four position. He may go back and forth between the three and four position. Dennis' situation is the same as Garrett Green's situation. When there is competition that is where he must make his biggest improvement. He is one of those guys that can really play in open space, but the last time I checked there is a lot of pressure put on from the opponent and from the coaches to get better. He is getting better in that regard."

On the competition amongst the team ...
"Obviously if you can assimilate intense, physical and aggressive competition against each other that should bode well for improvement and playing better in games. The easiest way I can answer that is that it is amazing to be that because of the competition, not many guys are hurt and the guys try to get back on the floor to practice. I just love it. I have always been sympathetic to injuries, but after last year I think I am a little less sympathetic. If you are healthy and on the floor, you are going to get better and be able to help this team. That is the bottom line."

On the role inexperience plays on a team ...
"Inexperience and youth doesn't mean a thing if you can play. In college basketball, these kids play so many games during the summer and lots of guys play against professionals and college players in the summer. The bottom line is if you can play, youth doesn't mean anything. But playing means being accountable and aggressive and knowing what you are doing. It is not like going out and playing a pick-up game. You see a lot of guys going out there and playing on the weekend and they look like a million dollars. But when you get into the confines of structure and coaching, they disappear. As far as excitement from the fan base and I have always felt this way, that when we become good, everyone else will understand. It is our responsibility to make people want to come to the Maravich Assembly Center and come support this basketball team and basketball program. Last year we were not very good. I didn't like watching us. The previous year we were pretty good. This year, I think this is a good group of guys and I think people will like watching this team grow and develop and they will be around for two or three years."

On whether this is the healthiest team he has had ...
"I feel this is the healthiest team I have had going into a season. Storm Warren missed a couple of weeks, but I think that was good for him. He got worn down last year, so I think the time off will help him. Since he has been around a few years, he has a good idea of what is going on. Right now we are as healthy as we have been and probably as deep as we have been with the exception of lacking a guy that can go out and score 30 points for us or average 20 points over three games."

LSU Basketball Player Quotes

F Storm Warren

On what he worked on in the offseason...
"I worked on facing up, getting to the rim, shooting and basically just touch ups. Getting everything down pat, putting everything together and gelling with my teammates."

On playing with Malcolm White...
"I'm very excited to see what he can do in games. I'm excited to see all of them get out there and play. It's a great feeling to have. I'm just ready to see what the first game is going to be like because everybody wants it. Malcolm plays real hard. He's just like me. He's a go getter and he's going to go get it."

On the freshmen...
"They came in ready to learn. Whatever we say they need to do they work on it. There is no negative feedback off of them. Whatever they have to do they're just ready to do. They know what they need to do if they want to get on the court and if they want to win."

F Garrett Green

On his progression at LSU...
"As a team we just stay focused on the game plan. Myself, I like to come in and contribute what I can. Being here three years, I have higher practice intensity. As a player my shot is better, I've gotten stronger in the weight room this summer and overall I'm just smarter on the court. I've learned how to pace myself and stay calm under pressure."

On what he is telling the younger guys...
"The number one thing with these young freshmen is that they need to realize to stay calm and have patience. This is the SEC level now. It's a big step from high school. They need to trust in themselves and speak for yourself when you're out there on the court."

On the chemistry of the team...
"The team has a better flow with each other, we feel more comfortable and the more we play the more we realize each others strengths and weaknesses. We're developing off of each other a lot better than we did last year."

F Malcolm White

On his off season preparations...
"I've been preparing myself physically and mentally on and off the court. I've become more of a leader and a role model to the younger players. I'm just looking forward to showing that on the court."

On his leadership skills...
"I think I bring a sense of urgency and a need to be aggressive on the court. I show that every play counts, and that is very important to work as a team."

On teaming up with Storm Warren inside...
"With Storm and I being inside, it is going to be a really big plus for us because the two years of experience we both have. He had a great year last year. I think that this year we'll be tough inside. We know what our roles and what our jobs are. We just try and stay within the same route. We're going to do what we need to do to help the team win."

On his biggest improvements...
"I've learned to be more skilled, and to do more things with the ball from the block. I've worked on the short-corner jump shot, and on quick moves. The biggest thing is being more aggressive on defense."

F Matt Derenbecker

On his first impressions with the team...
"I talked to Coach Johnson through out my recruiting process, and he told me some of the things he wanted out of me and my teammates. It just really impressed me and he stuck by that. He's been 100 percent honest with me. Working with the team has been a great success so far. We've been able to bond together, but we still need to turn this into something good like we expected.

On what he's realized he needs to work on entering college...
"I've needed to improve my quickness and ball handling. I was able to get by in high school with my length, overall size and height, but in college I'm starting to see just with my teammates I need to pick up my quickness. I'd love to improve my strength and overall weight, but Coach Johnson isn't really worried about that."

G Aaron Dotson

On the team putting last year behind them ...
"I wouldn't say it's easy because we always see it and hear about it on campus, but we forget about it. For the most part we are moving on. Last year was last year. It's a whole new team and a whole new year."

On how his injury hurt his vertical game last year ...
"I would say a lot of my game coming into LSU was based off slashing, getting to the hole and creating fouls. Not being able to jump was a huge part of not being as successful last year. That stuff was pretty tough on me."

G Daron Populist

On making the team again and what he's looking for this year ...
"It feels great to be back on this team and be around these guys and get back to working out. But as far as this season, we want to play more as a team, get more wins and have a better season."

On personal goals for this season ...
"Probably the same as last year. Just to do what the coaches ask me to do to get more wins."

On team goals for this season ...
"We just need to play more team ball and have better chemistry. We haven't talked about team specifics yet, but that will probably be on the first day of practice."

G Chris Bass

On the incoming freshmen ...
"All of them can shoot the ball very well. They are very physical and very competitive. That's what we were missing last year. I'm glad Coach brought those guys in, and I'm really looking forward to helping them out."

On the competition at the point guard position ...
"It is a whole new year. We will leave it up to the coach's decision. I am just going to come in and work hard every day to try to help make my teammates better."

On personal goals for the upcoming year ...
"It's all about the team, but for myself I want to do what coach said and come in and make plays and make my teammates better."

F Dennis Harris

On the difference between this year and last year ...
"I feel like we are more of a family. Everybody is getting along, and there is nothing but nods and handshakes in the locker room. We are just looking forward to a positive year. I think with the more family feel it will help on the court."

On the switch from the old facilities to the new practice facility ...
"It's like going from a trailer to a mansion. It's a beautiful facility. We have an opportunity to call the managers and come in here whenever we want to. The locker rooms are beautiful, and we spend a lot of time in them."

On playing both the post and wing positions ...
"We have been doing a lot of work. I've been doing most of my work on offense on the perimeter, working on my jump shot and more ball handling. Being a tall player I've been working on getting low and staying low on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. I'm feeling really confident at the position, and having the versatility of going from the wing to the post is a big upside to me and to what I can do for the team."

 

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