Tigers Begin Preparations For Spain Trip
Communications Sr. Associate
BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team began its allowed 10 days of practice for its 2019 exhibition basketball trip to Spain, Aug. 12-22.
Coach Will Wade discussed several topics at a late-morning media session regarding the trip, which is expected to include three-or-four games during the trip.
The Tigers will travel to the cities of Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona and presently are scheduled to play All-Star teams in Madrid and Valencia with a game scheduled against the basketball grouping of FC Barcelona.
Teams are able to make foreign trips every four years. LSU’s last trip came prior to the 2015-16 season when the Tigers went to three cities in Australia.
Coach Wade discussed some of the identity that will be seen for the 2019-20 team, how the NBA post-season experience was beneficial for those that left and those that stayed and other topics.
Here are some of the comments from LSU’s third-year coach as Wednesday marks 100 days until the start of the LSU Basketball regular season on Friday, Nov. 8. Ticket information is available at LSUsports.net.
COACH WILL WADE
“It has been a good summer. As far as Spain goes, we will have everybody available except for Marlon (Taylor). Marlon had surgery on his foot. He had a screw put in his foot, and it was something that he could have played through but we decided to bite the bullet now so he could be in as little pain as possible during the season. It is something that we could have managed but we did not want to press it and he will back in late August or early September as we did the surgery in late June, early July. He will be back in time for practice and there should be no ill effects for the season. Other than that, we have had a great summer and everyone else is healthy.
“We have had a great summer in the weight room and I am very proud of my guys for their progress there. 88 percent of our guys can deadlift over 500 pounds now which is tremendous as when we got here, we did not have any players that could do that. All of our guys set personal bests in the bench press, power cleans and single leg squats. I am very pleased with that and most importantly we got out of the summer healthy. There are no soft-tissue issues and this is as strong and healthy a team that I have ever had coming out of the summer and credit for that goes to Coach (Greg) Goldin and Lauren Marucci, our nutritionist, they have done a great job.
“On the court we have been working to build a solid foundation and working on our fundamentals to be a better team. This will allow us to take a step from being a great team to an elite team and as we move into practice going into Spain, we really want to start forming an identity. We have handled our foundation but now we want to form our identity as a blue-collar team. We want to be a team that is relentless to the ball on both ends, be a team that is a family and take care of each other and hopefully we will be able to do that over in Spain.”
On how the Spain trip came about…
“You can do them every four years and the players really enjoy the trips and the coaches enjoy the 10 practices you can do before the trip. Typically, your teams are further along when you take these trips and I would love to give you a story about this but the reality is I took the exact same trip when I was at VCU the year before I came here and it went well so I took the same trip operator, and I used the same host, Javier. Nelson (Hernandez), our operations guy, and I have a good relationship with the guy who runs the trip and Javier who works for Real Madrid. He stays in touch and follows our team during the year. It is really pretty simple as we are taking the same trip to Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona and visiting the same places. It will be new for our guys and that will be good. It is an easier place to get to, it is a neat place and our guys will enjoy it.”
On the competition the team will face in Spain…
“Typically, we have four games scheduled and we usually play three or four as sometimes I will cancel the last game. There is usually one team that we play that is really good as last time I was there we were in a dogfight when I was there with my VCU team that went to the NCAA Tournament. It was a four-quarter dogfight with one of the teams while the other games we won pretty comfortably.
“We are going to see how different guys react. I know what Javonte (Smart) and I know what Skylar (Mays) can do, so playing them 30 minutes a night will not do a whole lot for our team. I am much more interested in James Bishop to see if he can take the things he learned on the practice floor into a game. I am looking to see what Charles Manning can do. I want to see how Trendon (Watford) looks. How does (Darius) Days look as he just played spot minutes last year, as well as Emmitt (Williams) in a much more featured role? I am a lot more interested in Courtese Cooper, Aundre Hyatt and Marshall (Graves) and how they look. We will not play Skylar and Javonte more than 15 minutes a game because I know those guys can play and it is not the point of us going over there. We need to get these other guys major minutes and see how they react in different situations.”
On starting different line-ups each game…
“Yes, I will start a different line-up each game as I have done that in the past. It is whatever I think will work and we want to see different things so we will definitely plan the line-ups that way. We will get to see who plays well together and who plays well off each other and get a feel for that.”
On Southeastern transfer Parker Edwards…
“He can shoot. He has not lost his shooting touch. He is a great kid and he is from the North Shore as he went to St. Paul’s. It was one of those deals where he enrolled in school here and he approached us and asked if he could walk on and we said ‘absolutely, we know who you are.’ He is a really smart player and he has been very good in practice and has really helped us out. He can definitely come in and make threes for us. He can really shoot it as you saw, as we all saw.”
On the identity of the team after the summer…
“I have a pretty good idea. We are going to be blue-collar, relentless and we are going to be a tight-knit group. There are some things that we are going to have to do differently as we are not going to be able to play the same way we did last year and we are going to have to be better in some areas. We changed our offense up a little bit as we are going to play a little more motion as we spent a lot of time on that this summer. We are going to play more motion instead of off ball-screens all the time. We are certainly going to use ball-screens but it is more about being comfortable playing a different way and playing a lot faster. We are going to play a lot faster than we have. Javonte pushes the ball extremely hard which will help us and we have to get used to playing the way we want to play. We have done well in practice with it but now it is about transitioning from the practice floor to the game floor.”
On how Javonte Smart will replace Tremont Waters…
“Javonte is a tremendous player. In the opportunities that he had last year; he was phenomenal. I am really proud of him as he has been leading well this summer as his leadership has improved. I have been really pleased with that. He is going to be the primary ball handler and we are going to have Skylar out there with him which will alleviate some things for Javonte. He is ready to step in and play a huge role. I really like our back court as we have five really good options in the back court and that is obviously led by Javonte and Skylar.”
On how the Michigan State loss can propel them to being an elite team…
“… We kind of wore down as the season went on and had some soft-tissue injuries because of nutrition and other things. In my time off I was able to study how the premier soccer teams in Europe train, how they stay fresh and how they recover. That is why I am very pleased with the results this summer. We tried it out this summer to see how it would work and I feel like we have put on much better weight that will be able to stay. We have put it on more incrementally than we have in the past and I think we are going to see long-term benefits down the way in the season.
“The other area where they (Michigan State) were better than us was rebounding as we could not get a defensive rebound. You have to be able to get a defensive rebound and you have to get back in transition. Those are two other areas where we have to improve. Another reason for putting in the motion on offense was because if you shut down our ball-screens we did not have a whole lot else to counter with. We were not able to throw it inside as we did not have a lot of back to the basket post-players. You need to have something where you can spread it out and open the lane so their big guys cannot just sit down there and beat you. You have to walk a thin lane as a lot of what we did last year worked extremely well and we won a lot of games. But, as look towards getting better and being in that elite group, the top 10 or 12 in the country, there are some areas in which we are clearly deficient and we have had to go about attacking those areas the best we can without losing sight of what got us close.”
On the plan with using players in the post…
“Here is the reality. I know everyone is talking about us getting bigger guys but I can roll out three different line-ups that are five, six, and seven inches taller than Auburn’s starting line-up for their Final Four team last year. It is not all about having all of this height on the court. Right now, we are one-inch taller than the Houston Rockets who were one of the top-four teams in the NBA last year. So, it is not like we are in desperate need for an infusion of height, we are just going to play a different year. We are going to add a bigger guy between now and when school starts because we obviously need some help down there and we are a little thin if somebody gets hurt. But there are a lot of different things we can do. Emmitt has made as big as gains as anyone as he is close to 230 (pounds) and is looking and playing like a different guy. There are ways to compensate for that as like I mentioned we are going to play faster and open the court up. There are some negatives when you have all of those big guys too as the lane is clogged and it is not as easy to drive it in there. There are some different pieces to all of that. Auburn was very successful without playing a traditional center so I think we can be just as successful. It is just a little change in philosophy and change in how we do things. That is what we have to do to adjust and adapt but I feel good about our front line. I like the progress that Emmitt and Days have made. Watford is obviously a very talented player. When we get Marlon back, he is someone that we can slide around and play the two, three or four so we certainly have some options. The other team has to guard you too so the other team has to bring their big guy out and guard one of your guys on the perimeter. Emmitt is going to shoot 35 percent plus from the three-point line this year as he is making the middle of the court threes. He is making some from the wings so we are very comfortable with the middle of the court threes. He has expanded his game and worked hard. He has made almost 500 threes a day this summer, made not taken. You have to come out and guard Emmitt out there which opens up a lot of different options for us.”
On the impact of having players return to school instead of declaring for the draft…
“It was good as I believe all the guys made the best decision for them and I think everyone made the right decision. For Tremont, he made a great decision. We would have loved to have him back but he was not going to grow as he was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All-SEC and we won the SEC, I mean how much better are you going to do than that. I thought Tremont made a great decision and (he will) contribute for the Celtics as well as go back and forth with the two-way contract. I thought Naz (Reid) made the right decision as he just signed a guaranteed deal with the Timberwolves. Kavell (Bigby-Williams) was a senior and he left. He had a great summer league and thankfully he is going to play professionally as well. Having Emmitt come back was huge as we really needed him back. Skylar going through the process was very good and Marlon going through the process was excellent. Marlon came back for a couple weeks before we decided to shut him down because we wanted to be very careful with the injury but he was like a new man when he was back for those few weeks as he understood what he needed to do and how seriously you need to take it.
“I think that is the main thing those guys take when they go to that. Two of those guys came back and said coach, they just do not care. ‘If you cannot get it done, they just do not care.’ I said ‘yeah that is what I have been trying to tell y’all, they are not going to take you to dinner to make you feel better about things.’ If you cannot get it done, they will find somebody who can. It is really simple, you either get it done or you cannot. You better be able to be in the group who can get it done. I think they realized how cutthroat it is at the level and it is different to hear it from us and to hear it from the coaches and then to go through it. It definitely has helped our guys become more serious as Emmitt has been more serious since he got back and Marlon has been the same way. The same thing for Skylar as well. I think all of them made the right decisions for themselves which is what we encourage and now it is on us as a coaching staff to continue to get Emmitt better so that when he does it again next year, he can go to the NBA. Skylar is going to go the NBA and Javonte as well so it is on us to help those guys out and put them in the right positions to make their dreams and what they want to have happen come true.”