Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Rare Summer Look At LSU Basketball

Football is not producing much news right now and if you’re like me, you don’t even want to think about LSU Baseball. Frankly, since the baseball team is, in my opinion, not investing much effort on the field, I’m not investing much effort in writing about them. So instead, I’m doing a rare summer breakdown of LSU basketball.

After a really disappointing 2009-2010 season, Trent Johnson’s guys hope to improve upon their 11-20 record which saw them win just two conference games. However, that may be a task that is easier said than done.

LSU will likely be without their two leading scorers from a season ago. Tasmin Mitchell graduated and will try to catch on with an NBA team. He was often LSU’s lone bright spot last year. Senior guard Bo Spencer is currently suspended from the team for academic reasons, and his future is very uncertain. It’s a strong possibility that Spencer will not return to the team next year. Therefore, LSU will rely heavily on the improvement of their returning players as well as contributions from the new guys.

To start, here is a breakdown of the returning players.

Returning Players:

F Storm Warren Jr - Warren (pictured) improved tremendously from his freshman season when he was a little used reserve. He turned into a very dependable SEC forward, averaging 11.8 points 7.2 rebounds and shooting an impressive .536 from the field. He’ll be counted on to be LSU’s veteran presence in the front court.

F/C Dennis Harris So – The skinny 6’11” post player did fairly well in his first season on the court.  He averaged 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game while shooting .505 from the field. He showed good athleticism and the ability to find the ball both as a rebounder and shot blocker. Due to his frail build, he lacks a physical presence in the paint and was often a defensive liability. If he can make an improvement from Year #1 to Year #2 similar to what Storm Warren did, then LSU will have a solid contributor with Harris.

G Chris Bass Jr – In his first season at LSU, Bass played more and more as the season progressed. He looked the part of a true point guard, dishing out a team-leading 3.1 assists per game. He’s not much of a scorer though, averaging only 2.3 PPG. With a pair of incoming point guards, Bass will be fighting for playing time again in 2010-2011.

G Aaron Dotson So – Dotson was a bit of a disappointment as a true freshman, averaging just 3.2 points and 1 assist per game, despite starting for most of the year. Shooting guards are expected to be scorers, and Dotson had an alarmingly bad .152 3-point shooting percentage. Dotson would have likely been better served with a redshirt season.

F Eddie Ludwig So – Ludwig did not produce much with only 2.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game as a true freshman. However, he did show some flashes of possessing some good skills. He has a decent shot, and he also led the team in free throw percentage at .867. With a year under his belt, the hope is that he steps up as a sophomore and produces a bit more.

F/C Garrett Green Jr – Green is a big body who can provide an inside presence for LSU. However, he has been battling a lower back injury for a couple of years and it’s unclear just how much he’ll be able to contribute. His minutes were very limited towards the end of last season.

As you can tell, LSU will rely heavily on their new players. The good news is that this recruiting class, along with one transfer, is poised to make a huge impact on the court. Help is coming at the right positions.

Incoming Players:

F Malcolm White Jr – White averaged 7.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for Ole Miss in 2008-2009 season before transferring and sitting out last year. At Ole Miss, White showed flashes of big-time ability.  He had one game with 20 points and 9 rebounds and had another game with 18 rebounds.

F Jalen Courtney Fr – Courtney comes from Jackson, MS and has good size at 6’8” 210 pounds. He chose LSU over offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Missouri. Courtney averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds as a senior.

F Matt Derenbecker Fr – Derenbecker is a versatile wing player who many considered the top prospect in the state of Louisiana. He is 6’7” 185 pounds and was the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state as a senior. He averaged 20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 6 assists and 3 steals per game. Derenbecker also held offers from Ole Miss and Oklahoma State.

G Ralston Turner Fr – Turner is a wing player that knows how to put the ball in the basket. He’s listed at 6’5” 200 pounds. He averaged 21 points and 9 rebounds per game as a senior. He could play either shooting guard or small forward at the next level. He also averaged 4.3 blocks and 4 steals per game. Turner chose LSU over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Notre Dame. 

G Andre Stringer Fr – Stringer is an undersized point guard at just 5’9” 170 pounds, but he has all the skills you could want. He was voted Mr. Basketball for the state of Mississippi as a senior. Stringer is very quick and is a very good shooter with great range. Stringer averaged 25 points, 7 assists, and 3 steals per game as a senior.  Here is a little video of Stringer:

G K.C. Ross-Miller – Miller is another small point guard at 6’0” 175 pounds and hails from the Dallas, TX area. Miller was once a commitment to Kentucky, but re-opened his recruitment when former coach Billy Gillespie was fired. He ultimately chose LSU over Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Florida. He averaged 26 points and 11 assists as a senior. He also showed a great shooting touch, making 60% of his shot attempts, and 56% from three-point land. LSU badly needs outside shooting and Ross-Miller could provide that right away.  Here are some highlights of Miller: 

C Justin Hamilton – Hamilton is a 6’11” 230 pound transfer from Iowa State. Hamilton averaged 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore for Iowa State last season. He also led the Big-12 in offensive rebounds. As a transfer, he will have to sit out the 2010-2011 season for LSU after which he will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.  Here is one highlight of Hamilton from Iowa Sate.

All in all, I think LSU will be much improved but I'd be surprised if they compete for an SEC championship.  Trent Johnson is building this program his way, with four-year program players who are high character team guys.  That recipe has led to plenty of success at programs like Duke, Vanderbilt, and even Stanford where Johnson last coached.  A lot of freshmen will get valuable experience in their first year in the program and that will pay dividends in years to come. 


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