Time to Shine
Three players who must step up in Anthony Hickey’s absence
By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
Anthony Hickey isn’t LSU’s best player. That title belongs to Johnny O’Bryant III, the former McDonald’s All-American with a future in the NBA.
But Hickey is LSU’s most important player. Or, he was LSU’s most important player, until he was suspended last week for violating team and university rules.
Hickey will be out of the team for a while and, according to his Twitter feed, watching LSU’s game Tuesday against Chattanooga ”in the stands.”
While rumors have run rampant since Hickey’s suspension, with unsubstantiated claims emerging that he failed a drug test, cheated on a test during finals week, or failed a class, the simple fact is that whatever happened, it doesn’t matter to the immediate future. Hickey’s fate with the team will be decided in due time, but for now, LSU must go on without its starting point guard.
If the Tigers are to survive without Hickey, whether that’s for a short while or a long one, they’ll need everyone to step up, but here are the three players Johnny Jones most needs big contributions from in the short term.
1. Corban Collins
As Hickey’s backup, Collins will likely be thrust into the starting line up. That’s a tall task for a freshman, one that Hickey himself managed a year ago.
The good news is that Collins is physically ready for the job. At 6′3, 200 pounds, the kid is built like a freight train, and he’s about as fast as one, too. He’s bigger and stronger than Hickey — who himself is a well-built kid — and can be every bit as good an on-ball defender and penetrator.
But being physically ready and mentally ready are two different things. While Collins shined in an exhibition start against Arkansas Monticello – a game Hickey missed for suspension, as well — he’s struggled during the regular season, with just three assists to seven turnovers in 49 minutes played.
Collins has talent and athleticism, but oddly enough, he’s still adapting to the speed and physicality of Division 1 play. He’s no longer the best athlete on the floor, and he’ll have to find other ways to make plays.
2. Charles Carmouche
The Tigers are fortunate to even have Carmouche, who received an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA and was granted eligibility at LSU as a graduate school transfer late this summer.
So far, his experience and ability have been vital to LSU at the shooting guard position, where he’s emerged as a starter. The 6′4 senior has been very good through five starts, averaging just about 10 points in 22 minutes an outing, shooting 44% from the field and 31% from 3. He hasn’t been asked to create much and has only 13 assists all season, but seven of those game against Seton Hall in LSU’s last contest.
Carmouche is probably capable of playing the point if Johnny Jones needs him there, but look for him to remain off the ball as much as possible. His biggest job in Hickey’s absence will be to create turnovers. Hickey leads the nation in steals, but Carmouche is an equally-capable ball hawk, with 12 steals of his own so far.
Most importantly, Carmouche will have to provide some leadership. With Collins sure to hit rough waters at times — as all freshmen do — the fifth-year senior must be a steady, calming force that the entire team can look to in times of distress.
3. Andre Stringer
It’s easy to forget that Stringer started at point guard as a freshman himself, because the entire 2010-11 was wholly forgettable.
But the 5′10 combo guard handled those duties as well as one could expect, leading the team in minutes (30.7 per game) and scoring 11.2 PPG. He also dished out 85 assists (and, less favorably, 82 turnovers). Stringer also got to the line 127 times, knocking down 98. That’s an area LSU could use some help in, and Stinger’s shown an ability to get to the charity stripe.
Since that year, Stringer’s had the fortune of moving off the ball, thanks to Hickey’s arrival last year. The junior is clearly more comfortable there, using his range and quick release to focus on scoring, rather than distributing. He’s scoring less (9.6 ppg in 2012-13) but at a more efficient clip, and he’s turning the ball over fewer times.
If Collins struggles, however, Stringer might be asked to carry some of the ball-handling burden. In Jones’ uptempo offense, the point guard is the quarterback, and, if nothing else, Jones may ask Stringer and Carmouche to play a two-QB system if Collins doesn’t hold up.