NASHVILLE — The LSU fans may have traveled to Music City for a football game slated for Saturday morning at 11 a.m., but those who showed up to Redneck Riviera on Broadway got to see a handful of other LSU coaches for a special edition of the Coaches Caravan.
Five coaches in all attended the event at the three-story bar to participate in a radio show broadcast live from the event. Women’s basketball coach Nikki Fargas explained how she tore her ACL while riding a chopper, softball coach Beth Torina discussed her team’s hectic fall schedule and gymnastics coach D.D. Breaux used her patented charisma to get LSU fans in attendance riled up for tomorrow’s SEC opener.
Also in attendance were baseball coach Paul Mainieri basketball coach Will Wade, both of whom made time to speak with media in attendance about their respective offseasons and how things look moving forward.
Mainieri gave updates on pitchers who sustained injuries during the previous season, including Jaden Hill, AJ Labas and Nick Storz.
“Jaden Hill is progressing very nicely,” Mainieri said. “I hate to be so optimistic because it seems like I always seem to let the fans down… but Jaden has worked so hard this summer in the weight room conditioning and conditioning.
“He’s not as far along as everybody else so he’ll be a little more delayed, but so far so good.”
Mainieri went onto say that Hill has been throwing for about six or seven seeks and in that time he hasn’t felt any pain, which has led to his optimism.
He’s even more optimistic about the progress he’s seen from Labas, and not just from a rehab standpoint.
“AJ Labas has been great, like, better than before he got hurt,” he said. “His body is in really good shape. He’s worked so hard to get his body in better condition and take the strain off his arm. …I think he looks better than he did as a freshman.”
Of the injured pitchers, Mainieri said Nick Storz has the longest way to go before he sees action, adding that there’s likely a less-than-50-percent chance he pitches competitively during fall practice, though he was understandably non-committal on that number.
“He’s had three surgeries since he’s been here,” Mainieri said of Storz. “I don’t know how many innings he’s pitched, two? He didn’t pitch much his senior year of high school either. He arrived on campus already injured, and it’s just kind of never really recovered.”
Some more injury news came with that of Saul Garza, who played the final stretch of the season with a broken toe.
His current injury is a bit more bewildering, however. According to Mainieri, he injured his thumb shortly after arriving in Cape Cod for summer league play.
“A pitcher… they were just playing catch,” Mainieri said. “And this one kid did like a running start, and he fired a ball about 95 from about 40 feet away. It kind of handcuffed him and it hurt his thumb. … now he’s got to go get an MRI. We have to see if there’s more damage in there than we thought originally.”
Mainieri’s confident Garza will be fine by the time the season starts, but he’d rather have him available for fall ball.
He also touched on his early thoughts about newly-hired hitting coach Eddie Smith.
Smith joined the staff in July, and so far Mainieri has been nothing but impressed with the new-look coach.
“I’m really captivated by the way he works with the kids,” Mainieri said. “Our hitters are going to be coached as well as you can coach hitters. It’s that simple.”
One last note on baseball, Mainieri said he’s also toying with the idea of letting Daniel Cabrera try his hand at centerfield.
The idea came to him last week after thinking about how he stole 12 bases in Cape Cod over the summer combined with how much he’s improved as a defender since arriving on campus.
“I’m going to line him and (Giovanni) DiGiacomo up during fall ball and see which one makes the catches,’ Mainieri said. “And we’ll move the other guy to right field.”
Will Wade and crew return from Spain
Wade spoke to media members for the first time since his team’s trip to Spain, and while he’ll go into more detail during a presser on Monday, he did seem pleased with the progress made overseas.
As mentioned in stories released by the program itself, Wade reiterated how impressed he was with Charles Manning as soon as asked about who impressed him during the trip.
“Charles Manning played really, really well,” Wade said. “He was very consistent for us he’s going to contribute to us winning.”
Manning wasn’t the only newcomer Wade seemed impressed with. He mentioned former five-star freshman Trendon Watford as the Tigers’ leading scorer in the four games abroad, and referred to James Bishop out of Maryland as a sponge when it comes to learning in practice.
As for returners, expect Emmitt Williams to become an integral part of LSU’s seemingly undersized unit. Since testing the waters in the NBA Draft process, Wade said Williams returned with newfound energy and understanding of what it will take to play at the next level.
Before boarding the plane to Nashville on Friday, he said he found Williams watching film at the basketball facility.
“It’s been awesome,” Wade said. “He’s like a different player, different person. I met with him at 8 this morning before I left to come here. He wants to be so good. He understands what it takes. The NBA process was really good for him.”
He also gave an update on Marlon Taylor, who had surgery on his foot after going through the NBA pre-draft process. He did not play in Spain, but he is shooting around and should be good to go by the start of pre-season practice.
He also spoke about newly-enrolled big man DeShawn Thomas for the first time since signing him. Wade said he’ll add some much-needed depth in the post for the Tigers.
“He’s big, he’s physical; he’s exactly what we thought,” Wade said. “He can ball screen, he can roll, he can finish, he can block shots and he’s physical. I think he’s got a role to help us.”
Wade said he’s still got some work to do before he’s game ready, but he’s also been watching a lot of film trying to catch up to the rest of the team.
Photo Courtesy of LSU Sports Information