By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
One of Will Wade’s first priorities upon arriving in Baton Rouge was to bring in a point guard. He did exactly that, signing Tremont Waters, a top-50 talent from Connecticut in the 2017 class.
That doesn’t mean Skylar Mays is out of Wade’s plans, though.
The sophomore, who averaged 8.3 points and 3.6 assists per game last season, has impressed Wade through the summer’s workouts, and Wade is no stranger to loading up his rotations with ball-handlers.
“At VCU, we played two point guards together,” Wade said on the SEC Coaches’ Summer Teleconference on Monday. “One was more of a combo guard, and one was more of a scoring point guard. We played both of those guys together, and it was very, very good for us. I think Skylar is somebody who can play on and off the ball, and play in that type of system.
“That’s what we’re intending to do here. Anytime you’ve got two guys who can wheel and deal off of ball screens, have a little wiggle, and can make shots, it gives you a pretty good back court.”
Mays upped his production once league play started last year, increasing his scoring average to 10.6 points per game in SEC contests, while shooting 40.5 percent from 3 and 83 percent from the line.
“I feel really, really good about how Skylar has progressed,” Wade sid. He’s shooting the ball well, he’s an extremely hard worker. He picks up on things very, very quickly.”
Sampson “Buying In”
Mays isn’t the only returning member of the backcourt to catch Wade’s eye this offseason.
Brandon Sampson, the team’s leading returning scorer in SEC games from last season (12.1 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting from the floor, 38.5 percent from 3, and 81.3 percent from the line), has had a good summer. The former top-50 recruit from Madison Prep in Baton Rouge will be a primary candidate to offset the 17 points per game lost by Antonio Blakeney’s departure.
Wade’s more concerned with the junior’s defense, though, after LSU finished 2016-17 with the worst defensive efficiency numbers in any season in the SEC since 2002. When Sampson was on the floor, the Tigers gave up 113 points per 100 possessions, per Open Look Analytics. (The Tigers were actually worse when he was off the floor, surrendering 115 points per 100 possessions. Both figures would rank worse than 330th nationally, per KenPom.com.)
“I’m very pleased with Brandon,” Wade said. “He’s really buying in to what we’re doing. He’s on board with some of the changes that we’ve made. We’ve really challenged him in the weight room to get stronger. We’ve really tried to work on some of his individual skill level and getting him better defensively so he doesn’t foul as much, can stay on the court a little bit, and where he’s a little more aggressive and lets some defense lead to offense.”
- Wade said North Texas graduate transfer Jeremy Combs will join the program when school starts in August. Combs has classwork to finish up at North Texas before he can complete the transfer to LSU, where he will be immediately eligible.
- No questions asked about Oregon transfer Kavell Bigsby-Williams, who committed to LSU last week but, days later, was the focus of a story regarding sexual assault allegations. Wade, nor any other LSU official, can comment on the matter, as Bisgby-Williams has not signed with the program.
On the focus of summer workouts…
“We’ve spent a vast majority of our time trying to shore up our defensive issues and work on individual and team defense. I like where our players are heading thus far.”
On the biggest challenge so far at LSU…
“Changing the mindset. Changing the way we think. Changing the standards to which we do things, whether it be on the defensive end of the court, how we sprint, how we touch lines, how we go to class — whatever it may be. Changing the overall standards of the program has been the biggest thing we needed to do. To our guys’ credit, they’ve responded very, very well thus far. I think we’ve made some progress in those areas.”
On the reception at LSU…
“It’s been positive. We haven’t lost any games yet. It’s been fairly positive. Our guys here, they want to win, and they want to win bad. They’re open to some new ideas on maybe what it takes to be more competitive.”