“Nobody wants to be a loser” | Will Wade breaks down the “new normal” of LSU basketball

By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor

If Will Wade’s approach to coaching is anything like his approach to press conferences, LSU’s first practice Friday will be a B.S.-free affair.

Wade got straight to business Monday at his first media session since being hired in April, laying out the state of the program just before practice tips off this week.

“There is a new normal,” Wade said. “(The players) know what to expect now. They know what the new normal is, and you either do it or you get left behind. They are very clear about where our standards are, where we are and that we are not bending on anything on our expectations.”

The first-year head coach by way of VCU dropped a few news nuggets on the day, noting North Texas transfer big man Jeremy Combs would be out for Friday’s session after undergoing ankle surgery last week. Combs, who averaged a double-double two seasons ago for then-UNT head coach, now-LSU assistant Tony Benford, will be out six to eight weeks, Wade said, with a chance of being available for LSU’s season opener against Alcorn State on Nov.10.

The loss is significant, as LSU’s front line is thin, and Combs brought a physicality unique on the roster to the position.

“We’ve got some concerns down low,” Wade said. “We’re not the biggest team down low. It’s my job, we’ve got to scheme around that.”

The good news is Wade likes his two senior bigs, Duop Reath and Aaron Epps. While they won’t fit into the offensive game plan Wade used at VCU last year, featuring frequent post entries and ample back-to-back play, both players bring different skills to the table, and Wade says the onus is on him to bring those talents out.

“We’re going to have to adjust what we do,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to throw the ball in there and live in the paint off post feeds. It’s my job put our post guys where we can get them the ball on the move.”

Monday marked the first day of boot camp for LSU, which means three days of conditioning. All players must pass all three days of testing, or they can’t participate in practice, Wade said. He’s been tough on a team that went 10-21 last year, 2-16 in the SEC – though only five scholarship players return from that roster. Wade indicated the group has embraced the different approach, though.

“People want to be pushed and they want to reach their potential,” he said. “Our guys are no different. I like the way our guys have worked for the most part. We have some guys that have worked very, very hard. I think nobody wants to be a loser. If you give them a map that says this is what helps us win, this is what wins, it’s proven that it has won, they will do it and especially when they see that they get better.”

NOTES

  • Wade said Skylar Mays, Epps, and Reath have emerged as leaders on the roster because of their hard work, as well as transfers Daryl Edwards and Randy Onwuasor.
  • Of the freshmen, Wade said Galen Alexander is about 75-80 percent recovered from offseason knee surgery, and he praised freshman Brandon Rachal: “Rachal’s going to be able to help us this year. He’s tough, he defends, he knows what he’s doing.”
  • Brandon Sampson’s added upper body weight, said Wade, a plan to make him stronger coming off screens, part of their plan to get him open looks. Mays, meanwhile, has trimmed down.

QUOTES

On which guys have impressed him the most …
“Depends on what day. We don’t have as much consistency as we need. Everybody has had their moments. Peacock today, feather duster tomorrow so we have to be good every day. You cannot rest of what happened yesterday.

On defense …

“As the coach I bet we spent statistically 80 percent of our time working on defense. We spent a lot of time trying to shore up our defense and just get in a base defense that we can tweak for each opponent. So we’ve spent about 80 percent of our time on defense which is obviously critical. We started putting in an offense about 10 days ago and we are just kicking the ball all over the gym so now you need to start worrying about turnovers. There is a give and take with everything that you are doing. I think our defense is much improved. We still have a ton of work to do there. We have to be able to finish possessions. We have to be able to rotationally check out. We have a lot of work we have to do to finish off possessions with our defense.”

On getting to know students on campus…

“I’ve learned a lot about Louisiana geography because I’m always asking where they are from. One thing I found out is when you ask where someone is from they tell you their high school … It’s been fun to get out and meet folks.”

On what he feels needs to be improved around the program…

“Our administration knows how we feel about what I think we need to continue to move forward. There obviously needs to be some work done on our arena here. There needs to be some work done on our practice facility here. There’s some work that needs to be done on the nuts and bolts of how the program functions. I’ve had candid discussions about what I feel needs to happen, and they’ve been very open and receptive, and I think we’ll be able to move forward on some things, if we want to be a championship-level program, which I think we all want to do. We didn’t come here to get participation trophies.”

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