By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Mayan Kiir hasn’t played much in his young LSU career.
That could change Wednesday in perhaps the biggest game yet in that brief career.
Will Wade told the audience at his tipoff luncheon Tuesday he could count on Kiir to provide size and energy against a young, athletic Kentucky frontline when the two teams square off at 7:30 p.m. in the PMAC. The 6-foot-9, 201-pound freshman, who signed with Wade first at VCU, then followed him to LSU, has appeared in just five of LSU’s 12 contests so far, averaging 2.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in 6.5 minutes per game.
“We may have a little surprise: Ol’ Kiir,” Wade said. “We may throw ol’ Kiir out there.”
Kiir is a mobile big who could match up size-wise with a Kentucky squad that ranks fourth nationally in average height. He’s active and energetic, grabbing 28.1 percent of offensive rebounds, by far the highest figure on LSU’s roster. He can also be a bit out of control, with a team-worst 32.1 percent turnover rate, prompting assistant coach Greg Heiar to refer to him as “colorblind.”
“He’s a live body,” Wade said. “He’s going to make a play: for us or Kentucky. One of the two. We put him in there: something’s going to happen. It may not be good, but something’s going to happen.
“I tell Kiir all the time: you’re the best player on both teams. Play for the team in purple and gold.”
Wade said Tuesday he’s concerned about the battle on the boards. He said LSU would “probably not” outrebound Kentucky, who averages five more boards per game than LSU. But Kiir’s presence could help narrow that gap, which, Wade said, if kept below five could spell the difference in the Tigers’ favor.
“We need another big body,” Wade said. “He’s a big body. And he is going to make something happen, good or bad. Hopefully he tip-dunks a few and takes a couple charges. You never know how the game’s going to go, but we have every intention of trying him out.
“When you play in league, you’ve got to have some bigger bodies, and he’s the biggest body we’ve got outside of Duop (Reath) and (Aaron) Epps. We’re going to take him for a test ride.”
If you’ve seen an increased toughness in LSU’s play since their 83-82 loss to Stephen F. Austin, it’s by design.
Since the loss, Wade’s ramped up the emphasis on his “blue collar drills” – three stations players rotate between which include diving for loose balls with Tony Benford, taking charges with Heiar, and shielding the basket with Bill Armstrong.
The results have been tangible. LSU has held its last three foes to an average of 57 points per game, well below their season average of 73.4.
“I usually do them for two minutes each and rotate,” Wade said. “After that Stephen F. Austin game, we did it for five minutes each.
“They got my point.”
THE DOCTOR IS IN
Among the many in attendance Wednesday will be Dr. Joel Fish, a Philadelphia-based sports psychologist Wade has used for several years. The two speak daily during the season, Wade told me earlier this year.
Dr. Fish comes at a good time. Wade has two technical fouls to his name already this season, an unprecedented figure for him.
“I’ve never gotten two techs in one year, and I’ve already gotten two before Christmas,” he joked. “That was in the non-conference. I can’t imagine how the conference is going to go.”
The list of items Dr. Fish addresses is long, and Wade’s technicals are surely toward the bottom. But if Wade earns a third against Kentucky, he knows where to point the finger.
“He’s tried to keep me from getting any technicals,” Wade laughed, turning to Dr. Fish. “It’s on you, Joel.”