Will Wade’s woes when it comes to LSU’s defense aren’t without merit. Fortunately, help isn’t just on the way. Kavell Bigby-Williams is already on campus.
The Oregon transfer has been limited to just practice while sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules, but Wade can’t wait to see him in action under the lights in 2018-19.
“Everybody talks about the recruits and all that, but Kavell is going to be a huge help defensively for us,” Wade said. “He can block shots at the rim. He is a presence at the rim. He likes to rebound. When he is revved up and his motor gets going, he is a very good defensive presence for us.”
In 2015-16, Bigby-Williams won the Spalding NJCAA Player of the Year award after averaging 16.8 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game for Gillette (Wyo.). He signed with Oregon and played infrequently as a reserve on the 2016-17 Final Four team, appearing in 37 games as a sub behind all-conference performers Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher. Bigby-Williams averaged only 3.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in less than 10 minutes per game for the Ducks.
In his absence, LSU has struggled to protect the rim and clean up the glass. Through 29 games, the Tigers rank 132nd nationally in defensive rating, giving up 103.7 points per 100 possessions. It ranks 150th in offensive rebounding percentage (29.4 percent) and 293rd in opponents’ rebounding percentage (31.7).
In SEC plays, as the competition has ramped up, the Tigers’ numbers have trended down. Their defensive rating dips to 108.0 (11th in the SEC); their offensive rebounding falls to 25.2 percent (14th in the SEC); their opponents’ offensive rebounding stays steady at 31.7 percent (11th in the SEC).
It’s because of those numbers, and Bigby-Williams’ skillset, that Wade says he’d have turned LSU into a 20-win (which would likely make them a tournament) team.
“If we had him this year, we would have another four or five wins just on him,” Wade said. “He can make a huge impact on the game and score six points. He will score more than that hopefully. We don’t have anyone like that. That makes it tough.”
Bigby-Williams isn’t included in a 2018 recruiting class that ranks third nationally, featuring five-star bigs Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams, plus four-star guard Javonte Smart and four-star forward Darius Days. That, plus another addition from the JUCO (or, perhaps, grad transfer) market will give Wade what he hopes will be a team with requisite toughness.
“The recruiting class will help,” Wade said. “We are going to add another defensive-minded kind of junior college kid, or whatever we can find. Someone that has some toughness to him. We have to address that. I can’t sit up here and say all that then go out and get some soft guys. You have to be about, what you say you’re about. We have to go find those guys. That is on us.”