If there’s anything that’s come close to being lunchtime pickup basketball at the YMCA masquerading as an impromptu scheduled college basketball game, it may just be LSU’s Monday 11 a.m. meeting with Sam Houston State in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
First, because of COVID-19 restrictions and the last-minute scheduling of this game to take the place of cancelled games of both the 3-1 Tigers and the 3-3 Bearkats of the Southland Conference, there will be no fans allowed in the arena.
LSU’s non-conference season has already taken a couple of detours due to COVID-19 related issues, the latest contract tracing and quarantine canceling LSU’s trip to Atlanta to play South Florida last Saturday.
“It’s been a bit of a disruption, but it hasn’t affected any of our players,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “It’s full steam ahead. We’ve got two in three days with Sam Houston and New Orleans (on Wednesday).
Throw in North Texas State at 11 a.m. on Saturday in the PMAC before the 2:30 p.m. LSU football season finale in Tiger Stadium and VCU on Dec. 22, and Wade’s team has four games in eight days after playing the first four games in the opening three weeks of the season.
“We did get thrown out of rhythm a little bit (not playing South Florida), we were in a very, very good rhythm,” Wade said. “A lot of basketball is rhythm and chemistry and being able to stay in that.
“In the past, it’s really around Christmas when we’ve been able to take off. I felt like in the last week we’d started our initial takeoff.”
In last Sunday’s 86-55 win over Louisiana Tech, Wade welcomed back senior guard Charles Manning Jr. Last season when he was healthy and not breaking bones in both of his feet in separate injuries, he was LSU’s best player off the bench.
Against Tech, Manning delivered 2 points and 4 rebounds in 14 minutes.
Now, Georgetown transfer and Baton Rouge native Josh LeBlanc is eligible to see his first action for the Tigers since enrolling last January. The 6-7 junior forward is expected to bolster LSU’s interior defense and rebounding.
LeBlanc is a former Class 2A all-state selection and two-time title-game MVP at Madison Prep. He was a Big East first-team all-freshman in 2018-19 when he averaged 9.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in 33 games and averaged 7.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in six games last year.
He transferred after he and teammates Galen Alexander and Myron Gardner had restraining orders filed against in November 2019 by a female student who accused them of harassing her and stealing items from her home on Sept. 2019.
The complaint named Gardner, Alexander, who played his freshman season at LSU in 2018, and LeBlanc as participants in the burglary.
The complaint was resolved in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia last month when the players agreed to not contact the plaintiff or her roommates and stay at least 50 feet away from them. The agreement did not indicate any admission of guilt from the defendants.
LeBlanc has been a model citizen and a good teammate since his transfer.
“He’s long, athletic and physical, an all-around good player,” Wade said of LeBlanc. “He can make some things happen on the defensive end. He rebounds well, he’s some rim protection. He’s got a great basketball I.Q., a great screener on offense.
“He’s always in the play, but never in the way on offense. He’s always around the ball where he can make a play, but never in the way of your other guys and some of your playmakers.”