LSU basketball coach Will Wade addressed the media Monday morning days ahead of its official start to practice Friday.
Wade enters his second year at the helm of the program, and there’s an increased level of hype surrounding the program going into the 2018-19 season.
“People are pretty excited about basketball here, which wasn’t the case a year, year and a half ago,” Wade said.
That excitement can be attributed to a freshman class along with a solid base of returning players that make up a roster that has potential to thrust LSU into the national spotlight.
The key word in that last sentence, however, is “potential.” As Wade is quick to point out, the Tigers have a long way to go before achieving the high expectations that come with such a highly-anticipated season.
“We haven’t won anything, you know, in a while,” Wade said. “We’re not in that position, so we’ve got to work every day to earn it, and build good habits, and give ourselves an opportunity. Certainly, our expectations internally are to work real hard and to put ourselves in the best position to earn opportunities to win and earn opportunities to be on the big stage.”
Wade rattled off what he called a laundry list of improvements LSU has to make after last season, including rebounding, defensive positioning, ball screens, post defense and on-ball defense.
He also added more specific nitpicks to that list like foot angles and positioning; small details that separate good teams from great ones.
The Tigers will have to rely heavily on its highly-touted freshman class that includes names like forwards Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams and Baton Rouge-native guard Ja’Vonte Smart. All three have potential to play multiple positions at an elite level, but Wade was quick to point out how much work goes into developing such a young team.
“We’re young. This is a different level. This is different. Our guys are great learners. They’re trying extremely hard. I’m proud of how we’ve progressed, but they’re just young. You’ve got to coach a lot of things. You’ve got to teach a lot of things.”
He spoke highly of all these freshmen, calling Williams a physical, gritty forward, Reid a definite first-round pick in the 2019 NBA draft and Smart one of the hardest working players he’s ever coached.
These freshmen will play around a newly-minted team leader in Tremont Waters.
Waters burst onto the scene as one of the SEC’s top players as a freshman, averaging 15.9 points per game, 3.4 rebounds, 6 assists and two steals per game with a flashy style of play that made for entertaining basketball.
This year, Wade said his role on the team will have to evolve to get more players involved this season.
“He’s playing at a level right now that’s so much higher than it was last season,” Wade said. “I told him, ‘now that you know what you’re doing, you have to take guys with you.
“Last year it was him, but we didn’t have a lot of other guys necessarily come with him. We had a couple guys in a couple games, but we didn’t have guys do it consistently. You can’t do it by yourself.”
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