LSU fans and media took a bit of time off of thinking about the upcoming Alabama game Thursday as basketball coach Will Wade addressed fans and media alike at L’Auberge Hotel and Casino at his first monthly Tip-off Luncheon of the season.
Wade went down the roster and previewed a couple early games on the schedule as he spoke to fans and took fans from a couple of them at event.
He said that it’s likely the Tigers play a three-guard system with Tremont Waters running the point while Skylar Mays and Ja’vonte Smart take care of things on the wings.
“Oh yeah, I have good visions of that,” Wade said when asked by a fan about Waters, Mays and Smart playing together. “I envision Smart and Mays playing at the same time, probably even starting at the same time. Three point guards, that’s good. We shouldn’t turn the ball over.”
Wade also said he has a scoring goal of 80 points per game for his second LSU squad as he expects the Tigers to play fast and hard.
When speaking with the media, he clarified that he cares more about points per possession than points per game.
On defense, he thinks if the defense can hold opposing offenses to a point per possession or less, the Tigers should be in good shape.
“I look at more per possession (stats) because we want to play high possession games,” Wade said. “So we may give up more points, but really if you’re giving up one point per possession, I look at those numbers than the total number of points we get per game.
Wade continued by saying the Tigers have shown a lot of versatility in closed scrimmages against Texas and South Alabama.
In one of those games, Wade said the Tigers had success with a high-octane offense and in the other they were able to play a possession-style game and get an advantage with solid defense.
Playing a three-guard system is aided by the inclusion of Smart in the roster, a longer guy with proven ability to score in the post and rebound.
Wade said that in one scrimmage he was able to draw four fouls in just a single half, a valuable skill for a guy who can slash to the rim and score.
Back on campus after the luncheon, Waters said Smart also contributes a lot on defense, especially when the Tigers want to press.
“One thing last year that coach really wanted us to do but we weren’t able to do was pick up full-court on defense,” Waters said. “Having three guards out there also helps if Ja’vonte gets a little tired or he’s not pressuring the ball like coach wants him to, he can switch off and go help someone else and I’ll just guard the ball or Skylar will guard the ball.
“There’s just a lot of different things we can do, and having Ja’vonte out there as a much bigger guard, he can pretty much do it all.”
Wade said Marlon Taylor, who broke his pinky finger in practice a few weeks back, has been partially cleared, and he hopes to be fully cleared by Tuesday’s season opener against Southeastern Louisiana.
The backcourt isn’t the only place where the Tigers have newfound versatility. LSU now has four reliable big men it can work with, and Wade said he’s been platooning guys in and out two-by-two during scrimmages, figuring out who complements each other best.
He said it will likely take some time before Kavell Bigby-Williams and Naz Reid play significant minutes together, especially since the Tigers will play some smaller teams during non-conference play.
“Right now, I’ve been rotating them kind of two and two at a time almost like a platoon,” Wade said. “One of the big guys with one of the small guys. … That’s been pretty effective for us. I’m probably going to stick with that for a while because the pairs that we have complement each other very well.”
Wade praised Bigby-Williams as a guy who can defend the rim unlike any player he’s had since he arrived at LSU.
Bigby-Williams is looking forward to contributing to LSU after sitting out a year due to transfer rules. He said he sees a lot of parallels between this LSU squad and the Oregon team he played with that reached a Final Four.
“There’s a lot of talent on this team, just like there was on that team in Oregon,” Bigby-Williams said. “There’s a lot of talent and a lot of people who can make good things happen for us to win.”
Wade, who prides himself on coaching big men, still isn’t ecstatic with the play of the Tiger’ post just yet.
He wants them to play more physically, and he lets them know in some pretty unique and humorous ways, sometimes.
“The post laughs at me because I tell them they’re down there pillow fighting,” Wade said. “They have to get a little tougher down there. We’re probably a little bit tougher than I think we are based on practice. I wish we’d be even more physical than we are, but against outside competition we’ve been fairly physical.”