Tremont Waters testing the NBA Draft waters this spring might’ve caused Will Wade and fans of his LSU basketball program some restless nights.
But based on Waters’ response since returning to the program, it appears it was all worth it. Everyone, especially Waters, is sleeping just fine.
Wade hopped on the SEC Coaches Summer Teleconference Thursday, fielding questions for a couple of minutes. The primary subject was the development of his sophomore point guard, fresh off a record-setting rookie campaign that saw him average 16 points and 6 assists while setting a school mark for freshman assists and finishing second all-time in single-season dimes.
This summer, Waters is offering his assistance in other ways, passing down lessons learned from a brief entrance into the NBA Draft, permitted by NCAA rules since he did not hire an agent. Waters worked out with and received feedback from NBA teams, and Wade says he’s taken it to heart.
“He’s a mature kid,” Wade said, “so he’s able to look at the feedback and the information he got not emotionally and say, ‘Hey, this is good, this is true, this is where I need to go work.”
His biggest focus has been transforming physically. He can’t do much about his (generously listed) 5-foot-11 frame vertically, but he has packed on good pounds, fueled by a strict diet, dedication to the weight room, and development of healthier sleeping habits.
“The number one thing he’s’ worked on is his body’s changed,” Wade said. “He’s bigger, he’s stronger, He’s got more girth to him. That was some of his main feedback, getting your body in as good a shape and as strong as you can possibly get it. He’s attacked that, whether it be in the weight room or conditioning, but especially with nutrition, how he eats every day. He’s very regimented about what he eats, how he eats, how he goes about his day, how he sleeps. All the little things. He understands what difference makers those are.”
Water is also passing on that knowledge to his young teammates, including seven incoming scholarship players that make up the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class for 2018.
“He’s really helped some of our younger guys with that too,” Wade said. “The season’s going to be a little tougher than we all thought. We’ve got to be prepared for it in those ways. I think it’s going to have a positive effect on not only him, but our entire team.”
Welcome, Freshmen (and juniors)
Those much-anticipated newcomers have hit the ground running, Wade said, as LSU reaches the mid-way point of its eight-week summer workout schedule. While five-stars Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams may be the highest-rated of the newbies, it’s Baton Rouge native Javonte Smart – a high four-star combo guard from Scotlandville – who is taking shape as the leader of the young crew, which also features four-star Florida forward Darius Days.
“Javonte Smart has unbelievable leadership ability,” Wade said. “He ‘s able to really help some of those other guys. Darius, Emmitt, and Naz are working really hard. We’ve got a good mix with that class.”
Completing that class are a trio of junior college signees: athletic wing Marlon Taylor, speedster guard Danya Kingsby, and skilled forward Courtese Cooper. Wade says that group features guys “who are talented as well, but they maybe don’t have the same background (as the freshmen) and give a good perspective on things.
“I like the mix we have with those two groups of newcomers,” he said.
He likes his returners, too, which includes starting shooting guard Skylar Mays, frequent starting wing Daryl Edwards, late-rising freshman wing Brandon Rachal, veteran big Wayde Sims, and redshirt big Kavell Bigby-Williams. While the freshmen may steal the early headlines, it’s the experienced core Wade feels will be the making of his second squad as LSU’s head coach.
“It’s huge to just have some experience,” he said. “We’ve got a good mix of talented newcomers and young guys, but if we’re going to be a really good team this year, a lot of it’s going to be on the shoulders of guys who’ve been in our program, who were in our program last year: like Tremont Waters, like Skylar Mays, like Daryl Edwards, Wayde Sims, Kavell Bigby-Williams, Brandon Rachal, who came on at the end of the year. You need guys that have been in your program, been a part of it. We’ve got guys who’ve been through a season with myself and my staff, we’ve got guys who have been through a season in the SEC. It’s important those guys help lead the way.”