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Preseason buzz builds at LSU — for basketball


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Preseason buzz builds at LSU — for basketball


Scott Ferrell, USA Today NetworkPublished 11:06 a.m. CT July 10, 2018 | Updated 11:06 a.m. CT July 10, 2018

  Lindsay Schnell provides her thoughts on the results of recommendations made for NCAA basketball by Condoleezza Rice's commission. USA TODAY Sports

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Memphis

(Photo: Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

Surf around the Internet and you’ll find plenty of preseason buzz about LSU.

But it’s not the football team generating the buzz, it is the men’s basketball team.

While LSU football is outside of the top 25 of most preseason college football publications, the same can’t be said about LSU basketball. CBS Sports’ early preseason college basketball top 25 has LSU checking in at No. 19. The Tigers are behind fellow SEC members Kentucky (1), Tennessee (4), Auburn (10) and Mississippi State (15). ESPN has LSU at No. 21 and NBC has the Tigers at No. 22.

There is good reason for the summer optimism toward LSU basketball.

Second-year coach Will Wade had a competitive Tigers team that was 18-15 overall and 8-10 in the SEC last year. The Tigers won an NIT game against UL Lafayette before losing at Utah.

Then, Wade added a recruiting class ranked third nationally in 247sports’ composite rankings, trailing only Duke and Kentucky. His class includes two five-star recruits in 6-foot-9 power forward Nazreon Reid and 6-7 power forward Emmitt Williams. LSU also added four-star recruits Ja’Vonte Smart, a 6-4 combo guard, and 6-7 power forward Darius Days.

“We’re excited about our returning guys and the progress that they have made (and) getting the newcomers moving in the right direction as well,’’ Wade said on the SEC’s summer basketball teleconference.

If there is pressure on LSU’s heralded recruiting class to deliver immediately, Wade doesn’t seem to be fazed.

He’s seen enough since their arrival on campus to feel confident in the group’s ability to live up to the hype.

“All of the freshmen we have are very mature,’’ he said. “They’re older. They act older than their age would indicate. I think they’ve handled everything well. They know they have to come in and work hard and earn what they get. They’ve put their heads down and worked extremely hard.’’

In just a short time on campus, Wade has seen different traits emerge from his young players.

“Ja’Vonte Smart has an unbelievable leadership ability,’’ the LSU coach said. “He’s really helped some of these other guys. Darius and Naz work hard and do what they need to do.’’

The good news for LSU is the Tigers’ success won’t solely depend on the young players.

The Tigers return a pair of double-figures scorers from last season’s team — guard Tremont Waters (15.9 ppg) and Skylar Mays (11.3 ppg.) Also returning are guard Darryl Edwards (6.8 ppg), forward Wayde Sims (5.6 ppg) and guard Brandon Rachal (4.4 ppg).


“I think we have a good mix of obviously talented newcomers and young guys, but if we’re going to be a really good team this year, a lot of it is going to be on the shoulders of guys who were in our program last year,’’ Wade said.

Waters leads the group of returning players.

He tested the NBA Draft waters before returning to LSU for his sophomore season. Wade said the process has been helpful in Waters’ development.

“I think the experience for him was awesome,’’ Wade said. “He’s a mature kid so he’s able to look at the feedback and information he got non-emotionally. He can say, ‘This is good.’ ‘This is true.’ ‘This is where I need to go work.’

“The No. 1 thing is his body’s changed. He’s bigger. He’s stronger. He’s got more girth to him. I think that was some of his most feedback, get your body in as good of shape as you can. He’s attacked that.’’

It is the same way Wade wants his team treating the summer workouts.

“We’re working hard and making some progress,’’ he said.

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