Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
BATON ROUGE, LA: LSU Basketball Head Coach Will Wade held his pre-season press conference on Tuesday morning and the coach showed a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for this season's team. "We're excited to get rolling with practice and excited for the season to start." Wade said. "I really like this group that we put together. I told our team the other day that it's hard for me to get mad at them because I like them so much. They're fun to be around. They're fun to coach. Sometimes I need to make myself mad before I walk into practice so I can get out of us what I need to get out of us some days. I like what we have, I really think we’ve got guys, some of the newer guys in the transfers have high-major experience and high-level experience.”
The team is currently finishing up their three day 'Boot Camp' (Strength & Conditioning Trial) before the first day of practice begins on Friday.
Wade would also mention that the LSU men’s basketball program is 100% vaccinated for COVID-19 going into preseason practice, including all coaches, players, staff members and managers. “Everybody that’s in our gym day-to-day is fully vaccinated,” Wade said. “So we’re full-steam ahead with that and just thankful that everybody is healthy."
The Tigers will go into this new season with an entirely different looking roster with only six returning players from last season's squad. Wade has been impressed with his returning players, especially Mwani Wilkinson. He mentions how much Wilkinson has impressed him this offseason. "Nobody in our program has made a bigger jump than Mwani Wilkinson,” Wade said. “He played for us last year and started a bunch of games for us last year. There’s nobody that has had a better offseason in our program then Mwani, he’s going to look like a different player, especially on the offensive end. When people see him, they’re going to be shocked, he’s had a tremendous offseason.”
The Tigers will be extremely deep in the backcourt. Senior Xavier Pinson (Transfer from Missouri) and Sophomore Adam Miller (Transfer from Illinois) look to be the front runners at guard. “I tell you one thing now, Xavier Pinson now, he's better than I thought,” Wade said. “He's been a huge surprise. I knew he was a good basketball player, but just being able to play point guard and pass and see the floor, he's as good as I've seen it. Get down the seams, creating rotation and drives. He's going to be really good for us.”
"Adam Miller is someone who can make shots and he's developing into a good playmaker, into a solid playmaker. He's
somebody that makes shots, that can score at a high level."
Then there's freshmen guard Brandon Murray who Coach Wade is marveled over. “Brandon Murray, our fans are going to love him,” Wade said. “He is a pit bull. We're running five on five offense at 7 o'clock in the morning and he's cutting like we're in overtime of the National Championship game. Everything he does, he does it extremely hard and he does it the right way. He is absolutely tenacious and so we're excited about those guys in the backcourt."
Finally Wade also expects returning sophomore guard Eric Gaines to contribute as he has been very please with
the improvement that Gaines has shown in the offseason. "You got Eric Gaines who played for us last year, fast and we finally got him pushing the ball and playing off two feet."
There will be much improvement in the frontcourt as well. Along with sophomore forward Mwani Wilkinson, watch for 6-11 freshmen center Efton Reid. ... "Efton Reid is extremely, extremely skilled, especially on the offensive end,” Wade said. “He plays kind of like a European style big. He's got the jump hooks, he can make 3s, he's got a lot of offensive weapons. He’s a weapon and we’ve worked on feeding that post, we worked on it for eight minutes the other day in practice. If you cover him one on one he’s going to score every time.”
Shareef O'Neal, once healthy will be a solid force on each end of the court. "With Shareef, we got to get him healthy. His foot is banged up right now. He had a concussion a couple of weeks ago. He's been out. It's been probably three months since he's had a full week of practice. We got to get him healthy and feeling right. He's a talented, talented player. We got to get him in a spot where he can consistently practice so we can put him in a game."
Then there's 6-10 freshmen center Jerrell Colbert. ... "Jerrell Colbert is someone who plays extremely hard. He's only been here two month so we'll continue to work with him. He's someone who plays all out on every possession. He's a really good defensive presence, a really good shot blocker. Does a good job in the screen and role. Offensively he is a very good screener, probably our best screener. I like what we got in Jerrell."
Coach Wade is hoping that this will finally be his first team at LSU that will step up to play hard tough-nose defense. "We'll be a tougher group than we've been,” Wade said. “We've got some tough guys so I think we'll be a little bit more grittier, grimier, little more blue collar. I like the way we are."
The team helped out Hurricane Ida victims in deep south Louisiana by delivering food and supplies right after the storm, and will continue to help out once the season starts. Coach Wade said the Tigers will play an exhibition game against Nicholls State in the Colonels’ Stopher Gymnasium on Oct. 23. All tickets sold from the game and other donations will go to provide hurricane relief in the Thibodaux-Houma area, which were among the area hardest hit by Ida.
Could this be the best team that Wade has assembled here in Baton Rouge? Could be... Once again, the roster is loaded with talent, youth, depth, and experience. Now it's up to Will Wade to get these young men to gel and play at a high level with an attitude. It will be a heck of a ride... GEAUX TIGERS!!!