By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former LSU Softball great, Sahvanna Jaquish. Her home town is Highland, California where she was a four-year letter winner for Debbie Garcia at Redlands East Valley High School. She won Maxpreps First Team All-American honors in 2012 and 2013, as well as the Citrus Belt League's MVP award as a junior. (Making that the first time a junior has ever won that honor.) ... Jaquish also helped her team win a couple of California state championships.. She also lettered in Volleyball.
She made an immediate impact on her arrival at LSU, becoming the team leader in batting average (.341), home runs (17), RBI (55), slugging percentage (.699) and total bases (121), while finishing second in doubles (9) and on-base percentage (.445).. Jaquish would then help a talented LSU squad reach the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City three straight seasons in a row. She would finish her career in Baton Rouge as the only athlete in LSU history to win All-American honors all four years
Since her LSU career, Sahvanna has gone on to play professional softball in the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch League), as well as winning a pair of gold metals with team USA.
Q - Favorite color?
Jaquish - That depends on the day. I'm very much an emotional person when it comes to colors. Yellow makes me happy. Red helps me focus, so I think it just depends on the day, yea. I'm very weird when it comes to that. I'm usually pretty obsessed about getting my nails done before a game, and I heard that "blue" helped you calm down. So I would usually get blue, and people would ask, "You're purple and gold, why are your nails blue?" ..
Q - Favorite food?
Jaquish - Thai food and Sushi
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Jaquish - Derek Jeter
Q - Favorite Music Artist?
Jaquish - Oh man, that's hard.. Can I pass? I just don't know. I'm all over the place, I like country, I like old school.... Anything that sounds good...
Q - Favorite Movie?
Jaquish - Remember the Titans
Q - Favorite Actor?
Jaquish - Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Q - Favorite Pro Team?
Jaquish - Los Angeles Angels
Q - I see you're from Highland, California. Did you grow up there?
Jaquish - Yes
Q - When you were a little kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Jaquish - The best pitcher in the world. Yea, I really wanted to be a pitcher. But my dad told me that I had to learn to throw overhand first. So I got really good at that and became a catcher instead.
Q - I see that you attended Redlands East Valley High School. While you were there, did you play multiple sports?
Jaquish - Yes, I played volleyball and softball.
Q - Could you tell us a little about you high school softball coach?
Jaquish - Her name is Debbie Garcia, and she was appreciative of my skill set, but she also pushed me to be a leader. Which was great because I don't think anyone really taught that, like how to be a leader at that time. It was just like,.. Oh, you're the best player, so you must be the leader of the team.... But she had a different definition of being a selfless leader, being a servant leader. So I appreciate her for that. When I went to LSU out of high school I was named captain of the team, so I think that really helps to have that mind set.
Q - Tell us a little about your accomplishments during you athletic career in high school?
Jaquish - I was the only junior to win MVP of the League ever. Senior year I was MVP of the League as well. Then we won CBL. We went to the playoffs and won one game. I think it was called the thirteen year curse, because we had never won a playoff game before. Then in my senior year we won one. Softball in California is so hard. It's like playing travel teams. It's like a religion out there.
Q - How did your recruiting process go? Who recruited you other than LSU?
Jaquish - I didn't have a lot of options. Actually I know that sounds kinda crazy, but I was late in the recruiting process. Because at that time a lot of my teammates, friends, and travel ball friends were getting recruited in their freshman year, eighth grade and I was a junior before I made a decision. So I had North Carolina and South Carolina really pursuing me and LSU. That's when I went on those three visits and then committed to LSU, because they're the best..
Q - Why did you choose LSU? What stood out about the program?
Jaquish - So my oldest sister went to Notre Dame, so leaving the nest wasn't a big deal to us, going far away. But LSU kinda felt like a home. Everyone was really nice and the team felt like family, so I really liked that. It was a home away from home. Then the culture was really cool. I wanted to experience something different and y'all food is really good.
Q - How different is Louisiana from California?
Jaquish - Oh my gosh, It's so different, but I love it, I love it. It's your own little country. Louisiana country. I really thought everyone wore cowboy boots in Louisiana, I had no idea. I had never been. So I bought a pair of cowboy boots before I went to Louisiana, and I think I wore them twice. Then I was like, "Hey, people wear regular shoes out here. There not cowboy boots."
Q - Tell us about your freshman season in 2014?
Jaquish - So, it was actually my hardest season out of all of them. Because I felt like I was good enough to start on the field, but so did my coach so that's why you see during my freshman year I played short stop, played third, played first, played catcher, was DP most of the time. That was really my position was designated hitter.
It was just a hard transition for me to not have a home on the field, especially catching because I just wanted to have the ball every pitch.
But, our first game, I remember this like it was yesterday. We were playing Texas and coach sat me down the day before the game and she said, "I am not going to start you and you're not going to play." and I was just shocked. I was like, why did I work this hard? Why am I not good enough? Those were the questions I had. She said, "Hey, You just have to have some experience. I want to see who is going to lead our team and I don't think it's going to be a freshman." .. I looked at her and started crying obviously, but I looked at her and said, "I think you're wrong. I think I'm going to step in here and make an impact. I want to be your best hitter who has ever came through here. If you let me have that opportunity then I can show you that."
I was kinda just standing up to her, but in a respectful way, I think it kinda changed her whole coaching mentality now. Look at how many freshman are starting on a team now. I feel kinda proud of sucking up and trying to do that. Then she said, "Okay then, if you want to start, then you're going to have to be the number four hitter in the SEC as a freshman. Do you think you can do that?" I was like,... "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could do that, of course I could do that"..
So it was that day that I had a mentality switch. Everyday that conversation just drove me and drove me. I was obsessed with getting everything right. I was obsessed with getting my swing perfect.
Then we played an exhibition game against the USSSA Pride (a professional team) and Rachel Fico, the number one draft pick. Rachel Fico was like the greatest pitcher at the time, and she went to LSU. Well, she was throwing a no-hitter against us. Coach Beth said, "Fine, you can go hit against Rachel." I was like, "Great.." So my first time ever hitting in a Tigers uniform and I'm playing against this All-American from LSU, that's great... I got jammed and I hit it to the right side and ruined her no-hitter.
I think the confidence that I showed during that at bat got me another opportunity, and that's all I wanted, was another opportunity. I wanted to prove myself, that's how I work best.
When someone tells me, that I can't do something or you're not good enough to do this, or I think you need more of this. That drives me and fuels me to just become way better then I was. So I appreciate that from Coach Beth.
That year I was mostly designated hitter, so a lot of my stats were hitting stats, but it's like how hard it is to be the designated hitter, in the four hole as a freshman and then make it to an All-American Team.
Q - Your freshman season ended with being eliminated by Arizona in a Regional. Tell us about the 2015 team, (your Sophomore season) and how you and the team improved and would make it to Oklahoma City for the CWS....
Jaquish - Like I said, failure fuels me to the point to where it's just,.. A decision gets made in my head, and it's the craziest thing because once I decide something, it happens. I think that's how strong our mental game is.
So freshman year I watched the World Series on my couch. I felt, "We could totally beat these girls. We are so good. I don't know why we're not there." So I started a group message with the incoming freshman. So they were the high school seniors coming here to LSU and I asked, "Are y'all watching the World Series?" and they were, "Yea, we are watching, sorry about your season.".. I said, "No, don't be sorry. because we are going to go next year. I hope your working. I hope your looking at these girls. You're going to play against them next year."
So I just started feeding that to the group and I think it helped. Bailey Landry also stepped up as a leader. That duo that we had, kinda fueled the team that we had. We had a lot of leaders on the team, don't get me wrong. It wasn't just me and Bianka, it was everybody kinda leading in a different way. Connie brought the energy, our little second baseman, she was like, fire.
Then Carley Hoover came in that year and was just stone cold on the mound. It was crazy. She was just a straight up competitor. She would race you to the front of the food line. She would try to beat you in everything and she would make sure you knew it.
So everyone lead in a different way and that's what got us that run and every year after that we went to the World Series because it was just a new standard, it was... "LSU goes to the World Series"...
Q - I see that in 2015, you ladies defeated Arizona in the Super Regional to advance to Oklahoma City. That must have felt great gaining a little revenge after being eliminated by them the season before?
Jaquish - It was great, It was great.. I was like wow, I mean, every match up I ever wanted, revenge, or just every competition I ever wanted, I played. I'm thankful for that. When I stepped in my freshman year, I said, "I want to play ULL! I wanna play ULL!" because they knocked LSU out the year before in 2013. So I wanted to play them and show them we were better. My senior year, I finally got that, and it was not easy at all. They brought it.
Q - Tell us what it's like to play in the Women's College World Series?
Jaquish - I think, It's like a dream game. You kinda talk about it while you train. When you're ten years old, like with my dad. My dad would be pitching to me and he would say, "Okay, runner on second, you're down by one, it's the World Series, there is two outs."
So it's kinda crazy how you get to play in the game that you dreamed of since you were a little girl. That's the coolest thing about it, and seeing other little girls ask you for your autograph, and you're like, "Wow, one of these kids could actually show up here one day."
It's just full circle. You just enjoy the moment. I think that's what we missed in 2015, because we were ranked #1. We had a lot of pressure on us to do something big, or to do something good, or to win it all. We had such high expectations for ourselves, instead of just enjoying the moment, and just playing the games and see how it all unfolds.
Because anyone in the World Series, those eight teams, could win it. You have to play the perfect game. You have to be hot. You have to have timely hits. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side. I think we kinda tried to control everything, and we defeated ourselves that year.
Q - So for your junior year in 2016, a lot of players return to make another strong run. Tell us a little about year three.
Jaquish - That was again, we had set a standard for ourselves, and said, Nothing less then the College World Series.
Junior year, we had a lot of the same girls coming back. We had a lot of returners on the team. It was just getting the freshman on board, and they had a standard when they stepped on the field to practice. A focus about them, that there was an expectation. It's crazy because its just tangible.
Like when a lot of returners have the same mentality of,... I expect the freshman to do this. I expect the returners to do this. I expect my senors to do this,.... and it all falls in line.
Like that chain of command happens, and obviously that's set by our head coach. She had a lot of great mental coaches come in and teach us about mentally preparing for something.
She set up a culture for us, that is still ingrained in us. It's still ingrained in the girls who are there. It became more like a standard, a culture that she created, that got us there. It was pretty awesome to see that, and we had,.. I think me, Bailey Landry, and that 2013-2014 class was Beth Torina's first recruiting class. She got to recruit us. Before that, it was Yvette Girouard and all her recruits.
In our junior year, Boom!, she came out with "TIGERS". ... And the meaning of TIGERS is,,,... T - trust, I - integrity, G - grit, E - energy, R - relentlessness, S - selflessness.... and if you have "TIGERS", if you display those traits, we're going to go far. In life, we're going to go far, in softball, in whatever you want to do.
She really helped us kinda grip onto what we were trying to hold onto. She would say, "This is what you call culture." Like what you just decided, LSU is going to the World Series. That's a culture that we are going to hold onto and we're going to make something out of it.
All the girls had a saying on what it should be. That's one of the things I'm proudest of is leaving that legacy and creating that culture with coach. I think that's something that's very special.
Q - Please continue on about your senior year.....
Jaquish - I think that was the season that I did the most growing as a person. Because, I realize, that... It's like that senior moment that you have. This is going to end, and I'm not going to be here next year.
It's kinda your final hurrah.. But, knowing that LSU softball is way bigger then you as a person and how that the legacy is going to continue even after you are gone, and they are still going to be playing, and there will still be girls in purple and gold, and what do you want to leave.
So I think that I was enjoying the moment more then trying to win a championship. I realize that being in that jersey is what makes me happy, even if we don't win it.
That sounds crazy. You think that you would want it more. That you should want the championship more. Actually, no. I just want to practice more with those girls. I just want to be with those girls more, and I just wanted to be a Tiger for as long as I could.
It's not like it struck a fear into the teammates that I had either. They understood, ..."hey someday I'll get there mentally. I don't know where you're at really. But I'm going to be a senior here someday and be there with you mentally through that."
I don't know, When you look at a senior, you can tell that they have been through it. Through the ringer, the shuttles, and all that. Through the stress and the big moments, and that they aren't afraid of it anymore. I don't think I was afraid of it anymore. I was just afraid of not being a Tiger.
Q - How did you feel after your last college game in Oklahoma City, after falling short of another National Championship goal?
Jaquish - That year we finished the worse that we ever finished. Our first year we made it to the semi-finals. Our second year we made it to the semi-finals. So we finished in third place back to back seasons. The last season, I'm not sure what we finished. I don't remember. But I know it wasn't close to third.
It was the worse year that it could have happened. But, after the last game, I believe we lost to Oregon. We went into the locker room, and the coaches were outside of the locker room kinda just talking.
I said, "Hey, I want to say something to y'all." .. and usually I would have said, "Hey, look, we should have done this better. This is why we lost." You know, give them the losing speech, like what we could do to get better, and this, that, and the other. But I just told them, "Thank You. I want to thank everyone of you for allowing me to step my cleats in this dirt again and to end my career here."... Then the water works happened. It's so crazy that it's over. But I told them, "A lot of you are coming back next year and I'll be watching and waiting, so go make me proud." ... That's all I said.
Q - How did your professional career begin? How were you notified about who drafted you in the NPF?
Jaquish - They actually drafted us before the World Series. So it was, .. yea, yea, that's great, but I'm trying to win a championship, playing with my team for the last time. We didn't get to have that moment when where it's like, "Wow, I'm a professional athlete." That's one of the top, elite things that you can be as a person or as a human. But yea, they drafted me and Bailey.
We had a watch party out at Tiger Park, so that was really special. Everyone was really excited. But Bailey and I were trying to stay focused on what we really wanted to do as seniors and what legacy we wanted to leave.
Q - The Chicago Bandits drafted you?
Jaquish - Yes, they did. It was the craziest thing I ever did.
Ten days after the World Series. Ten days after I realized I wasn't a Tiger anymore, I had to take a plane flight and go play in a game that same day. Fly on a plane, land, and go play a game. On a different team, wearing a different jersey.
It was just such a shock to me. I don't think I said one word. It was just so weird. I don't know how I was feeling about it. I was tired, I just got off of a plane.
But the other girls were like, "This is how it is." The professional girls would say, "You better suck it up and start playing. We don't care about your college game and you have to help us win this, and you have to be a part of this team now."
It took me awhile, but I ended up loving it there, and loving Chicago. The good thing was that I was still playing softball, because that was my true love. It's my true love to play softball. So I was excited that I could still do that.
I also made the All-League team. I played catcher a lot in the League and the girls were really awesome and they just love to play. I mean they don't play for the money obviously. So they play for the pride and the passion. I really respected that and could get behind them on that.
Q - How excited were you when you found out that the championship series of the NPF was going to be played at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge?
Jaquish - I was so shocked about it. I think they announced it a mid way through the season that LSU won the bid on the Pro Championship Series. I thought, wow. This is like a Cinderella story. I can't believe I get to play a game and sink my cleats in that dirt again. Being in a different jersey, but still playing on my favorite field, in my favorite park. Yea, that was something special for sure.
Q - After your rookie season in Chicago, you ended up playing for a different team in your second year?
Jaquish - Yes. They traded me for a draft pick and some money.
So I got traded to the Pride and they were the number one team in the League, so I was super excited about that.
It was a great opportunity. It was a little more money for me. I was really excited. I really didn't care. I was just excited to play some softball.
They are located in Viera, Florida. So I went from city life to beach life, but I wasn't mad about it because I love the beach. Our apartments were out on the beach, so I would go outside and go take a run on the beach. I felt,... Oh, this is great. I'm a pro athlete, ... It was fun. It was a lot of fun.
We also went on to win the League Championship that year. That year I actually split time between the Pride and the USA Olympic Team.
Q - So with the USA team you won two gold metals? One in the World Championship and one in the Pan-Am Games? Tell us what that was like to win gold metals...
Jaquish - That felt similar to college ball. The pride that you take in the colors that you are wearing. The pride that you take in representing something bigger then yourself. That felt a lot like college ball. It gave me a hope, that maybe professional softball could be like this someday. Maybe people can get behind us like they did for the USA team.
So, yea. It definitely felt natural to me. I felt, yea this is how it's suppose to be. I learned a lot on that team. I learned a lot about having pride in your country and being viewed as the best team in the world. How that mean't about your work ethic and playing together as a team. So that was crazy too. It was a crazy ride.
Actually, I was on a national team in 2013. It was team Puerto Rico. I don't think a lot of people know that. The captain of their team asked me to play summer ball with them. At the time, the Olympics weren't even in question.
I said yes. I'll play for team Puerto Rico. Go travel the world and play softball. That sounded like fun. I got the okay from Coach Beth to do it. So I played for them for three years, 2013, 14, & 15. In 2016 and 2017, I didn't play for them.
Then I got contacted by team USA. So I began to think, man should I go to this tryout? I had a hard time waking up every morning saying, "Do I want to represent team Puerto Rico, or do I want to represent my country?
Both teams were good enough to make it to the Olympics and qualify. I felt comfortable being with team Puerto Rico. I had become their team captain, and was playing in every game. I don't want to be comfortable, ever.
I always want to be challenged. I always want to be pushed to my limits.
I may not even make team USA. I might go to that try out and burn my bridge with Puerto Rico, and not even make the team. But I'm willing to do that, because I want to be the best in the world. If I'm not willing to risk it and to get better and put myself in a challenging environment everyday, then your not willing to be the best in the world.
I had lawyers get involved. They had to release me from the team. It was a crazy process, but eventually they ended up releasing me from team Puerto Rico and allowed me to play for team USA and then qualify for the Olympics.
You can bet every time we played Puerto Rico they plucked me a few times. We beat them every time we played them. I actually hit a home run against them in the World Championships to win the game, and then they didn't pitch to me after that. It was fun.
Q - Who are you currently playing with? The California Commotion?
Jaquish - Yes. We were suppose to report April 17th, but they ended up cancelling the pre-spring dates because of the virus. So we are on a month to month bases on knowing if we are going to play or not. It's kinda sad but it's a softball game vs. world health and this world epidemic, so we understand completely.
I also want to inform you about this other League that is brand new, that no one knows about. I did sign with them as well. So right after the NPF League, there is this thing called Athletes Unlimited. I think it's 52 girls and they are their own coaches and they are their own draft people. You get points by winning games. You get points by winning innings. You get points by your staff and whoever has the most points after the week gets to be a captain and draft their own team. So every week there will be a new team and a new set of captains drafting.
We have two "billion dollar" investors coming in to invest in this League, making it a six week League in Chicago. So it's brand new. No one really knows about it. But I would like people to start becoming informed about that. There website is: www.auprosports.com ...
Q - When your finish playing pro softball, what are your career plans?
Jaquish - I definitely want to coach. I love coaching actually. It's one of my other favorite things to do. To coach the game and to learn from the younger generation.
There are so many new things coming out now with Exit Speed, Launching and all those things that weren't around when I was starting to play. Just learning the game and teaching the game is one of my passions.
I do have a coaching opportunity, but I'm not going to disclose that yet until I sign the contract. But definitely Division I softball coaching is one of my favorite things.
I was a volunteer coach at LSU after my senior year. It was a hands on position. Since I could play any position, Coach Beth would tell me, whoever needs whatever, you better be there. I was like, "Yes Coach."
Q - Can you tell us a little bit about Coach Beth Torina?
Jaquish - Yea, I would love too. She gets it. She understands that she's not just coaching softball games anymore.
I feel like she has matured as a coach with just teaching the game, and she teaches us how to be women. I think that is very special. She has your best interest and I think that she will find what your weakest point is at and she will move your threshold, which is what a great coach does.
So if my normal is batting 300 with a couple of RBIs, she'll always try to push your normal and get you to your breaking point so you can get better. I just appreciate her and she has such great dialog with her players.
She has an open door policy. She will let you call her a 12 midnight if we needed too. We always kept her three little girls into consideration when we called her though. She was always there.
I view her now as a family member then a coach. She is very special to me and my family. I'm forever grateful for her and will always learn from her.
Q - Anything you would like to tell the LSU fans?
Jaquish - LSU fans, man... They are the best. They are the best.. I know everyone says that about their fans at their school but I really think LSU fans are most invested.
They will tell you when you're doing something wrong, but they will defend you against anyone else who is saying something bad about you.
So I feel like that's a type of family thing that you don't get anywhere else. It's out of love to be the best and to always honor LSU and to always keep Louisiana State above everything else.
I appreciate them. I love them so much. That's another reason why I chose LSU is because there is actual fans there. People actually come to your games. People actually care. People are invested.
They bring their daughters to the games and they say, "We are your biggest fan." There is just something there in that connection that you have with the fan base that you don't get anywhere else. I don't care what anyone else says. But, yes, they are the best. They are my favorite and just keep on being them.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Cole Freeman grew up in Mandeville, LA and attended Lakeshore High School where he excelled in baseball earning All-State and All-District honors. He also was a three-year All-District performer for the basketball team as a point guard.
He would move on to play second base for Delgado CC, earning NJCAA All-American and Gold Glove honors in 2015. ...
At LSU he was a superb player, who started at second baseman for two seasons (2016 and 2017).
He is known for his all-out hustling style of play, great infield defense, outstanding speed on the bases, and excellent hitting ability. His bunting and base-stealing ability would put pressure on opposing team's defense. Freeman always seemed to make the big defensive play at the right time.
He was named a Cape Cod League All-Star in the summer of 2016 while playing for the Wareham (Mass.) Gatemen, while also winning the 2016 Cape Cod League batting title.
He was a member of the 2016 and 2017 SEC Academic Honor Roll.
In the 2017 MLB draft, he was selected in the fourth round by the Washington Nationals. He is currently playing for the Harrisburg Senators in the "AA" Eastern League.
Q - Favorite Color?
Cole - Blue
Q - Favorite Food?
Cole - Crabs
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Cole - Sammy Sosa
Q - Favorite Music Artist?
Cole - Mike Stud
Q - Favorite Movie?
Cole - Step Brothers
Q - Favorite Actor?
Cole - Mark Wahlberg
Q - Favorite Sports Team?
Cole - LSU & New Orleans Saints
Q - Where did you grow up?
Cole - Mandeville. I was born in Metairie, then moved to the north shore when I was four years old.
Q - What were your two favorite sports to play while growing up?
Cole - Basketball and baseball
Q - While attending Lakeshore High School, did you play multiple sports?
Cole - Yes, I played baseball and basketball there. I tried getting volleyball there, but they weren't having it. I played volleyball in junior high and loved it. It was so much fun cutting up with everybody. A bunch of the other schools didn't have it, so they would of had to make it like a club team and with the school being so new, they just couldn't do it.
Q - I see you were All-State and All-District in baseball and pretty good in basketball as well?
Cole - Yes, I think I still own a couple of basketball records over there, like charges and I don't know if I still have the assists one. Someone may have past me up in that one. I think I also have the most steals. I think I was All-District one year.
Q - Were you recruited by anyone for baseball or basketball?
Cole - No.. I wasn't even recruited for baseball. Well, the only team that did hit me up for baseball was a place called Spring Hill. I think they were located in Mobile, AL. But that was my only baseball offer coming out of high school.
Q - So how did you end up playing baseball at Delgado Community College?
Cole - Yea, one of their coaches I kinda grew up with, Chris Westcott, who lived in our neighborhood. He was really a blessing to me. I met him when I was really young. I was about ten. I actually met him at a LSU vs. ULL game that my dad took me to. We found out then that he lived in our neighborhood, and he kinda took me under his wing. So, I called him and asked if he could get me into Delgado, and three weeks before college started I was able to get in.
Q - From what I understand, Delgado has a pretty solid baseball program?
Cole - Yea, I think starting in 2013 is when they started kinda turning that corner and establishing themselves. They went to the World Series the year before I got there, Then we went back to the World Series during both of my years there. Then I think they went the following year after I left too. So they have been in the top ten in the country for the last seven to eight years. Joe Sherman was my head coach there.
Q - How was your experience at Delgado and what kind of a coach was Coach Sherman?
Cole - To him, I'm in forever debt. To Coach Sherman, the other coaches, and the whole Delgado program. I tell people all the time, that the best thing that ever happened to me was getting an opportunity to go there. It obviously furthered my career. If I could, I would do it again in a heart beat. School wise, I think it was the right choice for me to. It was a little smaller right out of the gate. Kinda helped me get my feet wet for college. That program means everything to me, as well as the people. As long as I can play and help that program out, the way they helped me out. I'd do that the rest of my life. Yea, I'm always proud to say that I'm a former Delgado Dolphin.
Q - Can you tell us how you got your opportunity to play at LSU after your Sophomore season at Delgado?
Cole - It actually started my freshman year, after my fall season. We had a our exit meeting with Coach Joe. As I walked in he started to tell me how he thought I did. Then he told me that I would be starting when we would come back to start the season. I went into the fall thinking, you know because I was coming behind someone that had just went to the World Series and was returning. So I was thinking that I was going to still have to stay behind him, then maybe redshirt or something. But I beat him out.
Then I asked coach if he thought I could play at LSU? He said, "I think you can. You still need to work on some things, but I think you can get there." So, I kinda put it in his mind real early, that, Hey, look, That is where I really want to be.
So I think he kinda saw that and he kinda pushed me in that sense. He knew that was in the back of my mind. I wanted to go to one of the top places in the country.
So, he decided that he was going to coach me and treat me in the way that it would take to get me there. So I kept working and working.
Then after my freshmen year, I had a pretty good summer. That's when I heard some chirps about LSU looking at me.
My big thing coming into my sophomore season in the fall, I was going to put all of my hard classes in the fall. So I didn't have to worry about anything during the season, but focus on baseball to get my best shot at LSU.
It ended up that we happened to play at LSU during the fall, and actually I probably had the worse game of my college career when I needed to have a good game in front of Coach Mainieri and Nolan Cain. They were all there. I went 0-4 with a strike out and committed two errors, and I thought my chance at LSU was over.
I ended up getting a knock on my hotel door and it was Coach Sherman. He asked me how I was doing and I said, "I feel terrible. I just had my worse game and they were watching." Then he said, "I just want to let you know that Nolan Cain and Paul Mainieri asked for your number after the game." That kinda shocked me, because of how bad the game was, but it helped relieved a lot of stress. If they liked me after that game, then I can't do much worse than that.
That's a story that I always tell the younger kids now. Because the reason why he came and got my number was because he liked the way I was hustling and the way that I was responding to making all those mistakes. Anyone can have a good game and keep their head up, but I just kept bouncing back. I ended up making two good plays after I made an error. Then after another error, I ended up making a diving play. There was a ball that I popped up, but I still hustled and ran fast, and they ended up dropping it, so I was able to get to second. So it was the little things.
At the time I really didn't understand it like I do now. But like I said, It's a story that I try to tell to a bunch of younger kids that in order for you to get to a place like LSU, you don't have to go 4-4 with two home runs. You got to do the little things, the intangibles.
Yea, after that I got a call from Andy Cannizaro two weeks later and went on my visit in October. The rest is history.
Q - Tell us about Coach Paul Mainieri?
Cole - Yea, He's got this persona. Obviously he has this status being the LSU head coach. When you get around him, for some reason you want to do your absolute best, almost in a way to thank him for your opportunity for being there.
He knows how to get the best out of you. I think that is one thing that us players always talked about. When he is on the field you always wanted to do something good to impress him because he's your coach, but you just wanted to go out there and play hard for him.
He knows how to put pressure on you in practice and get you ready for the game. Because I think he understands how big of a stage it is. Obviously with every game being on TV and all the fans being there like no other college in the nation.
He knows how to put that pressure on you and he wants to see if you can handle it. He did that right out the gate with putting all of us at short stop after Bregman left. Trey Dawson, O'Neal Lochridge, myself, and Kramer.
I remember the first week, it was exhausting, because we would have practice, and then after we would have short stop tryouts. Us four would stay on the field and take ground balls for 45 minutes and timing it, and that was all after a long practice.
He obviously knew what it took to play there and how to get it out of us. Some people faltered and some people rose up. I think that's how he gets the best out of people. He's going to go there and see how much pressure you can take, see how you handle it.
But, I mean the experience was incredible. I'll thank Coach Mainieri for giving me my dream job, I like to say. My dream opportunity for the rest of my life, and I want to say I hope the memories don't slip for a long, long time, because I'd like to always remember ever second.
Q - Can you tell us about meeting Coach Skip Bertman for the first time as a LSU player and some of the things you two have talked about?
Cole - Yea, I was in kinda a "awe" the first time I met him.
That was one of the things that I would talk to my dad about, that by the time I was leaving LSU, how cool it was that Skip would come into a room and we could just have conversation, because obviously I was already familiar with him, and we kinda had a relationship.
I thought that was one of the coolest things about going to LSU. Obviously, I watched him while I was growing up. I watched him coach. He's an icon. Anything that he had to say, I was listening.
I remember one of the biggest compliments that I ever got was he was standing up during the game, when I was being introduced with my parents, and my parents were talking to him. This was during my senior year and I remember my dad told me after the game that he got to meet Skip and they got to talk about me a lot and he gave me one of the coolest compliments ever.
I kept asking.. "What is it? What is it?" ... He just kept dragging it out. Then he said, "He thinks you're the best second base defender that LSU has ever seen." When he told me that, It like opened my eyes. I was like, "WOW!" That's Skip Bertman saying that? That's like the ultimate goal when you get a compliment from Skip Bertman. Yea, he is an icon.
Every opportunity I could get to just talk to him. I did. Talk to him in the dug out or outside of baseball, it was just awesome. I definitely cherish those moments.
Q - Who are some of the former LSU baseball greats that you have had conversations with during your career?
Cole - Yea, I got pretty close to Mikie Mahtook and especially some of the team that was a couple of years before me. I think Mahtook was probably one of the older ones who I got to talk too. I got to meet Buzzy.
A bunch of those guys I got to go to dinner with right before you leave for spring training. They try to have a dinner each year, and you have a couple of guys from each year, each team would all go to dinner and just tell stories.
But yea, I remember Mason Katts. When I was at Delgado, I met him at Mardi Gras and we started talking. I told him that I was going to LSU and I remember one of the things he told me about Coach Mainieri was, he said, "Listen, when he kinda jumps your butt, kinda get back at him. Jump his butt back and say, you understand you messed up and that it's not going to happen again!" He added, "He likes that. He likes to see a little response, and someone who's not going to cave under."
So, not only three games into the season, I got my first start at short stop, and in the first inning I dropped the transfer on a double play ball that I was about to feed to second. Then of course the next ball, the dude hit a double, scored two, and I would have gotten us out of the inning if I would have turned it.
So he meets me right down by the water cooler, and he just starts going at me. I won't say what he said, but he was going at me. I got like half way down the dug out and it click for some reason in my head that Mason Katts told me that day. So I turned around and I was like.. "Alright Coach, I understand, I messed up, it's not going to happen again!" ... and he just looked at me, nodded his head and walked away. I was like, damn, Mason was right!
Q - Would you tell us a little about the 2016 season, which was your first at LSU?
Cole - Starting in the fall, I just wanted to earn a spot. I didn't care where.
Then in the fall I kinda struggled with my hitting a little bit while making that next jump, with the pitchers. I think I only hit like 220 in the fall.
But I played good defense, and I played third base the entire fall, and I had never played third my entire life. So we get through the fall and they tell me I'm going to start at third to start the season.
So we come back for the season and I start my first two games at third base. Everything seemed good. Then over the next two weeks I start a rotation playing short, and I really hadn't played short since my senior year in high school, and then after that is when I made the jump over to second to where I played my entire life. That's when stuff started clicking.
Then over the fall, I kinda had to make an adjustment with my swing. That's what Andy Cannizaro ended up helping me with. We kind of came up with an approach for me.
Obviously my biggest tool was running, so I had to learn how to bunt. I would bunt as much as I would hit, I think at practice. I would go out there for early work at 1:30pm and it would go until 3pm. Then I would take ground balls for probably 30 minutes. Then I would go bunt off of the machine for 30 minutes. Then I would hit for another 30 minutes. I had to learn to be great at bunting.
Then after that we kinda turned my approach to just turning on everything. I like to pull the ball, so he said, Let's go!, We came up with the saying, "Beat the 3rd baseman." ... It didn't matter how I was pitched, I was trying to pull it right by the 3rd baseman. If he wasn't playing in, then I was bunting.
I think I ended up setting the record for most sacrifice bunts. They really weren't sacrifice bunts, but if someone was on first base and I got thrown out, that's what it would go down as.
I was squaring around two for every four times at bat, every game. I kinda made that adjustment and it worked out for me. Especially starting the season out.
I think during the first two weeks I was hitting around 400. I was rolling, and it was a big jump from where I was in the fall. Just throughout the year, I continued on that path.
I remember coach moved me up in the lineup twice. The last time he moved me up in the lineup was after a Friday night game at Missouri. We faced Trendon Houte on Saturday. This dude was just a phenom. I had never seen somebody of his caliber.
I remember sitting in the dugout and I looked at the lineup and I'm batting, I can't remember, either first or second. So I look at the lineup and I walk away and Mainieri is looking at me and he says, "Huh, my hand must have slipped, huh Cole?" and I started laughing, and I was like, "I guess so." ... I was already in that game mind set with it being so close to game time and he said, "Let's see what you can do?" ..
Well, I went 0-5 with two strikeouts. After the game he said, "I don't think my hand is going to slip again." .. I was like, I understand. But then I was like, you put me against one of the toughest pitches in the nation, who I hadn't seen yet. But it was all part of it.
By the end of the season, articles were coming out and they were saying, "Best Nine Hole Hitter in the Country" ... I actually wanted to be at the top of the lineup, but when they started saying that, and while we were rolling, I kinda just embraced it. Hey, I'm going to be the best nine hole in the nation.
So, that's kinda what I wanted to go by at the end of the season. We were rolling and we caught fire. We were just clicking on all cylinders. Obviously look at what we did in the SEC Tournament. I don't know what happens to us in the SEC Tournaments, but something takes us over it feels like. It's absurd some of the things we do.
Then in the Regional, having to battle back against Rice for a winner take all, and Deichmann hitting that home run in the seventh inning. It was kinda crazy, with the whole "Rally Possum" thing.
The whole season is just kinda what you would hope for. With me going to LSU, with events like that, like the "Rally Possum" happening. Then with us kinda struggling at mid-season. Then us catching fire. Then us hosting a Regional. Then hosting a Super.
I remember at one point we were just hoping to make the tournament, then next thing you know we're locking up the seventh or eighth national seed. It was unreal. It was awesome.
Q - Please talk about and review 2017, your senior year?
Cole - Well, it started out after we lost to Coastal Carolina, we kinda wanted to all figure out what we all were going to do.
Me, and Poche', and Kramer, we just all kinda talked and we were just all kinda saying I think we need to make another run at this. I think if we all come back and with the people that we have coming in, that we were just right there. I think we really have a good shot at this.
We all said, we are all going to come back, and we started to realize that if we put the work in, that we will have a really good shot at winning it all.
When we came back in the fall, there was definitely a different feeling. We were more established as a team. We knew what positions we were all going to be playing. It was like, Hey! what do we need to do to take that next step? What does each individual have to get better at, to make the team better? The fall was a lot more relaxed then my junior season.
We came out the gate playing really, really good. Then we kinda struggled mi-way through again. I remember a lot of the fans were kinda freaking out, especially with us losing some mid-week games. We really weren't worried. We knew we were going to turn it around. The baseball season is a long one.
I remember we ended up losing to South Alabama at our place, after we had a big lead, and it was kinda at the end of the season. You know, I'm not a very vocal guy as far as talking to the team a lot. But after that game Coach Mainieri huddled us up and he didn't say anything to us. He just said, "Okay, Lets just get to work tomorrow at 1:30." ..
For some reason something took me over and I started lighting the team up in a sense. I was just like, "We are suppose to be this top team and we keep coming out here and laying an egg in the mid-week games! This is going to cost us a national seed. We need to get our sh*t together!" Just trying to say, "Hey! we're running out of time! We can't keep messing around with all these games, it's going to end up hurting us in the long run. If we get home field advantage, teams can't deal with that, as well as we can." I just kind of let into them a little bit.
Then Kramer, Deichmann, Poche', and Lange all kinda chirped in. We kinda had like a players meeting only out there. We just all kind of said, it's now or never. That's when we finally went on a run.
We started that week, then we finished in the SEC with Auburn and a couple of those teams. Then Obviously, what we did in the SEC Tournament was mind boggling. I think in the first three games, I can't remember how many runs we scored. Yea, we beat a great Kentucky team and then we had to go face a hot Arkansas team in the championship game, and we were able to win that.
Then we went into the Regional and did our thing there. Then on to the Supers and did our thing there. Then Obviously we got to the World Series, and that was by far the coolest thing that I ever got to experience.
Just with the status and the platform you are put on with all those eyes watching you, then the pressure. It was the coolest thing I ever got to do.
After beating Oregon State twice, we, as a team, thought we had it in the bag. We had lost to Florida earlier in the season, but we felt like we were a totally different team. We thought we were the better team going into that. We knew it was going to be tough losing Eric Walker, and us going to face Brady Singer in the first game.
Even though we knew we were short a starting pitcher, we just knew we had to get to game three.
After we lost game one, 4-3, I talked to the team out there and I said, "Listen, we knew this was going to be a tough game. They knew they had to win this game if they were going to beat us. I'm not worried at all. We're going to be just fine. We have Jared Poche' coming out tomorrow. There is no one else that I'd love to have take them out. Then after we beat them there, we are going to go and we'll have Lange. We're fine. This is how it's going to go. I'm not worried and I don't think you all should be worried."
The team was in good morale, after losing game one of the World Series. I promise you, the team had all the confidence in the world going into game two and getting to a game three. We just had a couple of breaks not go our way, and in the seventh and eighth innings, with first and third with no outs, and not scoring. Once you make mistakes like that, it's kinda tough to come back. But, it just didn't work out for us.
Q - Tell us about your draft process by the Washington Nationals?
Cole - At the time I didn't have an agent yet, so I was trying to handle it all by myself. I didn't have much leverage being a senior, but on the first day of the draft while I was at Lange's draft party, the Braves called me to talk and discuss money.
I really didn't care what round I went in, I just wanted to make as much money as I could after losing money from the year before.
The Rockies called me in the 4th round and I turned their offer down. Then the Nationals called me with an offer, and we negotiated to a number I agreed with. Next thing you know I ended up signing with them.
Right after the World Series I had to go to rehab because I was playing with a wrist injury for probably the last month and a half of the season. I had to be put in a cast, so I missed my whole short season. Rehabbed, and did the off-season.
When I got to my first full season, I started out in Hagerstown in Single A, and did pretty bad my first half. I only hit .222. I remember looking out and I was like, this is crazy. My last game I played was in front of 30,000 people, and now I'm out in the middle of Hagerstown, Maryland, playing in front of about 50 people and it's 45 degrees. At one point it was snowing.
All of my infield speaks nothing but Spanish. I couldn't speak to any of them. I was like, wow, this is a rude awakening.
I had to make some adjustments hitting wise, just like I did my junior year. I figured it out, and in my second half I hit .312. Ever since then it's kinda clicked, something at the plate with me.
Then I went into my second full season, playing for Potomac in Single A. Kinda got off on a good note there and never looked back.
That's where I started playing a little outfield in the second half, and kinda opened up the whole utility type of player they were trying to get. So I started learning how to play that.
Then I got invited to the Fall League. Went out there, Had a great time. Got to meet some of the guys from Florida's team that I played against. We all got to talk about the World Series and stuff like that. To me, that's the coolest thing, getting to speak to people you played against your whole life, that you've had big games against each other, and just getting to meet these guys as a person.
But then, now we are the point where we are now. Sitting and waiting for the call to go back.
Q - Is there anything you would like to tell the LSU fans?
Cole - Yes, That I'm forever in dept to their hospitality and that if there was anything in this world I could do, it would be to go back and play another game in front of all of them at the Box.
Playing for LSU and going out there and representing them is by far the coolest thing I've ever got to do. I'll cherish it for the rest of my life.
When I tell you that they mean more to us then they could ever imagine, it's really the truth. Because when we are running around out there, we're not just running out there for the name on our back and the name on our front. We're running out there to perform and to hopefully bring joy and happiness to them, because that's really what gets us going. Seeing how much joy we can bring to all of them by just playing a game that we've played our entire life and that we love so much.
Q - What about your "Heart Has No Limit" program?
Cole - Yea, My Heart Has No Limit, kinda took its own little thing because of LSU. It's just my story growing up.
Like I said, I didn't have anywhere to go coming out of high school and for me to get where I was took a lot of the right people for me to be around and kinda the right timing.
I just want people to know that if there is anything you want to achieve and you put your heart into it, you can do it. It doesn't matter what other people are saying or believe. It's not their dream, it's not their belief, it's what you believe in.
Just go out and do it. Don't let anyone tell you no. Put in the work and I promise you, if you put everything that you have into it, you can achieve it. Once you get there, keep pushing. Don't ever stop.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former LSU pitcher, Ben McDonald. McDonald was a solid basketball player at LSU for Dale Brown, but it was on the baseball diamond that Big Ben is most known and remembered for.
He had a great three year career wearing a LSU baseball uniform, helping the Skip Bertman lead Tigers reach the College World Series in Omaha twice.
McDonald would become a two-time All-American, win the Golden Spikes Award, and win a gold metal in the 1988 Olympics.
The Baltimore Orioles would draft him number one overall in the 1989 MLB Draft. He became the only number one draft pick to win his first five starts in Major League baseball history.
After nine seasons in the Majors, he would retire in 1997 due to arm and shoulder problems. He finished with a 78-70 record, a 3.91 career ERA, an impressive total of 24 shutouts and 894 strikeouts in 198 starts.
“Ben might be the best overall athlete who ever came through LSU athletic program,” Skip Bertman would once say, adding,. “After two years in basketball he came to baseball full time. In high school, he was naturally in three sports, and for someone to play two sports at such a high level tells a lot about his athletic ability. Ben was a good player for Dale Brown, but baseball was his best sport."
McDonald is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
He currently helps cover Baltimore Orioles baseball and works for the SEC Network as a baseball analyst.
He lives in Denham Springs with his wife Nicole, daughter Jorie and son Jase.
Q - What is your favorite color?
Ben - Green
Q - What is your favorite food?
Ben - Seafood
Q - Who was your favorite Pro Athlete growing up and currently?
Ben - Growing up I was a big fan of Pete Rose & Nolan Ryan. More recent years, Cal Ripken Jr. who I got to play with for seven years and Michael Jordan was so cool to watch.
Q - Who is your favorite music artist?
Ben - George Straight
Q - Favorite movie?
Ben - Tombstone
Q - Favorite Actor?
Ben - Kevin Costner
Q - Favorite Sports Team?
Ben - Baltimore Orioles
Q - Where did you grow up?
Ben - I grew up in Denham Springs and still live there now. Its always been my home. I now live across the street from my mom and dad. They have lived in the same place since I've been like five years old I guess, you know. Nearly fifty years in the same spot. That's pretty cool.
Q - At Denham Springs High School, you played multiple sports?
Ben - Yes, I made all-state in three different sports during my last two years. My junior year as an all-state kicker, senior year an all-state punter in football, and then all-state in basketball and baseball for those years as well. I even played a little bit on the golf team, but it kinda interfered to much with baseball being a spring sport.
Q - What was your favorite sport to play when you were growing up?
Ben - You always try to encourage kids these days to play multiple sports, I think that's where it's at.
I was one of those kids that would say when they would ask, "What's your favorite sport?", I would always say, "Whatever is in season." Whatever I could do at the time was my favorite sport.
I played Major League baseball, so you would think that baseball was my favorite sport, but not so much.
I actually enjoyed basketball more when I was growing up and everyone forgets that I went to LSU on a basketball scholarship.
I love basketball. I loved playing for Dale Brown, it was one of the highlights of my career.
I just liked a little bit of everything. I always considered myself to be pretty athletic, so I just loved staying busy. There was never a day that I went home from school with nothing to do. I was always playing something. I enjoyed all of it.
Q - Being so successful in multiple sports must have made your recruiting process pretty wild and crazy? You must of had multiple schools recruiting you for multiple sports?
Ben - Oh yea. I was more highly recruited out of high school to play basketball then baseball.
I remember there was over 100 division one school who offered me a basketball scholarship, including almost everyone in the SEC.
With baseball there was almost as many too. But I always wanted to play basketball, it was always my favorite sport.
It actually came down to LSU, Mississippi State, and the University of Texas. They all were going to let me play both sports.
Of course it was hard, when you're a local kid, It's hard to get away from the state of Louisiana. I never wanted to play anywhere else. I grew up like a lot of kids, going to LSU baseball games, going to LSU basketball games, going to LSU football games. Purple and gold was always in my blood and that's where I wanted to go to school. So I'm very thankful I got the opportunity to do so.
Q - Well with purple and gold being in your blood, that must have helped make it easy for Dale Brown to help you make your final decision?
Ben - Yea, it was. It was a tough decision, because I really liked Mississippi State too.
Ron Polk was the head coach at Mississippi State and at the time, he had the number one program in the SEC. Polk had Palmeiro and Bobby Thigpen, Jeff Brantley and Will Clark all at Mississippi State and they were going to all these College World Series, so that's why they were kinda on my radar.
Skip Bertman had just gotten to LSU. But then my senior year in high school, Skip took LSU to the College World Series for the first time and that kinda sealed the deal. I said this is going to be a solid program and I wanted to go be a part of that. So as they say, the rest is history.
Q - Want to tell us what it was like playing for Dale Brown and Skip Bertman?
Ben - I tell people all the time, Dale Brown, you know, when you're a 18, 19 year old kid you always don't understand some of the things that coaches tell you.
This goes for Bertmen too. You think they are being hard on you. But as you get older you realize that they were there and they really cared about you, and they wanted what was best for you, both on and off the court.
The biggest complement I got from Dale Brown is, and I told him this the other day, that it really took me some time and that I really understand now, and I appreciate the way that he treated us all. He really, truly cared about us as much off the court as he did on the court. And as a father now, sending my kids off to college, you got to trust the coach. The coach is really going to really impacted their lives in a lot ways in the course of two, three, or four years. However long they're there. You got to be able to trust.
Dale Brown was a father figure to me, and Skip Bertman was too. They helped me grow up and taught lessons both on and off the court that I have taught to my kids and to the teams that I have coached over the years. My boy's teams and daughter's teams over the years.
They just impacted my life in so many ways. But they have impacted so many others student athletes lives as well. So I was very fortunate to play for both of them and learn so much. As the years go by you really realize how much you learned and how much they impacted your life in so many different ways.
Who gets to play for both Dale Brown and Skip Bertman during their college career? So that was a lot of fun for me.
Q - So, how was it being a two sport athlete during your LSU Career?
Ben - I played both basketball and baseball my freshman year. We went to the Elite Eight in basketball and the College World Series in baseball all in the same year. So that was a good freshman year.
Because we went so far into the NCAA playoffs in basketball, I missed half the baseball season. I wanted to make the Olympic team the following year in 1988. So I knew the only way to do that was to be in baseball the whole next year to show everyone potentially what I could do on the baseball level so I could be on the Olympic team, which doesn't come along very often.
After my freshman year I went off to the Alaskan Summer League and played a summer out there and really got in shape. Needing it really good because of missing half the baseball season. It helped my fastball pick up. I hit 97 on the radar gun, and I kinda knew at that point that baseball may be my future to make it to the professional level.
So I went back to school and told Dale Brown that I was giving up basketball. It really was kind of a funny story. Of course he was totally against it. But then he swears to this day that he told me, and he did tell me this again the other day, "That I could have played in the NBA." but he said "That you made the right decision. I don't think you would have been the impact player at the NBA level that you were in MLB, being the first pick overall and stuff."
So I told him that I wanted to make the Olympic team. I appreciate everything you have done for me and I hate to do this because I love the game of basketball. But I got to give baseball a full shot.
He said, "Okay"... and I'll tell you what kind of guy he is. He said "Ben, just in case you want to come back, I'm going to leave you on basketball scholarship."
Well, right before school started in October the entire basketball team got sick. They couldn't even practice. They only had maybe seven players that they could put on the court at one time. So he called me and asked me if I could please come back and be a part of this for awhile.
So, I went back out to play basketball and help coach out. I'm on basketball scholarship and he needs me right now so I'm going to go help him out.
I used that to help get my legs in great shape from running up and down the court for two or three months.
So I told him, "Coach, I'm going to come play basketball and do whatever you need me to do, but as soon as January 1st comes rolling around, I'm going out to baseball full time." He said, "Done! Perfect!" ....
So my basketball career was really only a full year and a couple of months, is basically what it was.
Q - What was it like to play in the College World Series?
Ben - Getting to play in the College World Series and the Elite Eight as a 18-19 year old kid, it was just an unbelievable experience.
You don't realize what you were a part of until years down the road. But to compete on that high level of college sports and go that deep into the playoffs, of course being able to do that with both of those squads in the same year.
It was cool for me that Coach Bertman, again, another genius out there and to kind of get into it out there at the ground level of LSU baseball.
We were kind of the building blocks to what would come of five national titles in nine years.
They went to the College World Series once before I got there, then we went twice ('87 & '89) out of the three years I was there. We finished third I think in both years that I went. While we were so close, we just couldn't get it done for whatever reason. But we also were the building blocks for the recruiting.
Coach Bertman use to always say, "You got to be there a few times before you really think you could win." My group of players actually went. Then the ones that came after us said, "You know what? LSU has been to the College World Series three or four times now. Why can't we go and win now?"
So, that's why I say we were the building blocks of what would come later on with those five national titles. The first time they won it was in 1991. My last season was in 1989. So boy, when they started to win them, they piled them up quickly.
It was cool for me to be on the ground floor of that, and Coach Bertman came in started to put LSU baseball on the map several years before I got there. Then we really took it to another level during my years there.
I'm proud to have been a part of that. Helping to build one of the elite programs, not only in the SEC, but one of the most elite baseball programs in the Country.
Q - How did you find out that you were the #1 overall pick by the Baltimore Orioles?
Ben - Believe it or not, but the draft back then use to be at the College World Series. So we were actually at the College World Series, ready to play that night and the draft was that day.
So, that's when I found out I was picked #1 overall. So I had to go to a press conference and talk about that for an hour, then three hours later, try to go play a baseball game.
It was a very difficult time. Everyone would ask "What was that like?" .. For me it was just relief more than anything. It's exciting. It's a dream come true, but there is also so much relief because there is so much anticipation that goes with the draft.
With me being one of these guys that came back from the Olympic team with success, I was kinda touted to be, if I stayed healthy, the #1 pick in the Country.
So I had to live up to that the entire season and talk about it all the time. It would kind of wear on me a little bit. Having to talk about it so much with the media.
So I really didn't get to enjoy my junior year like I wanted too, but it was still a heck of an experience.
Q - How long did it take for you to make it to the Orioles from the Minor League level?
Ben - I spent ten days in the Minor Leagues. I signed on August the 19th of '89, then I was in the Big Leagues September the 1st. I had two Minor League starts. One in "A" ball and one in "AA", then was called up.
Q - How many years did you play in the Major Leagues?
Ben - I played seven year with the Orioles. Then I went over to the Milwaukee Brewers and played two years there before my arm just gave out on me.
To make a long story short, it was three surgeries trying to come back from rotator cuff and injury problems in my shoulder.
None of the surgeries really worked. I spend the better part of three years trying to rehabbing and having surgeries.
I was out of the game at 30-31 years old. Just when you start to kinda really figure it out and start to get into the prime of your career, my career was over.
Those are the breaks of it. Not many players get to go out on their own terms, you know? I certainly didn't, but I'm very thankful for the nine years of Major League baseball that I got to play.
Q - How was your experience with the Olympics in 1988?
Ben - I was always a big fan of the Olympics while I was growing up. I loved to watch the Summer Olympics. Watch all the track and field events, the swimming events.
It was all very exciting me to see the other Countries compete against one another when I was a kid.
To finally get to experience that. Man, I'm going to tell you, when you put the red, white, and blue on, you're representing your college, your home town, the state you're from, your family. You're representing your Country. When it says "USA" across your chest, it doesn't get any better than that.
We had a long summer where we played a bunch of games. We took two different trips to Japan. We were over in Italy for the World Championships. Then we also had a US tour around the United States. We finally ended up in Seoul, South Korea for the Olympics.
What an experience that was. I had two starts and threw two complete games. I only gave up one run in each game. I also still hold the record in Italy for pitching two complete game shutouts. So I pitched some of my best baseball that summer.
It was cool for me, I pitched against North Korea and I think Puerto Rico. It was such a really cool deal.
I always wondered what it would feel like to stand up on that gold metal platform and have them drape a gold metal across your neck like that. To be able to experience that was at the very top of my career.
Q - Who was the head coach of that USA Baseball Team?
Ben - Mark Marquess out of Stanford was the head coach. Our coach Skip Bertman was the pitching coach. Ron Polk from Mississippi State was one of the coaches as well. So we had a great Hall of Fame type coaching staff. A bunch of really good ball players.
To be able to do that was really fun. It's an experience that you will never forget. You make life long friends and the places you get to go. I had barely been out of the state of Louisiana hardly until then. Then you end up in Japan, Italy, South Korea. It was a heck of an experience.
Q - What did you do after retiring from Major League baseball?
Ben - I coached my daughter's teams for a long time.
Then the way the broadcasting thing started was with CST, when they use to show all the LSU baseball games. I did that for four or five years with Lyn Rollins.
Then I would do the ESPNU Thursday Night Baseball Show on college baseball. Then the Orioles heard about that and had me go back to Baltimore to do some radio games. Actually the first package was some radio and TV post game show. So I started doing about 15 Orioles games a year.
Then the SEC Network kicked off and that's when it went from a hobby to a job. I started doing about 60 college events a year. Then started doing some digital SEC Plus stuff.
The Orioles stuff started to get more and more, so I got more involved with them. To make a long story short on that, the last couple of years have been pretty busy.
This year I had 129 games scheduled between college baseball and Orioles baseball. I love it, but the traveling is tough.
I was scheduled to do 84 Orioles games and about 45 college games this year before all of this stuff started to happen. With college ball being cancelled after only a few games, and I'm hopeful that Major League baseball to get going eventually. I'm hoping for July, if possible.
Q - How did you feel about LSU replacing the old Alex Box Stadium?
Ben - I was totally against it at first. You know how we are? It's kinda like this Coronavirus, anytime there is something new in our lives that we're used too, then something new pops up.
There is always some uncertainty. There was so much tradition at the old Box. That's where I had blood, sweat, and tears, along with a lot of other ball players, you hate to see it go.
But the new Box, God, is it beautiful.The more I kept doing baseball games there, the more I kept going back and the fans got behind it.
The 2009 team won a national championship pretty quickly. So it kinda became okay. Now it's not even a thought other then when you ride by where the Box use to be.
Now it seems like there is a store or strip mall there and a parking lot. That kind of hurts your feeling a little bit. But that's part of it. You can't stop it.
There has been so many new ball parks around the SEC. LSU was one of the first ones. You go around and Ole Miss has added on, Mississippi State has added on. Alabama has a new one. Vanderbilt does too. It goes on and on. It's just expansion and moving forward.
I love the new Box now. It's a really cool place with a great atmosphere, but I sure do miss the old Box in some ways too. It needed to happen for the fans. LSU has lead the nation in attendance for 24 consecutive years now. So it was a great way to get people in the stands.
Q - What was it like to have LSU retire your number?
Ben - That was cool. You know as an athlete you hope to be remembered in some way, you know.. You hope to have an impact on the young kids that are coming up in some ways.
Like I did when I was a kid, I would watch certain players play. Whether it was basketball, baseball, or football. But you hope to have an impact in some way.
Coach Bertman had felt like that I had done enough and that I helped impact the program like we talked about earlier. That I was one of the stepping stones of LSU baseball. Helping put LSU baseball on the map. He told me this the other day, Skip said. "You know there has been several number one picks in basketball, baseball, and football. and now that Joe Burrow has won the Heisman, we have two Heisman Trophy winners. We've had several award winners in basketball, like Pete Maravich, Chris Jackson, and Shaq. But we only have one Golden Spikes Award winner in the history of LSU baseball." He said that the other day.
I never really thought of it like that. But when you think about it, it means something, you know... I'm thankful for the career that I had at LSU. The impact that I've had.
I'm also a LSU kid growing up. I grew up 20 minutes away from the University. Even though I may have considered going to another place coming out of high school, my heart and soul was going to end up at LSU one way or the other. It was cool to get to play in your hometown team.
Q - One thing I remember as a fan is when they talked about the size of your hands, and that you were able to hold seven baseballs in a hand at one time.
Ben - Yea. We got to doing that with the Olympic team. Andy Benes who was the number one pick in the MLB draft the year before me was on the team. He was a big ole guy, my height too. So we got to messing around. Well, everyone remembers Johnny Bench and how many balls Johnny Bench held years ago. Bench held seven also. So we wanted to see if we could do it. Both of us were able to do it. But there aren't many guys that have hands that big where you can hold them and turn your hand over and not have any of the balls fall out. That's just something that I was always able to do.
Q - Is there anything you want to tell the LSU fans?
Ben - I know it's a tough time right now. We are going to get through this. I was on a radio show the other day and someone asked me a similar question.
The folks down here, we have proven ourselves between the hurricanes and the floods and everything else to be very resilient people down here. I know it's a horrible time right now. It's tough. But we're going to get through this and hopefully be stronger and better and more united when it's all said and done.
As far as my career goes, I'm thankful every day for the LSU fans and the way that they have treated me. Not only when I was playing, but even since my playing days were over. The commentating that I do, they are always seem to be in my corner and appreciate the work that I do. That makes me feel good.
One of the things Dale Brown taught me years ago is, "How you do anything, is how you do everything".
I've always remembered that and have always tried to be the best. If I'm announcing, I want to be the best announcer out there. If I was playing ball, I'd want to be the best ball player out there. So he always encouraged us to always try to be the best at everything that we did. That always meant a lot to me.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's sit down "Q & A Session" is with former LSU football great, running back Charles Alexander. Alexander became the Tigers' starting running back in his junior season in 1977.
Against Oregon, he scored four touchdowns and set a school record by rushing for 237 yards. For his performance he was named the UPI running back of the Week.
His 1,686 rushing yards that season helped LSU to an 8–3 regular season record and a trip to the Sun Bowl. In that game, Alexander set two Sun Bowl rushing records, carrying 31 times for 197 yards as he won Offensive Player of the Game honors. But even with Alexander's performance, LSU lost to Stanford 24–14.
In 1978 Alexander's stats dropped some during his senior year, as he would be hampered with a nagging leg muscle injury for most of the season, forcing the Tigers' offense to become more balanced with David Woodley at quarterback. He and Woodley would led the team to another 8–3 record.
He played his last game as a Tiger in the 1978 Liberty Bowl, in which he rushed for 133 yards on 24 carries in a 20–15 loss to Missouri.
His accomplishments at LSU led fans to refer to him as "Alexander the Great."
In his final two seasons, he would earn All-American and All-SEC Honors. Alexander was also named the SEC Most Valuable Player in his junior year.
Alexander ended up setting nine SEC records, tied another, and set 27 LSU records. He finished his LSU career as LSU's all-time leading rusher with 4,035 rushing yards.
As a junior he finished 9th in the Heisman Trophy voting.
As a senior he finished 5th in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Q - What is your favorite color?
Alexander - Grey
Q - What is your favorite food?
Alexander - I like it all! If I had to zero in on a favorite food, I'd say seafood. Narrowing it down to fried shrimp. Shrimp any kind of way. Some catfish and I would be happy.
Q - Who is your favorite pro athlete, both currently and growing up?
Alexander - That's a good one there. Growing up, I watched the Dallas Cowboys a lot being originally from Texas. They were televised a lot. Tony Dorsett and Dallas had a running back way back in the day named Dwayne Thomas, I liked both of those guys. Both of them wore number 33. Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, ... guess I'm calling all running backs, but those were my favorite guys.
Currently, wow, that's a good one man,... Currently, I like this kid. I like the way he runs. He didn't play year before last, and last year he was with a new team, Le'Veon Bell. He is one of my favorites that I enjoy watching. I also enjoy watching Odell Beckham Jr.
Q - Who is your favorite Music Artist?
Alexander - Stevie Wonder
Q - Your favorite movie if all-time?
Alexander - Man, you ask some tough questions... It has to be a Denzel movie... "Training Day" with Denzel.
Q - Your favorite Actor?
Alexander - Denzel Washington
Q - Favorite NFL Team?
Alexander - Playing for the Bengals for seven years, so I still have some love for the Bengals. It's got to come down to the Houston Texans, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the New Orleans Saints.
Q - I see that you grew up in Texas and that you currently live there?
Alexander - I live in a suburb of Houston named Sugar Land, Texas. That's in South West Houston. I grew up in Galveston, Texas all my life until I went to LSU.
Q - Family?
Alexander - I'm currently single. I have two daughters and four granddaughters.
Q - While in high school at Ball High, did you play multiple sports or only football?
Alexander - I played football and I ran track.. I only ran track during my last two years of high school. I always tell this to kids, "To just keep your head down, and work hard. Don't ever give up. You never know what can happen down the road if you have that kind of attitude." In my junior year, I never won a race in track and field. I never crossed the finish line first. However, my senior year, I won every race a ran in. I was undefeated and was the State Champion in the 200 and 100 yard dash. My track team won the State Championship in 4A, which was the highest class in Texas back in 1975.
Q - Did you ever played multiple positions in football?
Alexander - No I basically just played running back in high school, at LSU, and in the NFL too.
Q - How was your recruiting process? Who else recruited you besides LSU?
Alexander - Well, at that time there was a conference called the Southwest Conference. Had a lot of those schools after me like Baylor, Arkansas, University of Houston. I did take a visit to UCLA, but they weren't going to give me a scholarship. They wanted me to pay my own way, and that wasn't going to happen.
My final decision came down between Houston and LSU. On national signing day when I was leaving my grandmother's house to go to school, I had two cars parked out in the front yard. One car had the head coach and the running back coach from the University of Houston. The head coach was Bill Yeoman. The other car had LSU's running back coach Jerry Stovall. Well, I had about ten seconds to make up my mind on which school I was going to go to. I went straight to the car that Bill Yeoman was sitting in and I said, "Coach, I really appreciate you recruiting me and spending time with me and you're out here today when you could have been somewhere else, but I decided that I want to go to LSU." and he said, "Are you sure?" and I said, "Yes sir." So I thanked him and next thing you know I was in the car with Jerry Stovall and he drove me to school. Don't know if you have ever met Coach Stovall, but he is a salesman, which is what I'm doing in my life now, being a salesman. I learned a lot from him like, don't take no for an answer. He is a great individual.
Q - So you played at LSU under Charlie McClendon. Can you tell us a little about him?
Alexander - Great coach, great coach. He was more of a hands off head coach. He let his assistant coaches do the coaching. But he was always there when needed.
If he was around you a lot, then that wasn't a good thing because that meant something was wrong. Yea, if you were in trouble or you didn't go to class and you got caught not doing what you're suppose to do.
Yea, he was more of a General, but a great guy and always there when you needed him.
Even when my days at LSU were done. He still kept in touch with me. One of the things Coach Mac did for me that I never will forget, is when I was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals. I think I was close to 30 years old and had played seven years in the League. I was hoping to make it eight. He never even told me this, but I found out that he had made several calls to different NFL teams to try and help me get an opportunity to keep playing at least another year. So I was always grateful to him for that.
Q - So during your first two seasons at LSU you played behind Terry Robiskie?
Alexander - I have to be honest with you. I couldn't have painted the picture any better. I needed time to learn the game, especially in my first year. Terry taught me a lot, as did Coach Mac and Coach Stovall. So I had the opportunity to get comfortable, and it payed off. You could see the difference going into my sophomore year. I went from averaging less then three yards a carry as a freshman, to over five yards a carry my second year. It gave me time to develop. I was the starter by my junior year. I had a lot of confidence that I was ready to be a starter. Like I said before, you couldn't have painted the picture any better, as far as buying time and being ready to contribute.
Q - Did you like the nickname "Alexander the Great" that the fans gave you?
Alexander - I was okay with it. I was always one that didn't like to take all the glory and all the credit. I was happy when my offensive line got their nickname and they got their due. It kinda took some of the focus off of me and put a little bit on them and they deserved it. There is no way that I could have did what I had done without them.So I was happy. They came up with the name, "The Root Hogs", and to this day, they wear that name proudly.
Q - How exactly did you find out that you were drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round, (12th overall) in the 1979 NFL Draft?
Alexander - Well, there wasn't all the limelight like there is now. I was in my little apartment right outside of LSU's gates. It was a little one bedroom apartment. I had a couple of radio stations there with me and we listened to the draft on the radio. The draft wasn't on TV back then. Back then, of course there was no cell phones. But even though I found out on the radio, you are still waiting on a phone call. I thought I'd get the phone call before I heard it on the radio. My friends and family kept calling me to find out, I had to keep telling them that I won't get the news if I don't get off the phone with you. I was nervous and aggravated because every time the phone rang, I thought it would be somebody, but it would only be friends and family trying to find out what happened. But I heard it on the radio and shortly after that I got the phone call.
Q - Who was your favorite coach that you played for in the NFL?
Alexander - Well, the Bengals coach that drafted me was Homer Rice. He was fired after my rookie year. Then Cincinnati hired Forrest Gregg, who was personally my favorite coach. Coach Gregg stayed in Cincinnati for four years, including a trip to the Super Bowl. Then the last coach I played for was Sam Wyche.
Q - During your Super Bowl season, you guys hosted the AFC Championship game, which has been nicknamed, "The Freezer Bowl". What was it like playing the San Diego Chargers that day?
Alexander - The temperature was 17 below, but it was the windchill that got everyone making it 59 below zero. That is when our mental toughness under Coach Gregg came in. That's when it payed off. We played a team from the west coast and they were definitely at a disadvantage because they were coming out of 70 degree weather and trying to adjust to 59 degrees below zero windchill factor. It had to be worth at least ten points in our favor. We could see it in their eyes that they didn't want any part of it.
Q - Tell us what it was like to play in a Super Bowl? (Super Bowl XVI)
Alexander - It was something that I'll never forget. It was light years ago and it was so different back then, but there was still a lot of media there. And then it was played in Pontiac, Michigan and the weather was horrible. Trying to get from point A to point B wasn't any fun. It wasn't any fun trying to get around Detroit, so we didn't venture out to far from the hotel. But it is a joy to say that I played in a Super Bowl. Something that I will never forget. We lost and I think the problem for us was that we were a little uptight. We were zeroing in on winning the game and I think if we would have been a little more relaxed at the beginning of the game, all those turnovers and things that we had, probably wouldn't have happened. Then we wouldn't have been behind 20-0 at halftime. I think the final score was 26-21, San Francisco. But, it still was a lot of fun. A lot of great memories. Like I said, it's something that I'll never forget.
Q - Greatest memory of playing in the NFL?
Alexander - Playing in the Super Bowl and being a part of the Bengals team that was first to wear those new uniforms. (Tiger stripe helmets)
Q - What did you do after retiring from the NFL?
Alexander - I went to work at LSU for ten years after my NFL career. I worked in the academic center for four years, which I had a lot of fun doing. I loved working with the athletes being their academic adviser. I had a chance to bond with a lot of those guys. I still talk to a lot of them to this day. I worked at LSU from 1988 to 1998. Those were tough years at LSU. We didn't really win many football games. But I did get a chance to get to know those guys and give a lot of them some advise. It's nice to know that you were an influence on someone's life and you see them grow up to be good people and good citizens. A lot of them are married and have a family. It makes you feel good that you may have helped them out along the way.
I worked for the TAF for six years. I really learned a lot. Got to know a lot of the LSU Alumni. We had several projects and did several things to help funding the athletics on campus. Nothing like the 30 million dollar locker room they have now, but we did do some things to help out the athletic department. That was a great six years of my life.
Q - What do you consider your best game as a LSU Tiger?
Alexander - I don't know about it being the best statistic wise, but the game I had the most fun in was a televised game against Ole Miss in my senior year. Back then we may have been on TV maybe twice a year, so that was a big deal to play on TV. It was the first game that I really felt good that season after dealing with a pulled muscle injury all year. We played well as a team. We had a couple of trick plays that we ran that was successful. That's one of the favorite games during my career.
Q - What was it like playing in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night?
Alexander - Tiger Stadium is a special place to play. When I use to work at LSU I had a chance to be around the recruits, I would always tell them that you won't find another stadium in the country that is going to jack you up and have you emotionally ready to play like in Tiger Stadium. I've played in almost every professional stadium in the country and there is nothing like it. The only thing I can compare it to is it's like playing in the Super Bowl. So if you want to play in the Super Bowl every home game, come to LSU.
Q - What are you up too now?
Alexander - I'm currently employed by "Gajeske Inc.". We distribute HDPE pipe for gas, waste water, fire water, chemicals for municipal, upstream, midstream and downstream companies.
I also have a small seasoning company, "Charlie 4 Seasoning, Inc." DBA "C'Mon Man"
My website is www.cmonmancajunseasoning.com
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's sit down "Q & A Session" is with former LSU basketball player, Skylar Mays. Mays just finished a fantastic four year career with the Tigers.
He became the Tigers' starting point guard during his freshman year, averaging eight points per game.
As a sophomore, Mays averaged eleven points, as LSU would participate in the NIT, falling to Utah in the second round.
He averaged thirteen points per game as a junior as he would help the Tigers win a SEC Championship and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. He was named second team All-SEC and the conference's scholar-athlete of the year. Mays would score his 1,000th career point on February 26, 2019 against Texas A&M.
Mays was named preseason first team All-SEC and to the watch lists for the Jerry West and the Naismith Player of the Year awards. He was also named the 45th-best collegiate basketball player going into the 2019-20 season by CBS Sports. In his senior year he would average sixteen points a game. At the end of the regular season he was again named a first team Academic All-American and was selected as the Academic All-American of the Year as well as First Team All-SEC and was named the scholar-athlete of the year for a second straight season.
Q - What is your favorite color?
Skylar - Gold
Q - What is your favorite food?
Skylar - Fried Rice
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Skylar - Currently: LeBron James Growing Up: Kevin Garnett & Chris Paul
Q - Favorite Movie?
Skylar - Coming to America
Q - Favorite Actor?
Skylar - Will Smith & Leo DiCaprio
Q - Favorite Music Artist?
Skylar - Drake
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to grow up to be?
Skylar - basketball player and a Doctor
Q - Why did you transfer to Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada for your senior year of high school?
Skylar - I kinda felt like I had done all that I could do here, and even with basketball here in Louisiana being very good, I was just looking for another big challenge. It was 100% a basketball choice. To have the opportunity to play for one of the top high school basketball programs in the nation. (Mays helped lead Findlay to a State Championship in his senior season).
Q - What do you remember the most about your freshman basketball experience?
Slylar - Going against Jalyn Patterson in practice definitely help me get prepared. The speed of the game is so much different then what I was use too. I wasn't able to dictate the pace of the game like I was able to do in high school. So I had to catch up with the other guys. It took me some time to pick it up. Freshman go through that freshman wall during that stretch. Figuring that out, and once you get the hang of it, it's just like anything else. You start to feel comfortable and then you try to start to expand your game and start to try things. Then you just try to take off from there.
Q - Did you feel a lot of pressure being named LSU's starting point guard as a true freshman?
Skyler - Not really, because it is something that I wanted. Coach Jones and I talked about the opportunity. It wasn't given to me, I definitely had to earn the role, I feel like I worked hard for it. So I wouldn't say I felt much pressure.
Q - What was the coaching change like for you and your teammates?
Skylar - At first it's a shock. In high school its very rare that you have more then one basketball coach, unless you move like I did. You just don't see coaches getting fired in high school. So this was the first time I had ever had a coaching change in my career. It's different. You see the business side of things i guess. Its something you can't control. My first thoughts were, what is Coach Jones going to do? How is this going to affect him? You just hope for the best for him. Then you kinda turn the attention to yourself, thinking, man, what am I going to do? You just have no idea who will be your next coach, or will the new coach like me. How will my game fit in with what he plans to do? You feel nervous and anxious. I like to joke with Coach Wade, I say "Look, I actually played well when I played against you". We actually played against him and VCU my freshman year. I played really well that game, even though they beat us. I tell him, "Look, if I wouldn't have played you well, you may have not liked my game", because coach likes faster guys and I'm not one of the fastest guys on the court.
Q - First Impression of Coach Wade?
It didn't take long for Coach Wade and I to develop a strong relationship. It's grown over these last three years and it will continue to grow. I'm just glad that he ended up coming here and that I got to play under him.
Q - Can you tell me a little about Tremont Waters?
Yea. I could just go on and on about him. He is special, and everyone who watches him sees it. Actually, my first encounter with Tremont here was that I was his host. So when we are recruiting, and guys come to campus on their visits, a player usually host them. So I was picked to host Tremont and I got to meet his family and his father, may his father rest in peace, and his mother. Just a lovely family. I got to hang with them and we went to Parrains, and I made him try alligator. So that's something that I will always remember. As far as playing with him, he is so easy to play with. He is a wizard with the ball. Me transitioning to off the ball, if it would had been any other point guard, my sophomore year would have been tougher. But he got me so many open looks, even though I was uncomfortable playing off the ball, that I was just able to make simple plays and be successful on the court. He's a great player and obviously he is doing great things trying to establish himself in the League. Yea Tremont is my boy.
Q - How was it during your Junior year to have the two big men (Naz Reid & Kavell Bigby-Williams) playing in the starting lineup?
Skylar - It's night and day. I guess I could start off with Kavell. Kavell, man, on defense we would just try to funnel guys into him, because he was going to block everything, he was gunna get everything on the glass. Unbelievable motor. He would play so hard, running the floor every time so hard, super competitive. He was a leader in that aspect, just bringing energy, and us always being able to count on him. Especially an older guy who's come in and has already won before, while he was at Oregon. Bringing us that winning pedigree and winning habits. He was just our enforcer back there. I think people could see it this year, the difference of not having someone like him and how it helped and how valuable he was to all the success we had my junior year.
Then Naz, Naz just oozes talent. He is so so talented. Talk about a 6'11" guard, with a high high basketball IQ. He had his bumps in the road, but all freshman do. He played hard for us. Some people may have thought he was a deva, but he did stuff for us that most other big guys don't do, like taking charges and diving for loose balls. He would always listen very well, that's why he is going to be so successful in the League, and why he is starting for the Timber Wolves. He tries to do the little things. He is going to continue to grow because he has the right mindset. For us, he took up so much space and closed up so many gaps that it made it hard for guards from the other teams to go into the paint. So having those two big guys set the tone defensively by letting guys know they didn't have any place to go very much. Then offensively, they were both guys you could just throw it into and you could play through them and they would make a lot of big plays for us. Both of them where a huge huge part of us being SEC Champs that year and getting to the Sweet Sixteen.
Q - Do you have anymore school left? And if so will that be put on hold while you pursue a career in pro basketball?
Skylar - I'm more then likely going to put that on hold. I'm finishing under-grad this semester. It's going to be weird with all these online classes. Yes, I'm definitely going to pursue. I'm been hearing good feed back on where I stand as a draft prospect. So I'm going to pursue that and keep playing as long as I can, then work on any degrees later on down the road.
Q - How do you manage being a student athlete? Juggling going to class, practice, games, traveling, studying, and managing to make outstanding grades the way you do?
Skylar - Yes, first of all I want to give credit to my parents who have taught me the value of a good education. They gave me a standard to meet by watching how they work everyday and how they approach what they do. They just kinda rubbed off on me. They are also my support system. My dad was a college athlete and went to medical school also. So me being able to have those talks with him and my older brother about how to balance things and on certain classes that we all took helped me out a lot. But as far as balancing things, it's kind of a "want to" thing. It's kind of a "want to". You got to understand what you're working towards and how you're setting your life up. You really have to rely on that as motivation to keep you going, because it's not easy. But having people behind you, who understand what you're going through definitely helps keep you going and being motivated to be successful on both aspects.
Q - What type of physician are you going to school to be? Is it sports medicine?
Skyler - Nothing is confirmed yet. Usually you kinda trickle it down to after medical school to kinda figure out what you want to be during clinicals. So many people say they want to do this, want to do that, but then once you go through your clinical rotations and see all the different things, that's when you will really come across what you want to be. As someone who has played at a high level, I could only see myself being around sports right now if I get into the medical field, but things change.
Q - When was the first time you met Dale Brown?
Skylar - The first time I actually met Dale Brown was at Wayde's funeral. That was the first time I actually shook hands with him and met him, yea. He actually came and approached me because I had spoken at Wayde's vigil, and he just came to me and said he heard it, and wanted to show his appreciation, which mean't a lot to me. I actually talk to Coach Brown a good bit now. We are starting to develop a relationship. He told me that he wishes that I had played for him, which definitely meant the world to me. That meant a whole lot to me. That wasn't really the circumstances that I wish I would have met him for the first time, but Coach Brown is an awesome, awesome human being.
Q - Has any former LSU Basketball great ever spoken to you or has given you advice on your playing career?
Skylar - Yea, I actually got to meet with Mahmoud (Abdul-Rauf) after his ceremony. Another awesome human being who just loves to give off knowledge and great energy. I hang around Big Wayne a lot. I call him Big Wayne, ... Wayde's dad. Stanley Roberts is always there. I have a great relationship with Stanley Roberts. Garrett (Temple), I spoke with him last week. Throughout the basketball season, he has always shown support. Marcus Thronton is still in town, I talk to him. I've got to talk with Tyrus Thomas a couple of times. With him being back in school, I talk to him pretty often. I talk to Stromlie Swift every once in awhile. A lot of great players. Big Baby, it's a fraternity. A fraternity for sure. Coach Brady is awesome.
Q - I'm guessing the biggest disappointment of your college career has got to be this year, not being able to play in the post season?
Skylar - Yea, I don't want to harp too much on that. You know I ended my LSU career in Baton Rouge where I was born and raised. There are so many positives I could take from how the season ended. Just like everyone else, I would have loved to compete in the NCAA Tournament with the potential to win a national championship, especially with the way our momentum was going. That Georgia game and the confidence we had going into the SEC Tournament. But my last time playing a basketball game in Baton Rouge, was a win. I was wearing a LSU jersey, in my home town, with all my family there. You know what I mean? So that's not the worse way to end your college basketball career. Especially with me being a hometown kid. That's where my soul is and it brings me peace on how it all ended.
Q - What will you miss the most about playing at LSU?
Skylar - Playing in front of the best fans in all of America. I'm also going to miss practicing with the guys from year one to year four. Just how fun practice was. Getting to compete and getting to have a getaway from all the other stuff that you're dealing with. I have a lot more basketball ahead of me, but it won't be the same. Nothing could ever replace the experience here that I've had here at LSU.