High hopes for Jones' second season as LSU basketball coach

By By Albert Burford / American Press

BATON ROUGE— It’s only Johnny Jones’ second year as head coach of the LSU men’s basketball team, but a lot has changed in

his short time in charge of the Tigers.

The DeRidder native has taken LSU from a mediocre Southeastern Conference team to one many analysts expect to make the field

of 68 come March.

In his first year at the helm, the

Tigers performed fairly well for an undersized team lacking in depth and

experience. But

Jones only lost one player from last season— senior guard Charles

Carmouche— and three starters are back from the team that

went 19-12.

One of those returning starters is Johnny O’Bryant III, a junior forward who flirted with the NBA Draft last season before

deciding another year in Baton Rouge was his best option. O’Bryant is a Preseason First Team All-SEC selection who led LSU

in points and rebounds last season, nearly averaging a double-double a game.

Junior guard Anthony Hickey, who finished last season with the third-highest steals per game average in the country, and senior

guard Andre Stringer join O’Bryant as returning starters.

“We’re much farther along at this

juncture than we were at this time last year,” Jones said. “One of the

reasons is the guys

are familiar with what we’re doing offensively and defensively and

we had enough guys coming back from last year’s team that

allowed us to be farther along in terms of things we were able to

put in and to be executing at a certain level.”

Jones helped bolster the Tigers’ roster by bringing in the No. 5 recruiting class in the country, highlighted by McDonald’s

All-American forward Jarrell Martin from Baton Rouge. Darcy Malone, a seven-footer from Australia, will add more size and

depth in the front court, and Jones said he also has the ability to step out and shoot the three.

“The veterans have done a tremendous

job of showing leadership with this team and the freshmen and newcomers

have done a great

job in terms of following that leadership and at the same time

competing at a certain level to allow us to be challenged each

day in practice.”

The Tigers had a scrimmage on Saturday,

and Jones said the most noticeable difference in the team was its

depth. LSU should

have the luxury of a flexible lineup and be able to experiment

with different player and size combinations this season, which

was not an option last year.

Jones said another side effect of the strength of the bench will be a tendency to execute the press more often and play an

up-tempo style.

Despite the expectations that come with the Tigers’ impressive signing class and the mix of veteran experience and talent,

Jones wants to keep his team focused.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t look

ahead,” he said. “We’ve got to understand that certain areas where we

were picked very

low last year, we knew what was in front of us and how hard we had

to work and it’s a little different this year. We’ve been

picked a lot higher in some areas, but at the same time our

attitude and mentality have to be the same.”

LSU plays an exhibition game against Xavier University of Louisiana on Nov. 6 before opening the regular season in a 10 a.m.

game at UMass on Nov. 12 as part of the ESPN Tipoff Marathon.