Four weeks ago, Will Wade was named the head basketball coach at LSU.
Gradually, Wade is completing his coaching staff. He has filled two of the three assistant coaching positions with former North Texas coach Tony Benford and Wichita State assistant coach Greg Heiar.
Wade has selected two individuals to handle off-the-court responsibilities. Former LSU All-Southeastern Conference player Tasmin Mitchell will return to his alma mater as Director of Student-Athlete Development – a new position in the program.
Nelson Hernandez, who worked under Wade at Virginia Commonwealth, is joining his former boss at LSU in the same post – Director of Basketball Operations. Wade is one person away from having a full staff. Except for the 53-year old Benford, Wade’s staff is rather young with Heiar in his early 40s.
Now, Wade can begin to put his complete focus on the roster for the Tigers. When Wade was hired, he had one available scholarship for next season. There were two unsurprising personnel moves which took place last Tuesday.
First, post player Mayan Kiir signed with LSU. Kiir had signed with Wade at VCU. When Wade left the Rams for the Tigers, Kiir asked for his release. The VCU administration granted Kiir his release. So, he signed for a second time with Wade – now at LSU.
Second, the Tigers’ All-SEC wing Antonio Blakeney declared for the NBA draft. Blakeney, who has two years of eligibility remaining, did not acknowledge that he was going to sign with an agent. However, his twitter comments last week indicated that Blakeney’s days at LSU were over.
So, Wade still has one open spot on the roster for the 2017-18 season. At his introductory press conference, Wade talked very little about personnel. However, word has leaked out that Wade is extremely worried about one position on the team – point guard.
Skylar Mays and Jalyn Patterson split time at the point guard spot this past season. Their offensive numbers were acceptable as they combined for 14.1 points and 6.6 assists per game. Mays and Patterson did commit a combined 3.9 turnovers per game – much too high.
However, Mays and Patterson were liabilities on the defensive end of the floor. Opposing point guards were able to get past them and into the lane. Mays is not quick enough to defend mobile SEC point guards, while Patterson is more of a wing than a lead guard.
That’s the reason Wade made a big effort at signing San Jacinto Junior College point guard Corey Davis. Wade came up short as Davis, a native of Lafayette (La.), signed with Houston.
Wade has now set his sights on Akron point guard Antino Jackson, a probable graduate transfer. Jackson, who started 36 games for the Zips this past season, averaged 10.8 points and 2.7 assists per game. He committed 1.9 turnovers in 28 minutes per game.
However, there may be a wild card in this area on the LSU roster right now. At Wade’s introductory press conference, there was one current Tigers player present – Branden Jenkins. Wade knew Jenkins from recruiting one of his teammates at Lee (Tex.) Junior College.
The past season was a lost campaign for Jenkins, whom former LSU coach Johnny Jones felt would be an immediate impact player. However, a preseason physical showed that Jenkins needed surgery on his leg. Jenkins did not participate in a game until the SEC opener against Vanderbilt in late December.
Jenkins played sparingly as it was obvious that he was far from 100 percent healthy. Jenkins made only eight of his 40 field goal attempts. He handed out 11 assists and committed seven turnovers. Jones said that Jenkins could be both a wing and point guard.
Reportedly, Wade believes that Jenkins is someone who could really fit his up-tempo system – possibly as a point guard, at least part of the time. In his sophomore season at Lee, Jenkins averaged 15.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. More importantly, Jenkins registered 3.5 assists per game.
It sounds as if Duop Reath and Jenkins are two players Wade feels suit his system. If Wade is unable to sign a point guard, do not be surprised if Jenkins doesn’t assume that role for the Tigers next season.