In two weeks, LSU will begin its first preseason practice under coach Will Wade.
Undoubtedly, Wade’s offseason has been a huge success.
Wade rebuilt the roster for the upcoming season by bringing in two graduate transfers, one junior college transfer and two true freshmen. These additions should greatly improve the Tigers, who won just two Southeastern Conference games last season.
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Keeping an eye on the future, Wade brought in a transfer from a four-year school. Moreover, LSU has commitments for next year’s recruiting class from two top 30 players in the country.
The work done by Wade has the Tigers basketball fan base as excited as it has been in many years. By the way, Wade has been building connections with LSU students, fans and the Baton Rouge community by making numerous speaking engagements.
“I wanted to put the roster in as good a shape as possible now and not mortgage the roster over the long run,” said Wade, in an exclusive interview with TigerBait.com. “We had some good pieces coming back and we wanted to give those guys every possibility to be successful.“
We also wanted to set up the program for sustained success. So, we bring in Randy (Onwuasor) who is immediate eligible, and then Kavell (Bigby-Williams), who will sit out a year. We were looking for a balance with the people we brought in this year.”
LSU will have seven newcomers on their active roster for the 2017-18 season. Two freshmen were signed by former coach Johnny Jones – Galen Alexander and Brandon Rachal. Wade signed two freshmen – Mayan Kiir and Tremont Waters, rated one of the top 40 players in the country.
Then, Wade brought in junior college transfer Daryl Edwards and graduate transfers Jeremy Combs and Onwuasor. One certainly expects all three of these older players to get immediate playing time for the Tigers.
Wade has been very happy with the offseason performances of the five returnees – Duop Reath, Aaron Epps, Brandon Sampson, Skylar Mays and Wayde Sims. It would not be a shock if four of these players are in the starting lineup when the season begins against Alcorn State on Nov. 10.
“First, all of these guys are very, very good people,” Wade said. “They are working hard. I have seen a huge jump in Skylar Mays’ game. He has reshaped his body. Skylar is a very good player who has made the most drastic improvement. Aaron Epps is more confident. He is long and athletic. Duop is improving.
“Sampson is much more aggressive on both ends of the court. There are signs that he can be a big-time player. Wayde Sims has a good knock and feel for the ball. At this point, they didn’t choose (coaches). But, we chose them. They understand what it takes to be successful. I am excited about these guys.”
Kavell Bigby-Edwards will be available for the 2018-19 season after sitting out a year following his transfer from Oregon. Then, LSU has commitments from two of the nation’s best – Naz Reid and Javonte Smart.
“My staff has done a very good job recruiting guys in our wheelhouse,” Wade said. “Getting the best kids in Louisiana is important. Then, we are looking for guys with a natural connection to LSU. It’s good to get someone in a recruit’s ear about LSU.“
If we can get guys here, they fall in love with the campus. LSU’s brand is strong. There has been a lot of success getting guys to the NBA even if there are not been a lot of team success.”
Wade’s playing style is one which attracts high-caliber individuals. Wade’s teams at Chattanooga and VCU have been up-tempo.“Our preferred style is up-tempo and pressing,” Wade said. “But, you try to play to your personnel. You don’t want to put guys in a poor position. We want to force the issue on offense. We are going to really pressure in the half court. I am not sure how much we’ll pressure in the full court.”
Wade’s style of play should help the Tigers attract fans to the PMAC if they start registering victories. Wade realizes the importance of developing a homecourt advantage.“
We want to recruit the best players,” Wade said. “But, we also want to recruit students, fans and people in the community. Our guys are working extremely hard – as hard as they have ever worked. We want people in the stands who appreciate how hard they work.“
People love winners. The gymnastics, baseball and football teams have won and have done it for a long time. Once we win, I believe the fans will turn out. They will get excited about LSU basketball.”
The Tigers have reached the NCAA tournament once in the last eight years. That appearance lasted one game as LSU was beaten by North Carolina State. The Tigers have not won a NCAA tournament game since 2009. LSU has not won more than one game in the NCAA tournament in 12 seasons.
“Our first goal is to be in the top four of the SEC,” Wade said. “If you do that, you give yourself a chance to advance. Our main goal is to consistently get in the NCAA tournament and win it.
“You need good bounces to win. If you consistently get in the tournament, you will get to the point where the ball bounces your way. The SEC is good, as good as it has been. I think six or seven teams will go to the NCAA tournament this year.”