Team Chemistry Over Playing Time Holds the Key to LSU’s SeasonPosted by Justin Bridgman on November 12th, 2013
When a team finishes its season on a run and they return a group of core veterans, it is natural to expect them to be quite good the next season. When that same roster adds a top 10 recruiting class, expectations rise even further. For LSU and Johnny Jones, a unique dilemma is going to play out early this season. Jones claims he can play up to 11 guys this season, but with all that talent and only 200 minutes per game to divvy up, someone is bound to get upset.
Can Johnny O’Bryant, Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey learn to play together? They are three of the best players on the roster, and all of them are best suited to play power forward. Martin is going to play small forward even though he played at the four throughout high school. He has some perimeter skills including a great jump shot, but his frame is more suited to play down low. To use him exclusively as an outside shooter would be a disservice to his overall talent. Mickey at the five has rim-protecting skills that will make life easier for O’Bryant, but he will also be taking up space in the lane and forcing O’Bryant to operate around him. O’Bryant will need to adjust and take advantage of all the open shooters created with such a packed lane.
The playing time drama does not end within the paint. Last season Anthony Hickey was one of the most productive point guards in the SEC. He led the conference in steals and scored over 11 points a game. Now he is coming off the bench because freshman Tim Quarterman has taken his spot. Hickey has said all the right things during the preseason: “There are times when I will be coming off the bench, so I want to bring energy with me. This will give me a chance to work on my leadership on the side while I’m not in there.” But if that playing time isn’t coming as often as he thinks it should, there could be trouble in the backcourt too.
Johnny Jones has the sort of problem that every coach claims they would love to deal with. There is so much talent on the roster — a combination of freshman phenoms and proven veterans — that he should have a recipe for success. The problem will come, however, when one or two of those players feels he is not being given a fair shake, or that their role isn’t maximizing their talent. Ten-man rotations rarely work in basketball, and it is likely that Jones settles down to eight or nine players in time for conference play. If all of these players are able to mesh their talents and work well together, LSU will have a great season. If not, expect there to be plenty of interesting quotes out of Baton Rouge as the season unfolds.