Jones should bring welcomed relief to LSU hoops
That breath of fresh air rolling through the LSU basketball program was much needed.
Welcome home, Johnny Jones. I hope you can have as much success as ... John Brady.
Don’t laugh. All Brady did in a stretch of seven seasons is take LSU to four NCAA Tournaments, a Sweet 16 appearance and the 2006 Final Four.
In Trent Johnson’s first year, he won a game in the NCAA Tournament with Brady’s talent.
After Year One, Johnson never seemed to work at LSU. He lacked not only wins but personality.
And, last summer, when St. Aug guard Javan Felix committed to Texas, and this spring, when Riverside forward Ricardo Gathers spurned LSU for Baylor, Trent was on borrowed time.
Johnson did himself and LSU a favor when he bolted for TCU.
Now, in comes Jones, who played for Dale Brown and is endorsed by former Tiger Collis Temple Sr., who was the first African American to play basketball at LSU and still has stroke in the Baton Rouge hoops community. Temple and Johnson simply didn’t get along.
Jones already has made an impression on an incoming Tiger. The day after he got the job, he drove to River Ridge and met with LSU signee Malik Morgan of John Curtis. Morgan, a 6-3 guard, said he was impressed that Jones would come to see him and lay out his plan for the basketball program.
Morgan said he liked the fact that LSU will be a running team. “Coach wants to go up and down,” said Morgan.
And, that’s a good thing. LSU basketball last season was not entertaining.
On Feb. 4, the Tigers scored 71 points in a win over Arkansas. It wasn’t until March 8, in the SEC Tournament that LSU reached the 70-point mark again in a win over Arkansas.
Jones must not only sell his style of play – he also must sell a fan base that places LSU men’s hoops a very distant third behind football and baseball.
And Jones must win recruiting battles in Louisiana. He will no doubt recruit the state of Texas. But the best players in Texas are going to the University of Texas and Baylor.
In Louisiana, there are three “must gets” for Jones.
In the class of 2013, they are forward Jarrell Martin of Madison Prep and forward Brian Bridgewater of Episcopal. Bridgewater’s brother, Brad, played at LSU.
In the class of 2014, St. Aug forward/center Craig Victor is one of the top prospects in the country.
When Brady won, he had Louisianans in starring roles. The 2000 Sweet 16 team was led by Captain Shreve’s Stromile Swift. The 2006 Final Four club had two stars from Baton Rouge, Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Tyrus Thomas. The Tigers also got stellar play that season from St. Martinville’s Darrel Mitchell.
Back then, LSU hoops was fun. The Tigers blocked shots, dunked in the faces of their opponents and got many clutch hoops from the perimeter from Mitchell.
It was only six years ago, but it seems like much longer. Jones, that breath of fresh air, has come home to bring back the magic. With any luck, he might be as successful, as say, John Brady.