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November 19, 2012

Plenty of practice time for Tigers

With two additional games tacked on its Southeastern Conference basketball schedule, LSU's non-league slate is not as condensed as usual.

In a 58-day span from Nov. 9 through Jan. 5, the Tigers will play 11 non-conference games - one every five days or so. Once the SEC schedule begins Jan. 9, LSU will play 18 games in 60 days - one every three days or so.

The Tigers will play for the first time in a week Tuesday night when Northwestern State (3-0) comes to the PMAC. LSU has not been on the court since improving its record to 2-0 with a 73-48 victory against McNeese State.

"It's been a long week," said coach Johnny Jones at his pre-practice press conference Monday afternoon. "But, it was something much needed for us to implement some other phases of our game. The more experienced team you have, the more you like to play (games).

"(Schedule) is good for us because it allows us to evaluate where we are. We can put different things in and fine tune the things we have in place. We are able to look at a lot of tape now. When you get into the meat of the schedule, there is no down time to do that."

Jones acknowledged that the Tigers have had their share of bumps and bruises while spending the past seven days practicing. However, he is hoping that Johnny O'Bryant will be able to get some playing time Tuesday against the Demons. O'Bryant injured a calf muscle in the opener Nov. 9.

"Johnny was back with us on the floor sparingly Sunday," Jones said. "After he goes through an extended practice Monday, we'll make a decision. It will be more the trainer's decision. We don't want to put him in a position where he will cause more damage to his leg."

Northwestern State has won its first three games by an average of more than 30 points. However, two of the opponents were non-Division I teams. The Demons beat Campbell, the only Division I opponent, by just four points 71-67.

Northwestern State will start two post players 6-8 or taller. The top two scorers are newcomers - junior college post player DeQuan Hicks (16.7) and freshman point guard Jalan West (15.0). Hicks, who comes off the bench, is shooting 73 percent from the field and is averaging seven rebounds a game.

"Our defense will be tested and we will have to rebound well," Jones said. "We will have to do a great job of handling the basketball because they are turning people over 19 or 20 times a game. They are a pressing team. We have to keep them off the glass."

Jones also spent part of the time in the past week putting together a four-man signing class. Four players signed last Wednesday - post players Jarell Martin and John Odo and wing players Jordan Mickey and Tim Quarterman.

Odo, a junior college transfer, is expected to enroll at LSU in January. However, he will sit out the remainder of the season. Deng Deng will not sign now due to some academic issues. The Tigers will continue to recruit Deng and may sign him in April.

"We are done signing in the early period," Jones said. "We will re-evaluate where we are at the season's end. We will sign one to two guys for sure in the spring. We'll recruit as hard as we can to fill the other spots.

"We have a tremendous early recruiting class. The guys we are bringing in have the versatility which will allow us to play a little different. We filled everything we wanted to fill. These players plus the guys returning should give us a very solid core for next year."

Obviously, Martin is the crown jewel of the signing class. The 6-8 Martin, who plays at Baton Rouge Madison prep, is considered one of the top 12 players in the country.

"When I first got the job, my attention turned quickly to (Martin) due to the impact he can have on the floor," Jones said. "He has a tremendous attitude. Jarell is what I call a difference-maker. It was huge for us when he decided to stay at home."


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