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April 9, 2013

O'Bryant to return for junior year

Johnny Jones received the good news about Johnny O'Bryant returning for his junior season last week,

Jones' response was full of emotion.

"I met with Johnny last Wednesday," said Jones at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. "We had a lengthy visit and Johnny told me his plans (about staying). I wanted to jump across the desk and put him in a big bear hug."

Jones wanted to make sure that O'Bryant was making the correct decision, so he told him to reflect upon his choice for a few days.

"I gave Johnny the opportunity to think and wait through the weekend," Jones said. "I wanted to make sure he was doing the right thing for him and his family.

"I sat down with his mother and one of his relatives (Monday). He gave me the same decision. That's when we made decided to make the announcement today. I was getting questions about Johnny all the time. It was time for us to get (decision) out there."

O'Bryant indicated that he had more work to do personally, but more so on a team-wide basis. There is no doubt that O'Bryant wants to lead LSU back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.

"I made great strides from my freshman year to my sophomore year," O'Bryant said. "That would not have been possible without coach Jones and my teammates. I want to win for seniors like (Andre) Stringer, who haven't been to the Dance. They need to get to the Dance one time before they leave."

O'Bryant, who was bothered early in the season with two injuries, ended up earning All-Southeastern Conference honors. He averaged 14 points and nine rebounds per game. O'Bryant was second in the SEC in double-doubles with 15. All but three of those double-doubles came against SEC teams.

LSU finished with a 9-9 SEC record - just its second non-losing conference mark in seven years. With O'Bryant returning, the Tigers will now have four players who averaged at least 20 minutes per game coming back for the 2013-14 season. Stringer, Anthony Hickey and Shavon Coleman are the others.

"Johnny got more consistent down the stretch," Jones said. "When he started playing with his back to the basket, more pressure was put on our opponents.

"Johnny's decision was really good for us. It's important to get good players. But, the impact of a Johnny O'Bryant staying is great. Johnny is a system guy who understands what we do."

Jones is bringing to campus a highly-rated recruiting class, led by McDonald's All-America post player Jarell Martin from Madison Prep High School in Baton Rouge. O'Bryant has been practicing against junior college transfer John Odo, who enrolled at LSU in January.

"We have a good recruiting class coming in," O'Bryant said. "My job is to lead them in the right direction. With me being back, I can help these guys. They need me as a leader to help get the team going. I need to become a better leader."

O'Bryant was certainly influenced by what took place in the NCAA tournament the past few weeks. He was impressed by the chemistry displayed by national champion Louisville. O'Bryant admitted that the Louisville-Michigan national championship game "gave him chills while watching."

"Next year's team will be a better team," O'Bryant said. "We should be on a bigger stage where I can showcase my talents. My decision came down to what I had to do for my family and myself."



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