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October 22, 2013

Basketball chemistry rapidly developing

LSU is halfway through its six weeks of preseason practice with the season-opener at Massachusetts 21 days away.

Tigers coach Johnny Jones has the best mixture for a roster - a handful of returning starters and an influx of talented newcomers. Five LSU players started games a season ago - Andre Stringer, Shavon Coleman, Johnny O'Bryant, Anthony Hickey and Malik Morgan.

LSU's 2013 recruiting class was ranked No. 10 in the nation with three members among the top 100 players in the country - Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey and Tim Quarterman.

Obviously, Jones needed to blend the two groups together during preseason practice. That goal is quickly being reached, according to Jones.

"I am excited watching how the experienced guys have taken on leadership roles with the young guys who arrived on campus and how they have gotten the chemistry together as soon as possible," said Jones at his pre-practice press conference Tuesday.

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"The guys are challenging each other each day. The young guys haven't taken a back seat to anyone. Each day they try to put their best foot forward. The thing I worried about was getting the young guys to play with a sense of urgency. That hasn't been a problem. That has allowed us to be a little bit ahead."

Depth will not be a problem for this LSU team. The Tigers can put out a big lineup or a small one. Jones mentioned this group Tuesday - Quarterman at point guard, Morgan or Coleman at shooting guard, Martin at small forward, Mickey at power forward and O'Bryant at center. None is shorter than 6-foot-5.

Then, LSU can go with a smaller lineup with Hickey at point guard, Stringer at shooting guard, Coleman at small forward, Martin at power forward and O'Bryant at center. Jones added that both John Odo and Darcy Malone - two players at least 6-10 - will also be in the rotation.

"The veterans really understand that the better the newcomers are, the better the team can be," Jones said. "They know we can have a better team if we can put those new guys on the floor."

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The first three weeks of preseason practice have indicated to Jones that the newcomers will be ready to contribute when the regular season starts on Nov. 12.

"As a whole, these guys (newcomers) have been more than what I expected," Jones said. "Tim Quarterman has done a tremendous job from day one. He is a nice leader.

"We all knew about Jarell Martin. Jordan Mickey is one of those guys who has excelled every day. All of the newcomers have improved from their first day on campus. It will be nice to see them against other competition soon."

LSU's first outside competition will come this Saturday when it scrimmages Houston on the road. The Tigers will play host to NAIA member Xavier from New Orleans on Nov. 6 in an exhibition game.

The other coaches in the Southeastern Conference believe LSU is going to be near the top of the league standings. The Tigers were picked to finish fourth.

"I wasn't sure where we would be picked," Jones said. "I thought maybe somewhere in the middle. I was happy for the young men on our team that we got picked there.

"Everybody was able to see the way we finished last year. Johnny returning says a lot. The players were applauded for their efforts. There is still a lot of work to do."

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