LSU basketball fans will have to wait a little longer before they get the chance to watch the team at full strength.
Jarell Martin, who suffered a sprained ankle in the first 30 seconds of the Tigers' season opener against Massachusetts on Tuesday, will not be available for the home opener against Northwestern State on Saturday night.
"The doctors and trainers decided that it would be best for Jarell to sit out this week," said coach Johnny Jones at his pre-practice press conference Thursday afternoon. "We are going to continue to treat the ankle aggressively. We will try to get him back in the lineup next week."
The Tigers have home games against UNO (Tuesday) and Southeastern Louisiana (Friday) next week. Martin hurt the right ankle coming down after having his shot blocked on LSU's first possession of the game. He twisted the ankle on the floor.
"We were in a 2-on-1 transition break," said Martin, who is wearing a walking boot. "I went up for a shot and I landed on the ground and twisted my ankle. I didn't feel it at first, but then I felt the pain. I have sprained the right ankle a few times before. I have never sprained my left ankle."
Jones hinted that Shavon Coleman will be in the starting lineup when the Tigers take on Northwestern State. The Demons (1-0) have a game at Auburn Friday - just 24 hours before they tip off at the PMAC against LSU.
Coleman was on the floor for 21 minutes against UMass. He had five points and four rebounds, while making just two of his seven field goal attempts. Malik Morgan and Shane Hammink will also get playing time at Martin's small forward position.
"You hope to be at full throttle when you start the season," Jones said. "Thirty seconds into the season and we get an unfortunate injury. This is something we will be able to work through. We will now be able to see which players will step up."
The Tigers lost a season opener for the first time in 18 seasons. However, LSU normally begins the year with a rather soft opponent. It had been 30 years since the Tigers' first game was played on the opponent's home court.
"It was really good to play that opponent early in the season," Jones said. "We learned a lot about our team. A lot of guys got additional minutes due to injuries and foul trouble.
"We needed to be challenged early in the season. We had a good group coming back and we had a good core of recruits coming in. We didn't want a rude awakening four or five games later when we go on the road. You certainly don't want to wait until conference starts to play in that type of environment."
Jones was pleased with how his team performed against the Minutemen. Besides Martin, freshman post player Darcy Malone was unavailable because of stitches in his lip. Malone will play Saturday. LSU shut 45 percent from the field and had an edge on the boards. The Tigers committed 13 turnovers.
"We pIayed a tough basketball team in UMass," Jones said. "There were a lot of positives, a lot of bright spots. We were able to score 90 points and we rebounded well. We outrebounded them (43-40)."
Two issues for Jones were the number of fouls and the inability to control Massachusetts point guard Chaz Williams, who ended with 24 points and nine assists. The new hand-check rule certainly had an influence on the 29 fouls called against LSU. UMass was whistled for 25 fouls.
"I knew (new hand-checking rule) was something everyone was going to have to get used to," Jones said. "Even the veteran officials have to make an adjustment in how they call the game. We did better. We had 20 fouls in the first half and nine in the second half.
"It has been a learning curve for all of us. Things will get better as our players start to understand the rule. Our guys played through all the fouls. They did not get distracted. I thought that was good for our players."
Following the game, Jones remarked that the Tigers needed to do a better job containing Williams on the perimeter. On Thursday, he placed more of the blame on post players not doing a good job on ball screens more than the man-to-man defense by point guards Tim Quarterman and Anthony Hickey.
"Williams got into the lane when our post guys were late getting out on the high ball screen," Jones said. "It was not the one-on-one defense by Quarterman or Hickey. Williams wasn't just getting by them. Once they got in their ball screen action, our post players didn't handle it well."
On Wednesday, LSU signed three players for next season - guard Jalyn Patterson from Alpharetta (Ga.), forward Aaron Epps from Tioga High School and center Elbert Robertson from Garland (Tex.).
"Jalyn can play the 'one' or the 'two,'" Jones said. "He is a crafty ball handler and a good defender. He is quite confident. Epps has the opportunity to come in and strengthen our front court because of his length and his ability to block shots.
"Robertson is a rarity for high school and college. You don't see a guy with his size - height or weight. He will have an impact on the game. He is one of top two or three centers in high school basketball. We will continue to recruit aggressively because you don't know about the future."
LSU has 13 players on scholarship with Keith Hornsby and Brian Bridgewater ineligible. Coleman and Andre Stringer are the two seniors on the roster. The three newcomers would put the Tigers over the limit, but Johnny O'Bryant is expected to enter the NBA draft after this season.