Rabalais: Why a sellout crowd, heroic effort wasn't enough for LSU to shock Kentucky _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- LSU coach Johnny Jones

With an up-tempo style of play already in place, LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones is looking forward to the new rules changes that were approved last month to improve the pace of play.

The biggest change implemented for the 2015-16 season involved taking five seconds off the shot clock, which had been set at 35 seconds since the 1993-94 season. Before that, teams had 45 seconds to get a shot off.

Speaking Monday on the Southeastern Conference coaches summer teleconference, Jones endorsed the change, which wasn’t a big surprise considering the Tigers have put up 59.9 field-goal attempts per game in averaging 73.0 points during his three-year tenure.

“It won’t change much of what we do; we’re certainly an upbeat, fast-paced playing team,” said Jones, whose team ranked third in the SEC in scoring last season at 73.4 points a game. “We love playing in transition, and it certainly won’t really affect a lot of things that we do. Teams that want to slow it down and have less possessions, it may have a more adverse effect on them and change the style they’d like to play.

“But it’s going to be beneficial to the teams and fans that come out and support and enjoy the games and the style that people are playing.”

Freshman excitement

Naturally, it didn’t take long for Jones to be asked about his three-man signing class, which was ranked third in the nation by ESPN.com behind only reigning national champion Duke and Kentucky.

The class consists of forward Ben Simmons, the nation’s top-rated high school senior this past season, shooting guard Antonio Blakeney and guard Brandon Sampson. Each were ranked among ESPN’s top 40 recruits.

Jones said all three bring something different to the court.

“Ben has done a tremendous job leading up to have an opportunity to play at this level,” Jones said. “He’s able to handle and distribute the ball and make people around him better. He’s been fun to watch and work with.

“With Antonio, his ability to shoot the ball, he’s skilled, he plays extremely hard, he’s passionate about the game — a gym rat — who’s always looking to continue to improve and get better. To watch Brandon shoot the basketball, the way he plays and the passion he has for the game, is exciting.”

On the rise

Even though LSU lost sophomore forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey to the NBA draft, Jones is certainly aware of the anticipation that is building toward the upcoming season.

In addition to Simmons, Blakeney and Sampson, he’ll have the services of Arizona transfer Craig Victor after the fall semester ends to go with three top returnees in guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby and Jalyn Patterson.

“I think it brings a lot of excitement to our fan base,” Jones said. “When you culminate with a great recruiting class and the guys that are coming in, we have a lot to sell.

“We made it to the NCAA tournament last year and NIT the year before. Our fan base has had an opportunity to see the rise of the program in how we’ve continued to improve each year. To have a lot of those guys back, and the number one player in the country, I think lends to that excitement.”

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.