With all the preliminaries out of the way, the LSU basketball team can begin to focus on what really counts: the 2015-16 regular season.
Coming off a 22-11 season and a berth in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, LSU will look to get off to a solid start when the new-look Tigers host McNeese State at 8 p.m. Friday in a game to be televised by ESPNU.
LSU, which played five games on an exhibition tour of Australia before the fall semester began in August, had a closed scrimmage against TCU on Oct. 31 and last Friday took a 98-72 exhibition win over Southwest Baptist.
The Tigers will have only one starter on the floor Friday night who started the 2014-15 season opener — center Elbert Robinson III.
All-Southeastern Conference forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey left for the NBA draft last spring, guard Keith Hornsby is out after having surgery last week for an undisclosed ailment and guard Josh Gray will be serving a one-game suspension for playing in an unsanctioned game this summer.
Joining Robinson in the starting lineup will be two members of LSU’s third-ranked recruiting class — forward Ben Simmons and guard Antonio Blakeney — and guards Tim Quarterman and Jalyn Patterson.
Freshman guard Brandon Sampson will be among the first players off the bench for LSU coach Johnny Jones, who’s eager to see his team in real-game situations after so much buildup to the season.
“One of the things we wanted to do was play within ourselves (last week),” he said. “We talked about it not being about our opponent and it being about us and make sure we are doing the things necessary to make sure we are executing at a certain level on both ends of the floor.
“I thought we were able to do that. Defensively, we were connected, attached.”
Coaches honor two Tigers
Simmons and Quarterman were chosen to the coaches preseason All-SEC team announced Thursday.
Simmons was a first-team pick by the league’s 14 head coaches, while Quarterman was on the second team. The coaches select a minimum of eight players for the first and second teams and ties are not broken.
Simmons was a first-team pick and Quarterman was tabbed as a second-team selection on the media’s All-SEC squad released at SEC Tipoff ’16 last month.
Also on the coaches first team is Vanderbilt junior center Damian Jones, a Scotlandville High School graduate. Jones was on the media’s preseason All-SEC team as well. Simmons was also the media’s pick as the preseason player of the year in the conference. Coaches do not pick a player of the year.
Fox picks Kentucky
While LSU got three signatures on the second day of the one-week signing period Thursday, the Tigers lost one of their targets.
De’Aaron Fox, the No. 2 point guard and No. 7 overall prospect on the ESPN 100 list, picked Kentucky. Fox, a five-star recruit from Cypress Lakes High School in Katy, Texas, listed Kansas, LSU and Louisville as his other finalists.
The Tigers, who signed Australian combo guard Kieran Hayward on Wednesday, did get three more signatures Thursday from University High forward Wayde Sims, guard Branden Jenkins and forward Duop Reath.
Jenkins and Reath are teammates at Lee College, a junior college in Baytown, Texas.
Former U-High point guard Skylar Mays, who is playing his senior season at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, will sign with the Tigers on Friday.
LSU headed to Maui in ’17
LSU has been chosen to take part in the 2017 Maui Jim Maui Invitational set for Nov. 20-22 at the Lahaina Civic Center in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.
Officials revealed Thursday the eight-team field for the 34th annual event, which is billed as the nation’s premier early-season tournament.
Joining LSU will be host Chaminade, Cal, Marquette, Michigan, Notre Dame, VCU and Wichita State.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.