CHARLOTTE AMALIE, Virgin Islands — In four games this season, Tim Quarterman has given the LSU men’s basketball team what he couldn’t provide the Tigers a year ago: quality minutes off the bench.
Now firmly entrenched as the Tigers’ sixth man, the 6-foot-6 sophomore has made huge strides in expanding his game over the offseason and has rewarded coach Johnny Jones’ faith.
After a mostly forgettable freshman season in which he averaged just 12.3 minutes, 2.5 points and 1.8 rebounds — not to mention 26.4 percent shooting from the field — Quarterman has given LSU much more this season.
In addition to making the play that may have saved the game in an eventual overtime win against Texas Tech on Tuesday, Quarterman has been a defensive spark while playing three positions on offense.
“I’m playing a lot of different positions, and I think I’ve adjusted well with just the way Coach has handled me in practice,” Quarterman said last week. “He’s put me in a lot of different positions. I just have to remember my role and try to help my teammates get better each and every day.”
And, he said, remain positive.
The early results certainly have been. Going into LSU’s finale in the Paradise Jam against Clemson on Monday, Quarterman has more than doubled his playing time from last year to 28.8 minutes. He’s averaging 7.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists as the Tigers’ most versatile player.
Quarterman can play both guard spots and this year added small forward to his repertoire.
“I’m feeling more comfortable with my game because this is my second year,” he said. “Last year was a new experience for me and other freshmen such as Jarell (Martin) and Jordan (Mickey).”
Because of his inexperience last season, Quarterman might not have been able to do what he did in the 69-64 overtime victory over Texas Tech.
He started the second half and played the entire period to help the Tigers rally from a 12-point halftime deficit. His steal under the Texas Tech basket and layup with 13 seconds left in regulation tied the score and sent the game to overtime.
In the extra period, he had a rebound on Tech’s first possession, then pulled down another rebound and started a fast break that ended with a Martin dunk and a four-point lead.
Quarterman has adapted well — especially at small forward, where he said he can be more active.
In his various roles, he can rebound, shoot from the wing after working on his jump shot extensively during the offseason and be a facilitator of the ball when he’s asked to give point guard Josh Gray a breather.
“Tim has gotten bigger and a little stronger as well, and his role has changed,” Jones said. “Last year was a valuable learning experience for him, and this year he has tried to show some leadership. His size gives us an opportunity to play several ways.”
As a result, Quarterman’s minutes and stats have gone up. He never logged more than 24 minutes as a freshman, but he has already topped that three times this season, averaging 32.3 minutes a game in the last three outings. He’s also shooting 40.9 percent from the floor, although he knows that can be better.
“I think confidence is a big part of it,” he said. “Last year, I went into a slump. And this year, I’m very confident in everything I’m doing on the court. I just got back to being the old Tim.”
As a prep star in Savannah, Georgia, Quarterman scored 17.3 points per game as a junior and then averaged 19.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.4 steals as a senior.
Quarterman credited Jones for sticking with him last year and helping him get through the tough times that came with making the transition to the college game.
“Coach kept having confidence in me … he kept throwing me out there, so I got a lot of experience,” he said. “Coming back this year, I know that I’m going to be a factor for this team, and I have to help this team.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.