LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones learned a lot about his team on its recently completed 13-day, five-game exhibition tour of Australia, but some things were merely reaffirmed, especially when it came to 6-foot-10 freshman forward Ben Simmons.
In his first opportunity to coach the nation’s top recruit this season, Jones saw the things Simmons, an Australian native, can do against pros from that country’s National Basketball League.
And they weren’t all on the court.
“I was really impressed with him from Game 1 to Game 5,” Jones said Wednesday in a review of the trip. “One, he’s just excellent on the floor. He has good height, basketball IQ … but moreso just on the floor dealing with all the attention and everything that was given to him in a short period of time.
“(At) every stop, there was a lot of demand on him for his time, and then he was able to adjust, get on the floor and be productive for his team. He was never affected or bothered by any of it.”
Jones said Simmons, who averaged 34.4 minutes per game, might have worn down a little toward the end of the tour.
Still, he led the Tigers in scoring (20.0), rebounds (9.0), assists (4.5), steals (3.6) and blocked shots (2.2), even though he had a team-high 25 turnovers.
“Overall, he performed extremely well for us,” Jones said. “I was really proud of him.”
Good work, mate
Jones said the trip was long and tiring after the Tigers practiced for 10 days before leaving Aug. 11, but the experience was well worth it, especially in trying to incorporate Simmons and fellow freshmen Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson to the mix.
“I’m really excited for our players and the team. … It was a great learning experience for them,” he said. “The way they played and the opportunity they had to bond as a team showed some good signs of early chemistry that gave us reason to be excited.
“At the same time, we learned a lot about ourselves on both sides of the basketball.”
The Tigers returned to campus late Sunday night, just in time for the start of fall classes Monday.
Jones said the staff is giving the players a week off to get settled in to their classes this week, which will give their bodies time to heal before they resume individual skills work and the strength and conditioning program in a couple of weeks.
The Tigers will begin preseason practice in early October for their Nov. 13 regular-season opener against McNeese State.
LSU-OU set for ESPN
Tip-off times for seven of the 10 games to be played in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday, Jan. 30, were announced Wednesday.
But the LSU-Oklahoma game, which will be played in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, is one of the three that don’t have an exact start time. The others are Kentucky-Kansas and Iowa State-Texas A&M.
Those three games will be televised by ESPN. They will start no earlier than 1 p.m. CST and no later than 6 p.m.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.