When the LSU men’s basketball team took the floor Monday afternoon for the first full-scale practice of the preseason, there was one notable absence.
Freshman forward Ben Simmons, the consensus national player of the year, didn’t participate in the opening practice because of a sore ankle. Also sitting out was junior forward Brian Bridgewater, who injured his leg before the Tigers’ exhibition tour to Australia in August.
Coach Johnny Jones said both players were held out as a precautionary measure.
“We’re making sure they can heal up so we can get them back at 100 percent,” he said. “We want to make sure they aren’t aggravating anything because we do have a little time on our hands to deal with things.
“If this was in season, they could be in position where they could possibly play,” said Jones, whose team opens the regular season Nov. 13 against McNeese State. “But right now, we wanted to make sure they are full-go before we put them out there on the floor in practice.”
Simmons, the nation’s top prospect in the Class of 2015, was part of LSU’s three-man recruiting class that was ranked third in the country by ESPN. Shooting guards Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson round out the class.
A good beginning
Jones officially kicked off his fourth season as the Tigers’ coach with the first of 30 preseason workouts in the team’s practice facility.
LSU worked for about two hours on fundamentals, both offensively and defensively, with 2-on-2, 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 drills. Full team drills were held in the final portions of practice.
“It was a really good solid first day of practice,” Jones said. “I thought we had great effort from all our guys. At the same time, having the opportunities we did earlier this summer and with the individual skill work (once school resumed), I thought we were able to come out and do a lot of things well in this practice. We’re really pleased and look forward to hopefully expanding on it.”
Jones said he liked what he saw defensively.
“Defensively, through our shell drills, I thought we did a good job,” he said. “I thought (center) Elbert Robinson probably had one of his best practices since he’s been here. We’re looking to making sure he continues to improve on that as well.”
Thanks to the 13-day trip to Australia, which came after a 10-day practice period allowed by the NCAA ahead of overseas tours, Jones and his staff already have gotten some things done that they usually do in the preseason.
Putting in some of the offensive and defensive sets early was needed to help prepare LSU to play five games against Australian pros.
“Some of the things have already been implemented,” Jones said last week. “That is allowing us to move a little quicker than we normally, especially with the new guys. At the same time, we have to approach the next six weeks the way we always do and make sure we have all our bases covered.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter: @MicklesAdvocate.