Will Wade can’t promise the LSU men's basketball team will have the best defense in the nation this season.
He can’t even guarantee the Tigers will be ready for their Halloween exhibition at Tulane next week.
What he can promise is that it won’t be for a lack of trying.
LSU spent the entirety of Tuesday’s practice focusing on defense, and that likely won’t be an outlier in the days and weeks to come.
The first-year coach said he’s confident in the Tigers’ ability to score. He knows they can shoot.
But he doesn’t want them to live and die by the hot shooting streak, especially considering LSU lost its top scorer from last season in Antonio Blakeney.
The Tigers will get better on defense. It will be their identity.
There is no alternative.
“We need (defense),” Wade said Tuesday. “It’s not right now, but it needs to be. We’ve got to get a little bit better. We have to improve there. We’re looking for multiple guys to continue to get better in that area. We’ll know more this weekend when we can put four or five guys out there committed to what we need to do.”
The Tigers played the worst defense in the Southeastern Conference last season, allowing opponents to score 83 points per game. Only 12 teams in Division I gave up more.
Considering that, it’s no surprise it was one of the worst seasons in program history, resulting in Johnny Jones' dismissal and the arrival of Wade.
Even before the Tigers play in a live game, players say see the difference in Wade’s focus and expectations.
Senior forward Duop Reath said the days of accepting mistakes and moving on are long past.
Now, if a player doesn’t do something exactly the way Wade wants it done, the entire team does it over again.
“I think that everybody bought into it and everybody is focusing on it,” Reath said. “It was one of our weaknesses last year, and I know for a fact that nobody wants to go through what we went through last season. We’re willing to do whatever it takes to prevent it.”
Some of the qualities holding them back at the moment is not being active enough with their hands and not attacking enough, with big men and picking up ball screens.
Wade could make a whole list of other factors, he joked, but it all comes down to effort.
Wade still hasn’t seen the level of intensity and energy he demands from his players.
It’s something that could take some time — a few weeks, maybe a few games.
Wade made a point of telling reporters LSU’s top five players "may not wow you.”
But he believes the Tigers have the tools to pull it together at some point this season.
His players agree.
“I don’t think we’re going to be perfect,” junior guard Brandon Sampson said. “No body is going to have a perfect game. But I most definitely think we’re going to do some good things taking those practice principles and applying them to the game.
“It may take some time on defense where we miss a rotation or things like that, but we watch it on film so we don’t make the same mistakes again. I don’t think it’ll take weeks, but I do think it’ll take some live play for us to see what we actually need to do and where we need to be.”