In took just three days of preseason practice for LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones to see the benefits of the Tigers’ 13-day exhibition tour of Australia in mid-August.
When LSU began full-scale practice sessions Monday afternoon to start the countdown to the Nov. 13 regular-season opener against McNeese State, the Tigers already had a leg up thanks to 10 days of workouts it was allowed prior to the trip Down Under.
Jones had an idea that would be the case, but he said he saw it in daily practice between Monday and Wednesday.
“We’ve been pleased, after our third day of practice, with the intensity level and attitudes of these guys,” Jones said during a media availability Thursday. “It’s what you expect from the start.
“What’s glaring for us is the benefit we had from our early trip and having an opportunity to practice in the summer and being further along than normal or usual.”
Jones noted that the learning curve was reduced dramatically, whether it was with fundamentals on offense and defense as well as the drill work, with the 10 extra practices and five games overseas.
“With that, introducing it again at the start of our practice, we were further along because guys were familiar with it,” he said. “They had done it. We’ve been through it. They were so much further along than normal, and it’s been good for them because of the time and energy they put in prior to (going).”
Competition ramps up
With the start of preseason practice, senior guard Keith Hornsby said the competition the players had back in early August is already showing up.
“I think our energy and confidence has only increased since we’ve started again,” he said. “We feel like we have such high expectations. We know everyone around us is so excited about the season coming up.
“So, we’ve been really focused and have competed really hard against each other,” Hornsby added. “We made a point on that before our first practice, that we needed to do that in order to make ourselves better individually — which in turn will help the team. We’ve really taken to that.”
Bridgewater still out
While freshman forward Ben Simmons got on the court for the first time Wednesday afternoon after sitting out the first two practices with a minor ankle injury, junior forward Brian Bridgewater still hasn’t worked.
Bridgewater was dealing with a lower leg injury before the Australia trip and played just 45 minutes in four games there.
“He’s been up and down … unfortunately, he’ been banged up a little bit throughout the summer,” Jones said. “He’s going through another injury now, and we’re not sure when he’ll return. We’re hopeful next week sometime.”
The ‘L Train’
Simmons is having fun watching what his highly-celebrated counterpart as the most recognizable athletes on campus — Leonard Fournette — is doing across the street in Tiger Stadium.
“It’s surreal, it’s crazy just watching him out there,” Simmons said. “It’s fun to see all the fans go crazy when his name is called. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do the same thing in the PMAC, but that’s a long way away.
“It’s crazy the way he moves with that size,” he said. “Leonard has that speed and power at the same time. He’s kind of like a football LeBron.”
Even though he lived in Australia until coming to the United States three years ago, Simmons is quite familiar with American football. His brother-in-law is Michael Bush, who was a running back for the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders before leg injuries cut his NFL career short.
After having a 6 a.m. practice Friday, then having the rest of that day as well as Saturday and Sunday off, the Tigers will return to resume workouts Monday.
The Tigers will practice in front of NBA scouts and various team personnel on Tuesday and Wednesday and also take part in media day activities on Wednesday.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.