With the status of freshman guard Javonte Smart still unknown, the LSU basketball team returned to practice Tuesday after a two-day break from the court.
While he hasn’t been cleared to play in the Southeastern Conference tournament opener Friday, at least Smart was able to practice as No. 9 LSU began prepping for its quarterfinal game with either Florida or Arkansas.
School officials held Smart out of Saturday’s regular-season finale with Vanderbilt, which LSU won to clinch the SEC championship outright, as it investigated alleged recruiting improprieties involving coach Will Wade and a federally convicted recruiting middleman.
Wade was suspended indefinitely Friday when he declined to meet with university officials to talk about his comments on an FBI wiretap of Christian Dawkins’ phone. The conversation appeared to be about a recruiting offer to Smart, who was not allowed to dress for the game.
Three LSU men’s basketball players were honored Tuesday on the eve of the Southeastern Conference tournament by the league’s coaches.
Interim coach Tony Benford told The Advocate that Smart, LSU’s third-leading scorer at 11.5 points per game, will travel with the team when it departs early Wednesday afternoon for Nashville, Tennessee.
But as far as Smart playing Friday, Benford, during his pre-tournament news conference late Tuesday afternoon, said he still didn’t know.
“Right now, there’s no update. … I’ll check when I get out of here.” Benford said. “They said they would let us know this afternoon. When I leave here, I’ll make a couple of calls to see what his status is. We’re still hoping we could have him Friday.
“He practiced today and he practiced really well, too, he had fresh legs,” he said. “He’s in (the gym) getting shots up right now. Hopefully, by tomorrow or Thursday, we’ll have a word on him.”
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Also, Benford said forward Naz Reid, who missed the Vanderbilt game with multiple injuries sustained against Florida last Wednesday, practiced Tuesday as well.
Subbing for Wade on his radio show Monday night, Benford said Reid had been cleared by doctors to return to the court.
“He’s ready to go; he was good,” Benford said. “He made shots, he ran the floor, he was talkative. I thought he was really good.”