The three newcomers to the LSU basketball program have made their mark just three weeks into summer school and the beginning of the team’s rigorous offseason program.
Speaking Thursday on the annual Southeastern Conference coaches’ summer conference call, LSU coach Will Wade said guards James Bishop and Charles Manning and forward Trendon Watford have been impressive in the early stages of their transition to Division I basketball.
Wade said he was happy to have five of the top eight players from last year’s 28-7 team returning — including four who put their names in the NBA draft before returning to school in late May.
“I’ve been pleased with our young guys,” Wade said. “We’ve got a blue-collar, hard-working group with our new guys, so that’s been very, very good for us.
“They’ve all been tremendous for us. You know, you never know for sure until you’ve played games, but I think we hit on all three of those kids.”
Wade was particularly impressed with Bishop, a 6-foot-2 combo guard whom he said has been working as hard, if not harder, thus far than senior Skylar Mays, who has drawn praise from the staff for his work ethic.
“He’s as hard a worker as I’ve ever seen as a freshman,” Wade said of Bishop. “He’s been incredible to watch.
“This week, I kind of had to shut things down; I thought his body was giving out on him a little bit because he had been working so hard. He was in the gym on his own three, four and five times a day. So he’s just an incredible worker.”
Wade spoke highly of Manning’s defensive capabilities on the wing with the 6-5 shooting guard's length and athleticism.
He noted that Watford, a McDonald's All-American who was ranked 17th in the 247Sports composite listings, is also putting in extra time in the gym.
“He makes the right play every time,” Wade said of Watford. “I try to judge it not necessarily on whether the play is completed or the play is finished, but does he make the right read and make the right play? Trendon does that about 90, 95 percent of the time.”
Wade was asked about the proposed one-year contract extension and raise for assistant coach Bill Armstrong that will go before the LSU Board of Supervisors at its Friday meeting.
The board will be asked to give Armstrong, who came to LSU when Wade was hired in 2017, a 30 percent raise to $325,000 and extend his contract to June 30, 2021.
“Coach Armstrong has been a vital part of our success these first couple of years,” Wade said. “He’s going to be huge for us as we continue to move forward and try to sustain the level we’re at now and reach a little bit higher level. So we’re very, very excited about it.
“Certainly, we want to reward people who are hard workers and who do a great job.”
Before turning their full attention to the 2020 recruiting class, for which LSU already has commitments from guard Jordan Toles of Maryland and guard Jalen Cook from Walker High School, the Tigers would like to add a big man to this year’s roster.
LSU lost 6-10 forward Naz Reid and 6-11 forward Kavell Bigby-Williams from last year’s team, leaving the 6-9 Watford and 6-8 forward Courtese Cooper, who redshirted last season, as the tallest players on the roster for next season.
Since coming to LSU in March 2017, Wade has been successful getting junior-college players and graduate transfers and he said last month at the SEC spring meetings that he would like to sign a big player to play immediately and a transfer to sit out a year.
“Certainly, we’re working hard at it,” Wade said. “I foresee getting a 'big' by August who can help us win next year.”
Edwards on board
Former Southeastern Louisiana guard Parker Edwards has been working out with the Tigers as a walk-on since the start of the summer semester.
Edwards, a former St. Paul’s of Covington standout, should be remembered for the shooting display he put on in a 94-63 loss to LSU last Nov. 6. Edwards was expected to redshirt, but then-coach Jay Ladner summoned him off the bench in the second half. Edwards responded by knocking down 6 of 8 attempts from 3-point range and scored a game-high 25 points in just more than 10 minutes.
Edwards, who received a standing ovation from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center crowd when he left the floor, eventually played in 27 games and averaged 3.7 points.