DESTIN, Fla. — Former LSU star basketball player Tasmin Mitchell is taking a step up into a full-time coaching role on Will Wade’s staff.

Wade made the announcement Wednesday here at the Southeastern Conference Spring Meeting that he is promoting Mitchell from the administrative role of director of student-athlete development to assistant coach.

“This was kind of the plan when I hired Taz in the first place,” Wade said. “We knew he had a bright future in coaching. He loves LSU.

“He’s ready and will do a tremendous job.”

Mitchell replaces Tony Benford, who served as LSU’s interim coach late in the season. Benford is now an assistant at TCU.

"I am so excited to have the opportunity to be able to coach at the university I love and am most passionate about," Mitchell said in a statement released by the school. "I am humbled to have been a student-athlete for the men’s basketball program and now be able to join Coach Wade and his coaching staff to build and continue the great tradition of the LSU basketball program that I once was a part of.

“Coach Wade and his staff have done a great job turning this program around and I couldn’t be more excited to be able to contribute and bring my experiences and knowledge of the game to the program as an assistant coach. I will always take great pride in this program and community and am excited for the journey ahead for LSU Basketball."

Wade also announced that he is promoting assistant Greg Heiar to associate head coach. He has been an assistant for both of Wade’s first two seasons at LSU.

“It’s the first time I’ve had an associate head coach,” Wade said. “I felt he earned it. He’s the best in the country at player development and a tenacious recruiter. He’s just a well-rounded assistant. He’s going to be a head coach sooner rather than later.”

Mitchell, 32, was a star at Denham Springs High School before playing at LSU from 2006-09. He was a member of LSU’s 2006 Final Four team and SEC champion and a senior on the 2009 team that won the SEC title.

Mitchell remains the third-highest scorer in LSU history with 1,989 points, behind only all-time NCAA leading scorer Pete Maravich and Rudy Macklin. His 950 career rebounds ranks sixth in school history, and he logged the most minutes (4,692) and games played (137 with 136 starts) by any Tiger ever.

Wade spoke to a small group of Louisiana media Wednesday, the day after a news conference here which marked his first public comments since his name was mentioned in connection with alleged illegal recruiting offers aimed at Tigers guard Javonte Smart.

Wade was suspended by LSU on March 7 for not talking to school officials about those allegations. He was reinstated April 14 after meeting with LSU and NCAA officials in what Wade described as an extensive conversation.

LSU returns five of its top eight players for 2019-20, including four players who entered their names in the NBA draft but decided to return to school: senior guards Skylar Mays and Marlon Taylor, sophomore guard Javonte Smart and sophomore forward Emmitt Williams.

The Tigers also return sophomore forward Darius Days. It’s top newcomers include five-star freshman forward Trendon Watford, who signed May 20 with LSU, and freshman guard James Bishop. The Tigers also have three transfers: redshirt freshman forward Aundre Hyatt, redshirt sophomore forward Courtese Cooper and junior guard Charles Manning.

“To get five of our top eight back is huge,” Wade said. “We added a great player in Watford. Bishop is a really good player. And Manning is as good a JUCO player as I’ve evaluated in a long time.”

LSU still has two scholarships to give and may sign more players, Wade said. He said senior guard Marshall Graves will remain on scholarship. LSU awarded Graves the scholarship for Wayde Sims after his death in September.

Wade said it was not a foregone conclusion that Mays and Williams would have returned for this season.

“Skylar had teams that would have taken him late second round,” Wade said. “Emmitt had some good workouts with some teams.

“I didn’t take it for granted that they would come back. But now we’ve positioned ourselves to make a big jump.”

LSU will travel to Spain from Aug. 12-22, with exhibition games in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. The Tigers will get to practice for 10 days before they depart, allowing the team to work on some offensive changes Wade wants to implement.

“We will be more motion based,” he said. “But we’re not going to stop running ball screens.”

Wade also said he will meet with a current NBA head coach in a couple of weeks to learn about their concepts in spacing.

“We have to get better at that,” Wade said.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​