NBA scouts out in force for LSU practice _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Basketball scouts watch practice Wednesday at media day for the men's and women's basketball teams at LSU.

For the most part, the preseason distractions are officially out of the way for the LSU men’s basketball team.

After taking part in media day activities with the Lady Tigers on Wednesday, the Tigers practiced in front of scouts and front-office personnel from 28 of the 30 NBA teams for a second straight day.

With at least three NBA prospects on his roster, LSU coach Johnny Jones invited the scouts in to take a look at his team before they begin to focus in on the Nov. 13 season opener against McNeese State.

“For our team to be represented that way, for the interest to be from the NBA to come in and watch our guys, is a credit to their hard work and their efforts,” Jones said. “The guys did a good job, especially playing under the lights and type of pressure and eyes on them because all these guys have great ambitions to hopefully one day be playing at that level.”

LSU director of operations Charlie Leonard said more than 60 scouts watched Tuesday’s workout with around 40 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Wednesday.

“It’ll be less of a distraction as we continue to move forward, having a chance for our guys to work out for them now,” Jones said. “It lessens a little bit of the distractions that can occur sometimes on a daily basis for our guys.”

Managing the minutes

With a deeper bench at his disposal, Jones is hoping to split up the minutes more than he did a year ago when his top four players averaged between 33 and 36 minutes a game.

So developing a deeper bench is one of the goals during the preseason for Jones and his staff, who would like to see the top players get about 27 to 32 minutes a game.

“It was very difficult last year to put ourselves in position to use a bench when you play a tough schedule and games are close,” Jones said. “You don’t rotate your bench as much because each possession is so important.”

With eight scholarship players returning to go with newcomers Ben Simmons, Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson, Jones could have at least nine or 10 players ready at any moment.

“The earlier we can develop our bench, which we didn’t have a chance to do last year, will be helpful to us,” Jones said.

The quarter system

Women’s college basketball has adopted one of its most significant rule changes ever as it goes from two 20-minute haves to four 10-minute quarters, a change LSU coach Nikki Caldwell is in favor.

“It’s a good thing for women’s basketball,” she said. “We obviously want to speed the game up. It gives you consistency at the grass roots level.

“It gives you consistency at the professional level. You’re adopting some of the FIBA rules, so when you go overseas and play, you’ll have that foundation.”

Caldwell said her players are preparing to go longer stretches without a timeout break.

“When you call that first timeout before the first five-minute mark, that becomes the media timeout,” she explained. “So your team can go nine, eight, seven minutes, without a timeout. We’re working on conditioning them, not only to just play four-minute segments; they have got to play six-, seven-minute segments.”

In another major change, teams will be allowed to inbound from the frontcourt following a time out in the final minute of the fourth quarter and in overtime and after a rebound or change of possession.

The 25/7 factors

Caldwell’s eyes widened when she was asked about LSU tailback Leonard Fournette being on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, and how her program can use it to its advantage.

“As a coach, you always want to brag about what other sports are doing,” she said. “That’s pretty amazing. We’re going to shoot that to every prospect we’re recruiting.”

Caldwell said interest in recruiting visits has also increased since Simmons arrived on campus to play for the men’s team.

“We probably have had more people interested in coming to an unofficial visit or official visit because we have a lot of young girls that like Ben, and they know he’s here,” she said.