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Former LSU star Dupree joins staff as student assistant

LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones announced Monday that former Tigers standout Ronald Dupree, who played 10 years of professional ball, has been named a student assistant for the upcoming season.

The 33-year-old Dupree, who played for LSU from 1999 to 2003, has returned to school to complete his degree work and will follow a similar path to what Jones did in his first year on the Tigers’ staff under Dale Brown during the 1984-85 season.

“We’re excited about Ronald Dupree’s addition to our staff as he continues to pursue his degree in electrical engineering,” Jones said in a news release. “He has shown through our camps and clinics his passion and desire to be involved in coaching, and we look forward to his participation with our basketball team serving as a student assistant coach this year.”

Dupree, who led the Southeastern Conference in scoring (17.3 points per game) and was second in rebounding (8.8) as a sophomore in 2000-01, played under former coach John Brady.

A three-time All-SEC selection, Dupree, who helped lead the Tigers to an SEC title as a freshman in 2000, still ranks ninth in LSU history in career scoring (13.4) and rebounding (7.0).

He played six seasons in the NBA with Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota and Toronto and also played professionally in Israel.

LSU basketball teams to host ‘Mall Ball’ event

The LSU men’s and women’s basketball teams will make their first appearance of the new school year at the second annual “Mall Ball” event at the Mall of Louisiana on Sunday.

Members of both teams will sign autographs and take photos with fans from 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the Dillard’s wing of the mall.

The event kicks off the “Road to Tipoff,” a series of preseason appearances for the Tigers and Lady Tigers around Baton Rouge and the LSU campus as they move toward the start of the 2014-15 season.

All events are free and open to the public.

For more information, visit www.LSUsports.net.

BRBVA to honor former LSU coach Dale Brown

Former LSU men’s basketball coach Dale Brown will be recognized for his contributions to the community with the naming of a court in his honor by the Baton Rouge Basketball and Volleyball Association.

Brown, who coached the Tigers from 1972-97, will be honored during the BRBVA Community Court Honors reception and dinner to be held Thursday, Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. in the L’Auberge Casino Ballroom.

Several members of LSU’s All-Century team and former Tigers who played for Brown during his 25-year tenure are expected to attend the event, according to a news release.

Tickets for the cocktail hour and dinner are available at $325 for an individual or $2,500 for a table of eight.

For more information, call Brock Kantrow at (225) 328-6461 or email him at brock@teamsportsplex.net.

LSU’s Mickey, Martin on Athlon All-Sophomore teams

LSU had two players named Monday to the national All-Sophomore team for the upcoming season by Athlon Sports.

Jordan Mickey was a first-team pick, while Martin was a third-team selection as the publication broke down players by class for the 2014-15 season.

Mickey was one of four SEC players named to the group’s first all-sophomore team.

Of Mickey, Athlon editors said: “Mickey joined exclusive company by becoming only the second player in LSU history with 100 blocked shots in a season. The other is Shaquille O’Neal. After averaging 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds, Mickey will team with fellow sophomore Jarell Martin for what could be the Southeastern Conference’s best frontcourt duo.”

Joining Mickey on the first team were Kentucky’s Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Arkansas’ Bobby Portis.

Martin had a strong second half to his freshman season and averaged 10.3 points and 4.6 rebounds a game. He and Mickey were named to the All-SEC freshmen team a year ago.

Mickey was also a first-team All-SEC pick along with former LSU standout Johnny O’Bryant III, who was a second-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Vanderbilt forward Damian Jones, a former ScotlandvilleHigh School standout, joined Martin as a third-team All-Sophomore selection.

Q & A: New LSU assistant coach Eric Musselman

Former Arizona State associate head coach Eric Musselman was hired Tuesday to fill a spot on the LSU coaching staff.

Former Arizona State associate head coach Eric Musselman was hired Tuesday to fill a spot on the LSU coaching staff.

By now, the news is out and digested.

Former NBA coach and recent Arizona State associate coach Eric Musselman has been hired by LSU to fill the two-week old vacancy created when Korey McCray left the program.

I’ll have a full story on Musselman, a basketball lifer and son of a former coach in Bill Musselman, bring some schematic acumen to a staff who faced critiques on that point last season.

For now, though, here’s a transcript of the 18-minute chat I had with Musselman on Tuesday afternoon as he drove to pick up son from a camp in California.

Q: I’m sure answering this question is deja vu, but why stick with coaching at the college level as opposed to trying to work your way back into the professional ranks?

A: Our family made a decision a few years ago that we were going to change our path and go from pro ball to college. You know, my wife loves the college environment. I love it from a coaching standpoint. The players are so eager to learn and you can have such an impact not only on the floor, but also off the court. All those things have drawn me to really love being a part of a college campus.”

Q: What do you like about the player-coach dynamic and interaction appeals to a professional league?

A: It’s interesting, because my time in the NBA D-League, I always looked at my relationship with players. In the D-League, you’re dealing with guys all the time. You’re staying in all different types of hotels, and it’s more similar to college. You can have more of an impact and lifetime relationships. So that’s a same type thing: Being around guys where you’re not just with them at practice or a game. You can have a much deeper relationship. Even the guys at ASU, being around them for two years you can develop that kind of lifelong relationship. To me that’s a really neat thing.

Q: Is it sort of a middle ground then to work at that level, and does it open the path up to committing full-time to the college ranks? The guys are still hungry to learn and reach the professional level, but there’s that college amount of intimacy?

A: That’s a perfect way to phrase it. It’s a little bit in between. You really pride yourself on having an impact on someone’s life, like Gerald Green. The thing with Gerald was he needed to learn how to prepare himself for practice, prepare himself for the game, understand the importance of scouting reports. He had all the natural talent and gifts, but it was all those intangibles and he was willing to let us help him see the light. You get that aspect much more at the collegiate level than you do at the professional level.

Q: So does that open up a desire to go full bore into college?

A: I don’t think there’s any doubt that the relationships in the D-League are so much different than they are in the NBA, because you are around them off the floor. There’s only so many restaurants in Erie, Pa., when you’re on a road trip. You end up eating with guys. Those relationships off the floor become stronger, and whether it’s Gerald Green or Jeremy Lin, finding ways for those guys to reach their goals becomes really important. At the college level, to get a player to understand that if they have NBA aspirations, this is what they’re going to talk about in a draft room. I’ve done it. I’ve been in it. Your body language coming in and out off a game. Your body language when a coach is talking to you. Are you engaged? Are you a guy in warm-ups who prepares the right way? All those intangibles are things you can talk to a player at the college level and try to open his eyes to things he maybe hasn’t heard from anyone else before.

Q: You said when you get to Arizona State it was a chance to re-learn the game? You’ve said the style, learning how not to over coach and handling guys off the floor were in play. What did your two years in Tempe impart?

A: There’s so many differences between the two games on the floor that you wouldn’t know unless you’ve done both. I’ve learned a ton the last two years, and I know I’ll learn a ton from Johnny and his staff. That’s part of the thing that’s so exciting to me is to continue to learn as a coach. There’s little things, like baseline out of bounds defense is so important in college basketball. It’s much more a premium than in the pro game, where side out-of-bounds offense and defense is so vital. That’s a little thing that becomes monumental in close games. Even the way you can get emotionally up for a game is different than in the NBA. In the NBA, the emotions don’t start taking place until the playoffs. In the college game, when ASU is playing Arizona, and you’ve got a chance to knock off the No. 1 team in the country, it’s not just another game. You’re not playing four or five games a week, it allows you to get so emotionally invested in it from a preparation standpoint and with the players. All those things are different and unique.

Q: You met Herb Sendek a couple years ago at a shootaround when they were up in Berkely at a shootaround. What’s the backstory with LSU?

A: David Patrick and I are really good friends. When David was at Saint Mary’s, I was hanging out at Saint Mary’s a lot. Randy Bennett, who’s the head coach at Saint Mary’s, was the head coach at San Diego when I played there. So there’s that little Saint Mary’s tree. Randy and I are friends, and David and I are friends. That was the bridge to coach Jones.

Q: Obviously, Johnny’s not just a peer but a boss. What appealed to you about the possible working relationship and how he oversees LSU?

The more I talked to Johnny about the job, the more I got excited. And we talked about it a lot. Again, each conversation led me to feel that this was the right place. I was offered a NBA assistant’s job in basically the same time frame, and this felt like the perfect fit to me. My wife is really excited. My two sons are really, really excited. We sat a dinner table and talked about the NBA and college. We went back and forth, and it was unanimous between myself, wife and two sons. We did our own little voting, and it came out 4-0. I was really fortunate to have the opportunity I’ve had at the pro level,a nd I know I still have a lot to learn at the college level. I just want to come in and try to do anything that coach Jones wants. Camaraderie on a staff is so important, and I just feel that we’re going to have an opportunity to have that great staff chemistry.

Q: A lot of people will look at your background and say, ‘He’s an Xs and Os guy.’ You’re a coach’s son, and you’ve lived the game since a kid. What do those experiences bring to the staff? If there’s been a critique of the staff, it’s they might need someone with your kind of track record. Is that the role, or is it still to be defined?

A: I think it’s still to be defined. Coach has been great about talking about it. Eventually, roles evolved. We’ve talked a lot of Xs and Os. I’m going to learn a lot being there. I don’t know (assistant coach) Charlie (Leonard) very well. I just know David and Johnny. We’ve talked hoops, and I think everybody brings something to table.

Q: When I look stylistically, Arizona State and LSU played at pretty good clips tempo. You all were known for that at Golden State. How is the fit from a style and personnel standpoint?

A: I think it’s a perfect fit. That’s a lot of the reason it made sense to be a part of Johnny’s staff. We have a lot of similar beliefs in how the game is played. That was really important that he believes in an up-tempo style and transition baskets. From that standpoint, it’s a great fit.

Q: How much have you been able to sort of digest any tape from last year of the team? Is that the goal when you get into Baton Rouge?

A: I have a lot of catching up to do, not only with LSU. I want to dive into the other teams in the conference and try to learn their strength and weakness. I have a learning curve where I’ll have to catch up with the rest of the staff. I have been watching tape. That was part of the decision-making process. They’ve done an unbelievable job recruiting, and both of the bigs from last year have great upside. The incoming recruiting class in an exciting one. The point guard (Josh Gray) and the kid coming in from Texas (Elbert Robinson) mean there’s a lot of pieces to work with.

Q: Logistically, what’s the plan to relocate and get settled?

A: Obviously, we got all this finalized this morning. We’re getting on a plane Sunday. My son has camp until Saturday, and as soon as that ends we’re on a plane at 8 a.m. Sunday. My son will go to LSU’s campMonday. I’ll be working, and my wife will be looking for places to live.

Q: When did you all take the vote?

A: We took the vote about four days ago.

Q: Can you remember how far back Johnny reached out?

A: I can’t really even remember, but I know he’s a great recruiter because he got me. He has me sold.

Hickey visits Oklahoma State, mulls a choice, father says

Anthony Hickey, who left LSU last month appears close to landing at Oklahoma State, where he'd fill an immediate need. (The Advocate | Catherine Threlkeld)

Anthony Hickey, who left LSU last month appears close to landing at Oklahoma State, where he’d fill an immediate need. (The Advocate | Catherine Threlkeld)

Welcome to Stillwater, Anthony Hickey.

Maybe.

The Oklahoman reported Wednesday that Hickey is close to joining OklahomaState, a program in need of an experienced hand at the point guard spot after losing Marcus Smart and Markel Brown.

On Thursday, Anthony Hickey Sr., the point guard’s father, told The Advocate his son is currently on a campus visit, and may decide by the end of the day whether to pledge his services the Cowboys.

“He took a trip out there, and he’s sort of liked it so far,” Anthony Hickey Sr. said. “He might love it.” Roughly a month ago, LSU parted ways with the three-year starter after the program decided not to renew his scholarship.

Now, Hickey could have remained in Baton Rouge to finish his degree, but would not have been on the Tigers roster next season. It didn’t help Hickey’s efforts that he was released right on the cusp of a NCAA-mandated dead period that ran until June 1 and prevented in-person contact with coaches and campus visits.

“That’s what really messed it up,” Anthony Hickey Sr. said.

The guard fielded some interest from Purdue, Butler, Southern Mississippi, Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois and a “bunch” of low-major programs, Anthony Hickey Sr. said.

Still, OSU’s Travis Ford was one of the few head coaches to reach out and make contact, along with Cowboys assistant coach Butch Pierre.

“That stood out to our family,” Anthony Hickey Sr. said.

The linchpin could be whether the guard is immediately eligible next season, or whether he’s forced to sit out the usual one season as a transfer. A solution could be found in a little-used, little-known “run-off” waiver, which was created in 2012.

Under the guidelines for a waiver, Hickey would need to show his exit from the Tigers “was outside the control of the student athlete,” prove he is in good academic standing and get a statement from LSU indicating they support the request.

Right now, Anthony Hickey Sr. said he’s under the impression Jones’ program wouldn’t have any reason or desire to withhold that support.

“They said they will do anything to help,” he said. “Anything outside of that would be a surprise to us.”

The Cowboys, who were a top-10 early last season but stumbled to a second-round exit in the NCAA tournament as a No. 8 seed, face a measure of uncertainty about who will run the show next season.

With Smart and Brown out of the fold, one option is incoming freshman Tyree Griffin, a Landry-Walker product plucked out of New Orleans in April by Pierre — a former LSU assistant during John Brady’s tenure. Aside from Griffin, OSU tried to shore up depth with one of the nation’s better JUCO prospects in Jeff Newberry.

Scoring the commitment and signature of Hickey would round out a reasonable rotation, one that saw the program’s heir apparent exit in February when Steve Clark — a former consensus top-100 recruit — was booted from the program.

“It’s kind of a perfect situation for him,” Anthony Hickey Sr. said. “But he’s still going to weigh his options.”

Over their two seasons together, Jones and Hickey butted heads at times. There were missed study halls, tardiness to team meetings, and the coach never deemed the point guard a leader in spite of a position that required a hefty dose of that trait.

Nevertheless, Hickey started 85 games in his career, averaging 9.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. During his sophomore season, he carved out a niche as one of the Southeastern Conference’s best ball hawks after averaging 2.9 steals per game.

But this season, Hickey didn’t start the Tigers’ first three games after winding up in Jones’ doghouse, simultaneously allowing LSU to experiment with freshman Tim Quarterman in the lineup. The experiment didn’t yield sterling results, and Hickey was reinserted.

Yet, he curbed his risk-taking in the passing lanes, seeing his steals dip to 1.9 per game — a nod to the Tigers’ struggle at times keeping bigger guards from attacking the rim. Still, he became a more efficient distributor, posting a career-high 3.7 assists per game and a SEC-leading 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio.

As a scorer, Hickey was more of a spot-up shooter, a profile confirmed by the fact 66.2 percent of his field-goal attempts came behind the 3-point arc and connected on 34.4 percent of them.

Now, perhaps those traits might be Big-12 bound.

“There’s nothing bad to say about LSU,” Anthony Hickey Sr. said. “He had a wonderful three years there.”

Spring signing period closes, and LSU needs to hit transfer market

Advocate File Photo | LSU coach Johnny Jones and his staff let the spring signing period pass without finding replacements for recent transfers such as Anthony Hickey.

Advocate File Photo | LSU coach Johnny Jones and his staff let the spring signing period pass without finding replacements for recent transfers such as Anthony Hickey.

Barring a rapid courting process, it was unlikely LSU would have announced landing two signatures to end the spring signing period Wednesday.

A week ago, LSU saw three players — Anthony Hickey, Shane Hammink and Malik Morgan — exit the program. The moves, whether voluntary or the result of a scholarship being pulled, left the Tigers two under the NCAA-mandated 13 scholarships for their roster.

Options, though, at dusk of the signing period were scant. One-time LSU recruit and LeeCollege product Deng Deng reportedly visited LSU and Nebraska before picking Baylor. But that was about it.

No murmurs escaped the program, either, in recent days about trying snag a prep or JUCO product.   CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein has reported Houston swingman Danuel House, who was a highly-touted high school prospect, has been in touch with LSU. Efforts to reach House’s camp were unsuccessful.

And, for the time being, that’s all we know about the program’s interest in those players still unclaimed.

In reality, quality graduate transfers, those players who have graduated and can be immediately eligible at their next stop, have been picked over. Peruse ESPN analyst Jeff Goodman’s list of transfers and you’re left with these names as remaining gems.

  • Courtesy North Carolina A&T

    Courtesy North Carolina A&T

    Richaud Pack, G, North Carolina A&T, 6-3, 183: Pack can fill it up, and more importantly shot 37.1 percent from behind the 3-point line last season. LSU needs a guy that can stretch defenses, and Pack fits the bill. But he can also attack the rim and get to the line — see a 78.9 free-throw rate, which ranked No. 39 nationally, per kenpom.com — if defenders crowd him. Unfortunately, Pack appears to close to a decision:

  • SSO-00299641185Byron Wesley, G,USC, 6-5, 210: If you click the link, you’ll see Wesley picked Gonzaga. The Trojans leading scorer is a coup for coach Mark Few, who will try to blend him in with a veteran-laden roster.  He would have been a nice fit for Jones’ system. Of his 409 field-goal attempts, roughly 43.5 percent came at the rim, per hoop-math.com, and he played in an open-wheeled system under first-year coach Andy Enfield.

Let’s take a break for a minute, too, and consider what LSU might be looking for in any addition, because I’ve hinted at it several times.

First, I don’t think scoring is a premium if you believe Keith Hornsby and Josh Gray can make a smooth transition. Both are capable at getting into the lane and finishing at the rim — a trait Hickey and Andre Stringer lacked. No, you don’t turn away a guy with that ability, especially as an insurance policy, but Jones has repeatedly sounded confident his aforementioned duo can do the job.

Second, you’ll want a 3-point shooter. Hornsby hit at 37.9-percent clip during his final season at UNC-Asheville. The problem is there’s not another reliable one on the roster. At OdessaCollege, Gray was only a 30.6-percent shooter from that distance. I don’t know if Darcy Malone, the 7-foot Aussie, can become a pick-and-pop weapon, but he does have a pure stroke. The problem is you yield interior defense, unless he gets stronger in the lane. Rising sophomore Tim Quarterman shot just 20.8 percent from long range, a figure he’s got to improve this offseason.

Third, can the new arrival defend and rebound? Not to thump and bludgeon a dead horse, but Hickey and Stringer were prone to getting bullied and outmanned by bigger wings — often when those guards barreled toward the rim off ball-screens. And forget rebounding. The duo ranked near the bottom of LSU’s roster for offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, according to kenpom.com. Morgan might have been foul prone (4.8 per 40 minutes), but his 9.3 offensive rebound percentage was the best among the Tigers’ guards.

Put it all together, and the right guy might be a 6-3, 200-pound wing that shoots 35 percent from the three-point line, is an average defender, and can rebound outside his area. Basically, he is a capable reserve that can provide a little scoring punch.

Now, a caveat: The Tigers have the summer to find a transfer. Hornsby wasn’t plucked until the middle of June last year. The question now is whether Jones and Co. can woo one of the remaining quality players available, or if they’ll need to wait for strife at another program to spit out a player that’s a suitable fit.

I scoured the list of ballers looking for a home, but CBS’ Jeff Borzello did his own market valuation Monday. So, I’ll start there.

  • Courtesy West Virginia

    Courtesy West Virginia

    Eron Harris, G, West Virginia, 6-3, 195: The sophomore is an Indianapolis native and based on the Indy Star appears keen on heading to Big Ten country.  But he shoots 42.2 percent from 3-point range, and is efficient (a 113.1 adjusted rating by KenPom.com) in his scoring. He has to sit out a year, but there’s no doubt he’s up there with House as one of the best transfers still left on the heap.

  • Terry Henderson, G, West Virginia, 6-4, 200: If anything, this might make LSU fans happy to see the Mountaineers, who face the Tigers on Dec. 4 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, happy. There’s an exodus of sorts in Morgantown. Still, Henderson has lots to like. He shots a decent 37.6 percent behind the arc. He has size, rebounds at an average rate and commits just 2.1 fouls per 40 minutes. Last season, he averaged 27.1 minutes per game. Yet Maryland already appears to be among the 15 programs pouncing on trying to secure Henderson’s services. UCLA, Wake Forest, N.C. State, Virginia, Miami and Richmond may also get visits.
  • Nick Faust, G, Maryland, 6-6, 205: He’s big and rangy, which fits the mold of what Jones looks for in prospects. The drawback is he largely settled for jumpers — 50.4 percent of his shots are 3-pointers — but only connected on 30.7 percent the ones hoisted up beyond the arc. So, it’s hard to say whether he would have been a factor offensively, but he had three years of experience in the ACC, and he was a steady perimeter player for the Terps.  He was going to Oregon State, but reopened his recruitment after coach Craig Robinson was fired.

And that’s about it as far as high-major prospects. Georgia Tech forward Robert Carter doesn’t appear a likely option. OregonState guard Hallice Cooke is Fred Hoiberg’s latest get at IowaState. Xavier forward Justin Martin is a graduate transfer option, but the Tigers’ front court is well stocked. For now, House is where LSU might have to pin its hopes, but any relief he provides wouldn’t arrive until 2015-2016.

Now, the mid-major level isn’t bereft of potential options. Hornsby’s presence shows, too, that it doesn’t mater to LSU coaches where they draw talent. Again, LSU has Gray, Hornsby, Quarterman and incoming freshman Jalyn Patterson. It’s too soon to know how the rotation will work, but if Hornsby and Gray do what’s expected, any newcomer could afford to sit and bide time.

  • download (1)Charles Cooke, G, James Madison, 6-6, 210: The sophomore fits the template physically of what Jones wants, but he only gets 34.3 percent of his shots at the rim, and only knocks down 34.6 percent of 2-point jumpers, per hoop-math.com. But he’s got a knack for getting to the foul line, and can defend reasonably well (2.6 fouls per 40 minutes).  Michigan State, shopping for Gary Harris’ replacement, reportedly looked into Cooke, too. Again, if you take Cooke knowing he’ll sit a year it’s a potential boon to bring him in.
  • Tre’ Coggins, G, Air Force, 6-2, 185: The Falcons’ leading scorer at 16.0 points per game left the academy because the military obligation became a strain. But he seems like a decent option to provide shooting. Over 54 percent of field-goal attempts were 3-pointers, and he connected on 38.1 percent of them. But another perk is that he can run the point.  And, at least so far, no program appears to have zeroed in on him.
  • Dmitri Batten, G, Old Dominion, 6-3, 205: First, Batten is a grad-transfer option. So that’s a perk. But for a guy that put 27.7 percent of the Monarchs shots when on the floor, he’s not very efficient. He went just 38 percent from the floor this season, and only 28.7 percent behind the 3-point arc. Yet he has a 14.8 defensive rebound percentage, hinting he can rebound well for his size.

Other mid-major guards looking for homes: Jay Canty,  Appalachian State; Sam Finley,  UC-Riverside; Karl Ziegler, Longwood; Keron DeShields, Montana.

All of this is fluid, and this is more a thought exercise than anything else. But now it’s possible to see what the landscape looks like moving forward this summer.

Lifting the veil on APR: A Q&A with LSU’s Miriam Segar

AP File Photo | LSU guard Anthony Hickey was one of three players to leave the program last week, exits that could potentially impact the program's Academic Progress Rate.

AP File Photo | LSU guard Anthony Hickey was one of three players to leave the program last week, exits that could potentially impact the program’s Academic Progress Rate.

Last week’s exit of three players from the LSU program raises questions of what impact might on and off the floor.

Already, sophomore guard Malik Morgan has landed at Tulane, while Anthony Hickey and Shane Hammink are still shopping for new homes. Earlier in April, junior forward Johnny O’Bryant III declared for the NBA Draft, and all total the program has watched four members depart the roster since bowing out of the NIT to SMU.

Aside from needing to fill two scholarships, the roster turnover also has the potential to hamper the program’s academic progress rate. The data for the most recent year was released last week, and the Tigers appear safe, landing a perfect score of 1,000 for the 2012-2013 academic years and a 955 for the past four years. Under NCAA regulations, schools must earn a multi-year APR of at least 930 to be eligible for the postseason.

So the question arises as to how LSU might be affected with four departures this season, and the possibility of losing rising sophomore forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey to the NBA ranks.

Courtesy LSU | LSU Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar

Courtesy LSU | LSU Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar

To clear up the picture, I chatted with Miriam Segar, an associate athletic director at LSU who oversees the school’s APR efforts. First, a quick primer. The NCAA awards APR points on a semester basis, doling out one point for a player remaining eligible and another if he remains enrolled in school. Theoretically, each player under scholarship is worth up to four points each year. A team’s point total is added up and divided by the maximum amount of points available and multiplied by 1,000.

For example, a basketball team with 13 scholarship players has 52 APR points available. If they receive 49 of them, it would translate to an APR score of 942.31.

With that, here’s the chat I had with Segar.

Q: On first glance, it would seem difficult for LSU to maintain a perfect score for 2012-2013 after losing guard Corban Collins and forward Jalen Courtney to transfers. How do the mechanics work to allow that to happen?

Advocate File Photo | Former LSU guard Corban Collins, along with forward Jalen Courtney, transferred to Moorehead State after the 2012-2013 season. But the pair did not negatively impact the Tigers' APR.

Advocate File Photo | Former LSU guard Corban Collins, along with forward Jalen Courtney, transferred to Moorehead State after the 2012-2013 season. But the pair did not negatively impact the Tigers’ APR.

A: I’m going to talk more globally, because each of them have academic privacy and we can’t talk about specific kids. The NCAA has exceptions where APR points can be waived. For instance, if a student transfers and their overall GPA is a 2.6 or higher, the legislation says that they’re academically eligible at your school and if they transfer to another school — and you can document that — then you waive the point for retention.  So, in that case, you’re a 3-for-3, instead of a 3-for-4. Similarly, if you have a kid that leaves for professional athletics, and they’re eligible to return, instead of having for four possible points, you only have three possible points. There are cases where kids, for an academic year, can be a three-point value (in calculating the APR) instead of a four-point value. So it does change.

Q: So, in the case of the the academic year that just finished, it would seem that if forward Johnny O’Bryant III left for the NBA but finished in good standing, then LSU will not take a hit. Correct? Does he need to finish with a 2.6 GPA?

A: Professionally, you don’t need a certain GPA. If you complete the academic term and satisfy requirements to return to the school and you sign a professional contract, then you can waive the retention point. Instead of losing the point and counting as a 3-for-4 that year, you count as a 3-for-3.

Q: So O’Bryant would need to sign a contract? What documentation would the NCAA need to see?

Advocate File Photo | Junior forward Johnny O'Bryant III left for the NBA, but it may not haunt LSU if he signs a pro contract.

Advocate File Photo | Junior forward Johnny O’Bryant III left for the NBA, but it may not haunt LSU if he signs a pro contract.

A: He would just need to be on a roster. He would need to be picked up. For example, a football player signs a contract, but sometimes when they get picked up they may not. They may just be on a professional roster, so we’re able to use those as well.

Q: Is there a particular cut-off date when a player has to be on a roster in order for him not impact LSU’s APR score?

A: We will file next year’s numbers in October. It has to be before the filing deadline that it would need to be done.

Q: Three players — Shane Hammink, Malik Morgan and Anthony Hickey — left the program, too. We reported Anthony’s scholarship was not renewed. I know you can’t comment specifically on his case, but, generally speaking, is a nonrenewal of a scholarship treated the same as a transfer? Or is it different?

A: It’s the same rule. If they leave, are academically, and can qualify for a waiver to play at their next school, then the waiver we get for a retention point can still be executed.

Q: So there’s no distinction?

A: The school is accountable for any student that is enrolled and receives an athletic scholarship. Any athlete that doesn’t receive a scholarship isn’t counted?

Q: Can you all appeal the ruling of those waivers for retention points, or are the bylaws pretty cut and dry?

A: They’re pretty cut and dry.

Q: How is the advising process, and how involved do you all get, with players considering a move to the professional level about the impact their decision might have on the program’s APR?

Advocate File Photo | Sophomore guard Malik Morgan is moving on to Tulane, but if he left LSU in good academic standing then it shouldn't be a problem.

Advocate File Photo | Sophomore guard Malik Morgan is moving on to Tulane, but if he left LSU in good academic standing then it shouldn’t be a problem.

A: We’re very proactive. We look at their schedule, explain what they need to accomplish by the end of the term in order to help the university maintain that Academic Progress Rate, and that’s it’s very important to the program.

Q: How is that initiated?

A: It’s really a collaborative effort. We see the kids every day. Academics is very involved as well. Administratively, we have an idea, too. We try to educate the kids every year about APR. We talk to them in the fall and in the spring. They all understand, I think, the responsibility that comes with carrying an academic scholarships in terms of team GPA and success for the program. We are actively seeking kids to come back school (after turning pro) to graduate in order to get bonus points, because it helps our APR and our graduation rate.

Q: These numbers can be fairly abstract for an average fan, and so can the process for who they’re calculated. But it’s safe to say you all can project into the future what they might be.

A: We have no choice but to project. They’re can be substantial penalties, and it influences decisions our coaches make on potential players and academic risk. How many points can we lose this year? What does that mean for next year? It’s a four-year rolling average, and the number this year stays with us. That’s a concept where there’s a lot of accountability for the coaches and the university. If there’s one bad year, it lingers. But if there’s one good year, too, eventually it’s also going to roll off, and you could be left with a bad year and just a couple OK years.

Q: This may be a way of life, though, given that JohnnyJones has two players next year that may look to turn pro and transfers are a way of life now.

A: Just look at Kentucky and what they go through every year. As long as players leave eligible and sign that contract, you’re fine. But you’ve got have kids that understand. If you had kids that didn’t understand the serious impact that can have on the program, then it can be a difficult thing to do. There’s a certain amount of trust our coaches have to put in these kids.

In football, it’s easier: You finish a semester and have a bowl game. If you’re not going to come back and turn professional, you’re not dealing with kids not completing a term. Even in baseball, kids finish a term, and then finish they’re sport and leave. Basketball is the one that’s difficult, because they’re getting drafted before the semester ends — even our women’s basketball players. Making sure those kids understand and can complete the hours they need is a lot to ask, but we have kids doing it. We’ll just have to continue being proactive.

Q: So how confident are you all about next year’s score for the men’s program and where it might land?

A: We feel pretty confident. Obviously, the goal every year is to get as high as you can, but minimally a 930, which is the mandate. This is a great year, but it could be down a little bit. You just need to keep that four-year average high. I feel very confident that we’ll be dealing with an average APR that is above the minimum level we need.

 

LSU gets Old Dominion to open the Paradise Jam

Old Dominion guard Aaron Bacote led the Monarchs, who face LSU in the Paradise Jam on Nov. 21, with 15.5 points per game last season.

Old Dominion guard Aaron Bacote led the Monarchs, who face LSU in the Paradise Jam on Nov. 21, with 15.5 points per game last season.

Half of LSU’s nonconference schedule is set.

On Monday, the bracket for the eight-team Paradise Jam was released, with the Tigers drawing Old Dominion for their opening game on Nov. 21. They are paired with Illinois State and Weber State on their side of the draw.

The Monarchs, who are out of Conference USA, went 18-18 last season, reaching the semifinals of the CBI.  Coach Jeff Jones led ODU to 13 more victories in that it had the previous season after arriving from American University.

Old Dominion also brings back four of its top five scorers from last season — second-leading scorer Dimitri Batten transferred — to the fold. Still they finished just No. 251 in adjusted offensive efficiency, and struggled at points with valuing the basketball, per KenPom.com.  The Monarchs also finished the season at No. 164 in the NCAA’s official Ratings Percentage Index.

Clemson, Gardner-Webb, Nevada and Seton Hall make up the other side of the draw. LSU would face a team from that quartet on Nov. 24.

Overall, the Tigers’ nonconference schedule features games against a slate of teams that finished with an average RPI of 121.3. It’s likely they’ll fill in at least three games with in-state opponents — think the Southland Conference — and have reached out to a few ACC programs about possible home and homes.

Still, keep in mind LSU also needs to submit this schedule to the Southeastern Conference for review, and there’s also the goal to finish with a non-conference strength of schedule better than No. 150 nationally.

Here’s a look at the schedule so far, with RPIs in parentheses.

Nonconference home

  • Texas Tech (130)
  • UMass (26)

Nonconference road

  • UAB (153)
  • Dec. 4: West Virginia (92)

Neutral floor

  • Nov. 21: Old Dominion (164)
  • Nov. 22 or 23: Illinois State (133)/Weber State (151)
  • Nov. 24: Consolation/Championship game

SEC Home

  • Alabama (128)
  • Auburn (160)
  • Florida (1)
  • Georgia (72)
  • Kentucky (7)
  • Ole Miss (88)
  • South Carolina (139)
  • Tennessee (37)
  • Texas A&M (147)

SEC Road

  • Arkansas (67)
  • Auburn (160)
  • Florida (1)
  • Ole Miss (88)
  • Mississippi State (239)
  • Missouri (50)
  • Tennessee (37)
  • Texas A&M (147)
  • Vanderbilt (121)

 

LSU lands West Virginia for SEC/Big 12 Challlenge

LSU landed West Virginia as its draw for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

But you knew that already, and it’s not the first time in recent memory they’ve locked horns.

The programs last met over a decade ago during a home-and-home series. West Virginia won 84-69 in Baton Rouge in the first meeting during the 2004 season, and LSU avenged the loss a year later with a 71-68 victory in Morgantown.

Let’s take a quick look at the rest of the pairings for the three-day event, which features 10 games between what the nation’s best power conference last  and the much maligned SEC.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014    

  • Auburn at Texas Tech

Thursday, December 4, 2014   

  • Arkansas at Iowa State
  • Baylor at Vanderbilt
  • TCU at Ole Miss

Friday, December 5, 2014

  • Florida at Kansas
  • Texas at Kentucky
  • Missouri at Oklahoma

Saturday, December 6, 2014

  • Oklahoma State at South Carolina
  • Kansas State at Tennessee

Now, Wednesday’s unveiling leaves the Tigers’ trying to fill five spots on their schedule. LSU already has the back end of home-and-home deals looming with UMass and Texas Tech coming to Baton Rouge and a visit planned to UAB. There’s also the three games guaranteed by playing in the Paradise Jam, which takes place in late November in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s also easy to sort out the rough breakdown of the Tigers’ draw in the SEC.

On paper, the Mountaineers are relatively solid draw. They were knocked out by Georgetown in the first round of the NIT, but eighth-year coach Bob Huggins. A middling 17-16 record may not sizzle, but West Virginia returns its top five scorers — three of whom were underclassmen — to go with Juwan Staten. Staten, a 6-1, 190-pound rising senior, passed on entering the NBA draft.

The bigger question is whether Huggins’ can get back toward the trend line that’s defined a very successful career. Over the past three seasons, WVU has a .500 record, while it missed the NCAA tournament for a second-consecutive season. I’ll wait for our pregame blog next season to delve into this issue, but put simply: The Mountaineers didn’t defend. At all. They finished No. 126 in adjusted efficiency and ninth in a 10-team Big 12, per kenpom.com. Offensive punch won’t be an issue for this group. Stopping people remains to be seen.

Still, in a climate where the NCAA selection committee wants to see teams hit the road for tough games, LSU has a chance to get a quality, top-100 RPI win away from Baton Rouge. Until the rest of the schedule is done, this might stand as their toughest game on the nonconference schedule.

So, how does the entire docket look in early May?

Below is a rough outline of the 2014-2015 LSU schedule so far. I’ve also put the NCAA’s official RPI of each team in parentheses.

Nonconference home

  • Texas Tech (130)
  • UMass (26)

Nonconference road

  • UAB (153)
  • West Virginia (92)

Neutral floor:

  • Three games at the Paradise Jam

SEC Home

  • Alabama (128)
  • Auburn (160)
  • Florida (1)
  • Georgia (72)
  • Kentucky (7)
  • Ole Miss (88)
  • South Carolina (139)
  • Tennessee (37)
  • Texas A&M (147)

SEC Road

  • Arkansas (67)
  • Auburn (160)
  • Florida (1)
  • Ole Miss (88)
  • Mississippi State (239)
  • Missouri (50)
  • Tennessee (37)
  • Texas A&M (147)
  • Vanderbilt (121)

Traditionally, LSU locks in up between three to five in-state schools — just take a look at last season — to round out the slate. As of March, though, the Tigers had resumed talks with Texas and several ACC programs — possibly Georgia Tech and N.C.State — about potential home-and-home series. The trick is whether the Tigers can get a power conference program to open any such deal by visiting Baton Rouge this season.  The Longhorns, for glitz and added juice to SOS, would be a big get, even if it does leave LSU playing three Big 12 schools. N.C. State will be rebuilding after squeaking into the NCAA tournament, while Georgia Tech is coming off a disappointing 16-17 season.

By now, you know the mandate handed down by the SEC last season: All nonconference schedules need to have an average rating better than No. 150, and the conference’s schools will submit their dockets for review by the home office. Operating off that standard, the Tigers will need to upgrade. The consensus of various formulas was LSU’s nonconference menu landed between No. 170 and No. 186 in the nation last season.

Whether it gets better — at least in the eyes of algorithms and regression formulas — is harder to gauge.

The Paradise Jam may not be a booster shot. Outside of Clemson and LSU, both of whom had top-100 RPIs, none of the remaining six teams in the field had a RPI better than No. 133, while their average slot in the index was No. 160.

It will be interesting to see what the program does to fill in remaining holes. The Tigers won’t abandon keeping money Louisiana and scheduling in-state opponents. But it’s important to note that last year the five schools LSU played had an average RPI of roughly No. 250.  If a couple of games materialize against power conference opponents, the Tigers may be able to pare back facing Southland Conference schools, minimizing the drag on their SOS.

If the goal is a return to the NCAA tournament, a place LSU hasn’t been in five seasons, then bolstering its schedule is a must. We’ll see what the program comes up with over the next couple months.

As for the SEC schedule, it’s a push. LSU has five games against teams I expect to vie for top-four finishes in Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas and Georgia. The boon, though, is three of those games — UK, UF and UGA — are at the PMAC. Auburn, Tennessee and Texas A&M are in various stages of rebuilding, and there are sneaky toss-ups with rival Ole Miss and a potential surprise squad in South Carolina. The road schedule seems manageable. Florida, Arkansas and Ole Miss are tough trips, but getting a torn-down Missouri, Texas A&M, Auburn, Tennessee and a struggling State balance it out.