All posts by Matthew Harris

Matt Harris began covering LSU basketball in January 2013 for The Advocate. He previously covered the Sun Belt Conference, Arkansas State, UALR and pitched in on Arkansas during his stint with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Prior stops included D.C., Kansas City, Wilkes-Barre, and Columbia. He loves brunch, The National, CoMO and new changes to the block-charge rule.

Roster loaded for White team ahead of LSU’s spring game

Let the parsing and nitpicking begin. The over-analysis, too.

LSU released the rosters on Friday afternoon for the Tigers’ spring game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Tiger Stadium.

A quick once-over leaves an easy conclusion; the White team is comprised mostly of starters, while the Purple squad is their understudies. Meanwhile, there is some overlap among a handful of players who could switch jerseys.

Here’s a quick breakdown. Players that are sitting out with injuries are noted, as are players moving between both rosters:

White

Offense

Quarterback

  • Anthony Jennings
  • Hayden Rettig
  • Jake Clise

Running back/Fullback

  • RB Terrence Magee
  • RB Kenny Hilliard
  • FB Bennett Schiro
  • FB Jason Cormier
  • FB Connor Neighbors

Wide Receiver/Tight End

  • WR Quantavius Leslie
  • WR Travin Dural
  • TE Travis Dickson
  • TE Dillon Gordon
  • TE DeSean Smith

Offensive Line

  • OL Alex Cheramie
  • RT Jerald Hawkins
  • RG Hoko Fanaika
  • LT La’el Collins
  • LG Vadal Alexander
  • RG Evan Washington
  • C/OL Ethan Pocic
  • C Elliott Porter

Defense

Defensive Line

  • DE Tashawn Bower
  • DE Justin Maclin
  • DE Jermauria Rasco (Out: Shoulder)
  • DT Christian LaCouture
  • DE Danielle Hunter
  • DT Frank Herron
  • DT Quentin Thomas

Linebacker

  • WLB Kwon Alexander
  • MLB D.J. Welter
  • LB Myles O’Brien
  • SLB Lamar Louis
  • LB Duke Riley (Out)
  • LB Christian Pittman

Secondary

  • S Austin Suits
  • S Micah Dickens
  • FS Corey Thompson (Out)
  • CB Tre’Davious White
  • CB Rashard Robinson
  • FS Ronald Martin
  • SS Jalen Mills
  • S Tommy LeBeau
  • S Tre’ Sullivan

Specialists

  • PK/P Trent Domingue
  • P Jamie Keehn
  • PK Alex Kjellsten
  • PK Colby Delahoussaye
  • LS Reid Ferguson
  • LS Connor LeBlanc
  • LS Logan Boudreaux

Analysis: It’s no surprise, but Jennings gets the nod with the first unit. His experience right now might be the edge over Harris at signal-caller. Meanwhile, there’s some swapping on the line, namely at right guard, where Fanaika and Washington are battling to replace Trai Turner. Pocic, meanwhile, appears set to get mixed in with porter. The depth issues at running back are somewhat apparent, along with wide receiver. But the arrival of August brings reinforcement.

On defense, it’s interesting to note Thomas has a slot over Gilmore. The rotation at end isn’t too much of a surprise. The departure of Jordan Allen, though, leaves the rotation a man short. At the second level, the experienced hand of Welter will be in the middle instead of the converted Kendell Beckwith along side mainstays in Louis and Alexander. There aren’t any surprises in the secondary.

Purple

Offense

Quarterback

  • Brandon Harris
  • Brad Kragthorpe
  • Brandon Bergeron

Running Back/Fullback

  • RB Reshaud Henry
  • RB Trevonta Herod
  • RB/FB Melvin Jones
  • FB Devonte Meullion
  • FB John David Moore

Wide Receiver/Tight End

  • WR Rob Bolden
  • WR Avery Peterson
  • WR John Diarse
  • WR Chris LaBorde
  • WR Luke Boyd
  • WR Jeffrey Lang
  • TE/P Josh Tharp
  • TE Logan Stokes
  • TE DeSean Smith (Swing)
  • TE Jake Franklin
  • WR Miguel James
  • WR Kevin Spears (Out)

Offensive Line

  • OL Cody Townsend
  • OL K.J. Malone
  • RG Hoko Fanaika (Swing)
  • LT Jonah Austin
  • OL Andy Dodd
  • RG Evan Washington (Swing)
  • OL Josh Boutte
  • C/OL Ethan Pocic (Swing)

Defense

Defensive Line

  • DE Jordan Harper
  • DT Maquedius Bain
  • DE Lewis Neal
  • DE Michael (M.J.) Patterson
  • DT Mickey Johnson (Out)
  • DT Frank Herron (Swing)
  • DT Greg Gilmore

Linebackers

  • WLB Deion Jones
  • LB Jonathan Rucker
  • LB Ronnie Feist
  • MLB Kendell Beckwith
  • LB Grant Leger

Secondary

  • CB Dwyane Thomas
  • S Lionel Williams
  • CB Ed Paris
  • CB Brandon Surtain
  • FS Rickey Jefferson
  • CB Jeremy Land
  • CB Jalen Collins
  • CB Jordan Triche

Specialists

  • PK/P Trent Domingue (Swing)
  • P Jamie Keehn (Swing)
  • PK Alex Kjellsten (Swing)
  • PK Colby Delahoussaye (Swing)
  • LS Reid Ferguson (Swing)
  • LS Connor LeBlanc (Swing)
  • LS Logan Boudreaux (Swing)

Analysis: It’s expected that the Purple squad, on paper, is overmatched. Harris doesn’t exactly have a plethora of proven weapons around him at running back, where Melvin Jones is a converted linebacker. At receiver, there’s a duo that’s been nicked up in Peterson and Diarse to go with a converted quarterback in Bolden. Just looking at the offensive lines for both sides, there might be some mixing and matching, which would fit with new line coach Jeff Grimes’ declaration that every spot is up for grabs. Again, the effort to find a rotation at defensive tackle is reflected here. Bain, Herron and Gilmore are all trying to earn reps. At linebacker, it will be the first time we see Beckwith in his new home. At cornerback, Ed Paris, a highly-touted early enrollee, will put his talents on display, too.

 

Deep Cuts: Tom Luginbill

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON– St. Augustine’s Leonard Fournette (5) runs for a touchdown after grabbing an interception from Archbishop Rummel High School in the last seconds of the fourth quarter at Joe Yenni Stadium in Metairie, La.

Surely, you read the story I published this morning along with Scott Rabalais on the Cold War-style recruiting battle between LSU andAlabama.

You didn’t? Fix that. And read Mr. Rabalais’ column on what it means for LSU to keep Neville safety Hootie Jones in state.

I spent about 15 minutes on the phone with ESPN recruitnik Tom Luginbill talking about the battle between the Tide and Tigers, the perception of LSU losing in-state kids and his thoughts on the duel for Mr. Jones‘ services. Oh, and some guy who carries the football for St. Augustine named Leonard Fournette.

We didn’t agree on whether Nick Saban would pull Nikita Khrushchev-inspired shoe banging incident at SEC meetings. (Plus, I don’t think anyone confuses Saban for the former leader of the Soviet Union.) But Luginbill was informative. As such, I’ve decided to share a transcript of material that got left on the cutting room floor with you, dear reader.

Hootie Jones will be in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, and then in Baton Rouge for Texas A&M-LSU later this month. How do you see that process playing out before commits on Nov. 27?

The decision may lie with the type of relationship he has with Landon Collins, because you’re talking about a similar position and they’ll spend a lot of time together,” Luginbill said. “There’s some influence there in regards toAlabama. It’s so difficult to pull guys out of the state, but the ones that are north of Baton Rouge are easier than the ones south of Baton Rouge.”

 Obviously, there are close influences in West Monroe’s Cameron Robinson and Ouachita Parish’s Cameron Sims. How much sway might they have, considering their allegiance to the Tide?

“You would like to believe prospects are going to look at the bigger picture, look at their own critical set of factors and what’s important to them,” Luginbill said. “But let’s not be naive. When you have such a tight-knit group in that state andLouisianathis year, which is so strong top to bottom, those kids do have influence over one another. They do talk. They do spend time together. Kids want to win, and they’re going to ask the other good kids (to come play with them) and recruit them. That’s not just forAlabama, but for LSU too. It happens across the board.

“Where we see a lot of that is the Under Armour All-American game. We put together the roster, and then you get down there and all the kids are recruiting for each other. They’re all getting after it. There’s always going to be that influence there. The smart kids realize that’s a component that needs to be considered, but shouldn’t necessarily carry as much weight as other factors for long-term success.”

Should LSU be worried about that northeast corner of the state? Is there any reason why Alabama has found a toehold there?

“With LSU, there’s really only one true competitor, and it’sAlabama. “But LSU knows that. If LSU wants a kid, they’re rarely going to lose them to someone outside ofAlabama. That’s just the rivalry that’s been creative. The caliber player and the style of player seems to be inherent in that area, and both of those styles fit the types of programs at LSU andAlabamaas far as what they value in a prospect, and that’s what creates that competitiveness.”

LSU tends to fill half of its signing class with in-state prospects. Bama, meanwhile, is at about a quarter and spot recruits nationally. The ones the Tide have plucked in the past have been high profile. Even if LSU keeps the bulk from decamping, does that change outside perception?

“If you look at sheer numbers, thenAlabamahasn’t won the most battles,” Luginbill said. “What happens is if it’s one high-profile guy here, or another high-profile guy here, it puts more stature and exposure on that one player and creates the overhype. When it was an Eddie Lacy, or now that’s a Cam Robinson or a Landon Collins, those guys are so high profile that it probably makes it a bigger deal than it really is. At the end of the day, would LSU trade one player for securing five? Absolutely, they would. Do you want to keep everybody at home? There’s no question, and you have the luxury, by and large of doing that, because you don’t have another BCS competitor in that state. I do believe the nature of the player and the hype of the player can create a little big bigger deal than it actually is.”

So it sounds like it’s rooted in a concern, founded or unfounded, that the fence built around Louisiana might be in jeopardy?

“There’s some validity to that. WithAlabama, they have such deep-rooted ties in the state ofGeorgia, as well asFlorida. They can also dip into other areas — Trey DePriest comes to mind fromOhio; Cyrus Kuoandijo is fromMaryland. They’ve gone a little more national in their efforts when they’ve needed to. LSU has basically relied upon their state, eastTexasalong the I-10 corridor and then down intoFlorida. But they don’t have the same presence asAlabamadoes in the state ofGeorgia. They need to rely upon making sure those kids stay home.”

But is this a year where the pool or well of talent is so deep in Louisiana that, if you lose two or three prospects, it’s not a major blow?

“Oh, yeah. What ends up happening is you end losing a guy toAlabamathat is a priority for you, but you sign the other 15 or 16. At the end of the day, I still look at that as a win.”

 Now, let’s talk about Leonard Fournette. It seems he’s got the opposite situation from Hootie. He hasn’t talked about his visits or favorites or divulged many details. Has that kept oxygen from stoking a fire of sorts around his recruitment?

“He absolutely has, and it has reduced it. It’s been for his own good and probably for his own well being from a mental standpoint. The more you talk, the more information you divulge, the more clutter there is about it. When you just say, ‘Guys I’m not going to talk about, I’m not going to tip my hand,’ for the most part nobody has anything to write What’s it’s done is lessened the pressure on the kid and allowed him to go through the process at his own pace, and to some degree I’d agree with you: It’s allowed a kid to be a kid.”

Do you think he’s sort of set an example for the top-rated prospect in a class should handle the process?

“I wish more kids did it that way, it’s the safer way to go. It alleviates pressure. It allows kids to enjoy the process more instead of getting caught up in it. At the end of the day, these are 17-year old kids that haven’t set on foot on a college campus or football field. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know what’s going to pan out.”

 

 

Former LSU corner Tharold Simon comments on Thursday arrest

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING — LSU cornerback Tharold Simon eludes Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Derel Walker after intercepting a pass by Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Two days after he was arrested for reportedly threatening a Eunice police officer, former LSU cornerback Tharold Simon took responsibility for the incident but framed it as a misunderstanding with the officer.

The arrest of Simon, a 6-foot-2, 202-pound junior, came at ill-timed moment in the midst of the NFL draft, which Simon left school to enter in early January. It also came a day before the town planned to honor its native son with “Tharold Simon Day.”

On Saturday, Simon laid out his version of events with reporters on a conference call after the Seattle Seahawks selected him in the fifth round with the No. 138 overall pick

According to Eunice Police Chief Ronald Dies, a police officer asked Simon to move his car, which was blocking Beulah Street. Dies told The Advocate that Simon tried to muster preferential treatment and get the ticket fixed.

Simon was arrested on counts of obstruction of a roadway, public intimidation, resisting an arresting office and a noise violation. The resisting count stemmed from Simon’s refusal to put his hands behind his back.

Below is a transcribed explanation from Simon about how the events unfolded:

“The whole thing is my fault, and I shouldn’t have been parked on the side of the road,” Simon said. “I was just chilling in my grandmother’s house, and I seen a car pull up and it looked like a cop car. I went out there, and I went there he told me to move the car. When I moved the car I turned my music up, so when I pulled up in the drive way, he told me to give him my license. I just sat on the car while he ran the license and told the cops to come bring him a ticket. One of my friend’s had come to congratulate me on the draft that was coming up, and he told my friend to move. I had gotten out of the car, and I was like, ‘Man you trippin’ for nothing. There’s really nothing serious go on around here.’ I guess my pants was low, and he was like, ‘Get your pants up, or I’ll take you to jail.’ Then he just grabbed me and said, ‘Matter of fact, put your hands behind your back.’” I put my hands behind my back, but I had my (girlfriend’s) car keys, and I was trying the car keys to my cousin. I kind of jerked my arms or my wrist. I never ran, I never flinched or moved, so he said I was resisting arrest and took me to jail or whatever, and said I threatened his life or whatever. But I had like 30 witnesses, or whatever, out there knowing nothing was wrong and I didn’t say nothing wrong. I’m a humble guy, but I’m embarrassed about what happened. It shouldn’t have happened. Everything happens for a reason.”

LSU running back Blue raises hackles in comments on potential for a gay teammate

 

LSU senior running back Alfred Blue’s comments on potentially having a gay teammate in the school’s student newspaper are sure to raise eyebrows.

In a story Friday by the The Daily Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper, about the prospect of a gay teammate, the senior running back expressed skepticism about whether there would be acceptance in the locker room. How he went about it, though, is sure to raise eyebrows. 

“Football is supposed to be this violent sport — this aggressive sport that grown men are supposed to play,” said senior LSU running back Alfred Blue. “Ain’t no little boys out here between them lines. So if you gay, we look at you as a sissy. You know? Like, how you going to say you can do what we do and you want a man?”

Now, it’s important to note that fellow LSU players Trai Turner, Stephen Rivers and coach Les Miles expressed more nuanced takes. Turner, a sophomore offensive tackle, said if a gay man was on the roster, it wouldn’t matter so long as he was professional, courteous and a solid teammate. Rivers echoed the same sentiment. Miles, for his part, touched on the practical day-to-day aspects of running the program.

Fittingly, The New York Times addressed the topic in a tangential way several days ago. In its story, the paper noted the ho-hum response to Britney Griner, a star women’s basketball player at Baylor, disclosing she is a lesbian. And the thrust of the story is critical: It was blase because there’s a long-held, lingering and poisonous stereotype that female athletes tend to be homosexuals. Or as Portland State coach Sherri Murrell told the paper: ‘Oh, it’s just another lesbian.'”

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights, says in the Times story, there is reverse sexism and stereotyping.

And it’s translated into issues having thoughtful discussions on the culture surrounding athletics that presents a potentially hostile environment for a gay athlete to expose his sexual orientation. How so? Here’s Patrick Burke, founder of You Can Play, an advocacy group for LGBT athletes in the Times:

“We’ve had tremendous success in getting straight male players to speak to the issue; we’re having a tougher time finding straight female athletes speaking on this issue because they’ve spent their entire careers fighting the perception that they’re a lesbian.”

 

LSU recruit Martin notches solid outing in McDonald’s All-American game

Baton Rouge native and Madison Prep product Jarrell Martin put on a solid display Wednesday during the West’s 110-99 victory over the East in the McDonald’s All-American game.

The 6-7, 210-pound forward, who suited up for the West, scored 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting, while also going 2 of 4 at the free-throw line, while adding 3 rebounds.

The five-star prospect, who is rated the No. 10 prospect by ESPN, notched three dunks during the game, including a one-hand lob on an in-bounds play in the first half and another on fastbreak early in the second half.

The highlights came after Martin sat out Monday’s slam dunk contest.

Martin is the highest-rated prospect for a LSU class is rated No. 10 by ESPN, No. 6 by Rivals and No. 9 by Scout. He is one of 10 McDonald’s All-Americans slated to attend SEC schools, paced by Kentucky with six.

Turn out the lights: Why LSU missed the NIT

LSU guard Andre Stringer reacts after a loss to Florida at the Southeastern Conference tournament on Friday

Well, now you know.

LSU missed the NIT. And, in reality, it probably wasn’t all that close, either.

Here’s the breakdown of the bids:

  • Automatic Bids: 9
  • RPI spots 31-40: 1
  • RPI spots 41-50: 0
  • RPI spots 51-60: 4
  • RPI spots 61-70: 6
  • RPI spots 71-80: 6
  • RPI spots 81-90: 5
  • RPI spots 91-100: 1

LSU was No. 86, but it’s resume was hurt by the weakness of the SEC, which was rated as the worst power conference in America, per Jerry Palm. Additionally, LSU had a No. 233 non-conference RPI. It’s best non-conference victory was over UC-Irvine, which checked in at No. 126. In short, a .500 record from a power conference wasn’t enough to carry the day. Iowa (No. 80), St. John’s (No. 82), Florida State (No. 84), Arizona State (No. 88) and Washington (No. 89) all finished .500 in their leagues. But those were considerably better than the SEC, and their non-conference SOS marks were better, too.

Here’s the bracket for the NIT. Not a lot of NIT teams outside of Kentucky, Tennessee and Bama in the top seed lines. Again, the SEC didn’t have much to offer after Bama at No. 63 in the RPI. Here are the NIT teams between Bama and the Tigers:

  • Detroit (No. 64)
  • Denver (No. 65)
  • Ohio (No. 67)
  • Charlotte (No. 68)
  • Maryland (No. 70)
  • Baylor (No. 71)
  • Indiana State (No. 72)
  • Virginia (No. 75)
  • Stanford (No. 77)
  • Iowa (No. 80)
  • St. Joseph’s (No. 82)
  • Florida State (No. 84)

Twelve teams. Or one-third of the field, roughly. Nomads roam that desert. SEC coaches trumpeted putting nine teams in the RPI top 100, but it’s a false stat because only two were in the top 50, three more were clumped in the high 50s and low 60s, then LSU came in a No. 86. Let’s be frank, again: The SEC had parity, but it was relatively benign.

On Sunday afternoon, I parsed the past five NIT fields and came up with this rough breakdown for averages.

  • Automatic bids: 9
  • RPIs in the 30s: 1
  • RPIs in the 40s: 3
  • RPIs in the 50s: 4
  • RPIs in the 60s: 6
  • RPIs in the 70s: 5
  • RPIs in the 80s: 3
  • RPIs in the 90s: 1

The conclusion: LSU missed the NIT in a year where the bids skewed heavily in its favor. That distribution hints that LSU’s resume just didn’t pass muster. I’m not criticizing the Tigers, or praising the selection committee. Just pointing out LSU had its shot.

The culprit: A road loss at Auburn and blowing a late lead before losing in OT at home to South Carolina. Those were poor losses to sub-200 RPI teams. Worse, it kept LSU from clearing the 20-victory barrier and an 11-7 regular season record in the SEC. Hitting those benchmarks might not have put them on the NCAA bubble, but would have done wonders for their NIT profile.

I tweeted this last night, but I don’t think the Tigers non-conference slate will be as bad next season. A trip to the neutral floor of the Old Spice Classic should help. This is the field: LSU, Butler, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Saint Joe’s, Siena and Washington State.

For now, though, LSU has accepted the offseason has arrived.

Q&A: Eddie Ludwig chats about losing SEC slate to concussion ilness

 

LSU forward Eddie Ludwig nabs a rebound against McNeese State forward Pete Kpan on Nov. 12, 2012, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Ludwig, who has averaged 2.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game in his career, has sat the Tigers’ past 17 games with post-concussion illness.

Since early January, LSU senior forward Eddie Ludwig has sat out all 17 of the Tigers’ SEC games with recurring health-issues from concussions. Specifically, he endures days where quick on-set headaches and dizziness can beset him during periods where he has a heavy reading load for class or complex analytic situations in his two economics courses. In early February, a stress test ruled out a return to the floor. Consulting with a neurologist and LSU’s medical staff, he decided to step away fully from the program.

On Saturday against Ole Miss, the Metairie native and Country Day product will be honored during Senior Day festivities. But he will not suit up and will not see the floor. Increasingly, concussions are becoming a recurring issue in college basketball. Ludwig serves as a prime example of how they occur: A blow suffered during a rebound or in a scrum for a loose ball. My story details the situation, but space constraints limited touching on every aspect.

So, I’ve posted the full transcript of my 20-minute sitdown with Ludwig on Thursday. Read all of it. Skim it. Do whatever, but if you read the study posted in the link above and Ludwig’s comments, you’ll have a deep grasp of the issue.

How did you get this first concussion?
“It happened in practice. I took an elbow. Really, there were two concussions. They had happened within a 10-day span. I got one, came back and was fine, or thought I was fine, at least. I got cleared medically, and everything seemed OK. Then I got hit again in the head. Apparently, it wasn’t. That really was the tipping point.

Can you recall what exactly happened to give you the first one? It happens, but there’s not a strong association between concussions and basketball.
It happened right before SEC play, and right in a period where we didn’t have any games. So the timing was good. I sat out about two or three days and was able to come back and practice. I didn’t miss any games because of it. The second one was around Jan. 10, and that’s the one that’s put me out.

Was it a scrimmage session, individual drills? When did it happen during the workout?
We were running through Florida scout team, and just happened while we playing scout.

That’s not a period most people would think it would take place, walking through another team’s sets?
We were scrimmaging it and playing 5-on-5, but it happens more than people think. I’ve talked to some people recently about it, and they act really surprised. Every year I’ve been here, there’s been someone with a concussion, or concussion issues. It’s not an uncommon thing.

Were those the first time you sustained a concussion? Had there been previous ones?
I’ve had one in high school and had one here before. It was a combination of a lot of things building up to that, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

You played football in high school (at Country Day). Did one come from that?
“When I was a sophomore, I had a pretty severe one, but I was fine after that. Then I had one or two my freshman and sophomore year (at LSU), and then those two consecutively.

Who clipped you in the scout team session?
“I couldn’t even tell you. I don’t remember.

Did your head strike the floor?
“No, it was some elbow or some other body part, but it hit me right on my chin and caught me.”

You’ve had them before, so did you immediately have some recognition that something was amiss or off?
“You can ask the guys. I knew right away this was different. This wasn’t going to be good for me, because I’d known from before that if you got a concussion and you had a second one you’d be out for an extended period of time. That’s the first thing that came to my mind, ‘I’ve had a concussion, now I have another one. I’m not going to be seeing the floor anytime soon.’ It was an immediate headache, and I knew the next thing that was going to come.

When did you have to get restested by doctors to see if you might be cleared?
“It was about a month after it happened and my symptoms seemed to be lessening. Things seemed like they were headed the right direction, and I was eager to get back. They put me on a stress test. And I failed.”

What were the symptoms? Nausea? Headaches from light?
“It’s not so much light that’s as big of a factor for me. I’ll just randomly get headaches, and they’ll stay for a while. I’ll have some dizzy spells, too. I never know when it will happen, but it happens a good bit of the time. So, I’m just trying to get better each day.”

When did you have the stress test, or what did you he have you do?
I’ve been seeing a neurologist about once a week since the concussion. They’ve really done everything in their power to get me better, and when the time came that I felt I was able to handle a stress test, I was cleared by a neurologist. I went with our trainer and went through a workout, and things seemed like they were OK. I jumped on an eliptical and within a minute — we were trying to get my heart rate up to 130 (beats per minute) — was really the first time in a month. The symptoms came back right away. That’s when we knew it was going to be a longer time frame for me.”

What goes on in those weekly check-ups now? Is it about purely managing symptoms?
Really, he’s just asking me about my symtpoms and what are the causes of my headaches. Just different techniques and strategies for how to prevent them. What medicines I need to take. It’s really just him trying to give me advice and tell me what to expect in trying to get me better.

You said the headaches come on at odd times? Do you notice triggers?
They come on randomly. They come on trying to memorize things or study for a test. That’s really what triggers them, or studying for a test. Each day I’ve noticed it gets better and better. It’s just a really slow process, which being an athlete you can play with a sprained ankle and play through the pain. You really can’t play through a head injury like this. It’s not going to get better. It’ll just get worse quickly, and the recovery time is already long and not really set.

What sorts of medications do you take?
I’m not even sure what they’re called. I know I just take them before I go to sleep.

It sounds like a double-whammy. You said you had a test today and a group project last night. What is your way of coping with those burdens and the symptoms?
That’s really been one of the biggest issues for me. I’m not able to drop any classes and graduate on time, which is why I’ve really stepped back from things that cause me to have my symptoms and just focus on my school work. If I start to feel like I’m going to have a headache, I step back, go to my apartment, lay down and wait for it to go away.

What’s your course load like, or schedule, I should say?
I’ve got two economics classes. That’s my major. I’m in 12 hours now, and I really just don’t want to drop anything. It’s just getting really detailed in graphs, and it’s a lot, especially when you’re having these symptoms and it’s requiring a lot of studying.

How much do you lean on the academic center?
“They’ve been great. I’ve gotten notes from the doctor to give to my professors, who’ve been great and really understanding. They’ve been more than willing to work with me, which has been a lifesaver. The test I took today, I was supposed to take last week, but they moved up to this week because I was having issues and let me be symptom free for a couple days. I just really appreciate it.”

Have you ever been given a window for when they think there might be progress?
Not really. That’s probably the most frustrating thing. You just really want to be able to come back and be like I was before this. You just have to be patient, really listen to your body, note what symptoms your having, when they happen and do whatever you can to make sure they don’t come back. The longer from the period of the the injury, the better I get. It’s a steady progression, but then there might be a setback.”

What can you do with the group? If anything at all?
“I still stay in touch with the guys. I text them on the road when I can’t be with them, which has been the last two road games. That’s been really tough for me. Even when I had the injury, I didn’t miss any games because I was focused on getting back and didn’t want to lose touch with any of the guys or the team. I was there for every step at every practice. But once my symptoms started getting worse, I talked with the doctors, and they said I needed to step back and kind of chill out. So, I still try to stay in touch and be a vocal leader, because I am a senior. I love my teammates and want to encourage them in whatever they do. They’ve been playing really well, and that lifts me up. I was watching last night on the WatchESPN app, which is weird but is what it is.”

What could you do in practice when you weren’t playing? I’ve seen guys act as another assistant in scouts and individuals, and help process lessons out of film reviews.
I was getting better leading up to that stress test, so I was able to get out there and work with the posts, and I’ve been in that position the last three years. If I saw little footwork things, or pump fakes they needed to do, I could pull them aside and tell them. I just wanted to be in a position to help. Since my symptoms have been worse, I haven’t been able to do that.

When did you tell them? And how did that unfold?
It was after the stress test, and it was apparent to everyone that this was going to a longer thing than we’d planned it to be. It was not just getting back to playing back to basketball, but back to life.

Did you ever mull taking the semester off? A medical clearance would have left the slate clean.
“There’s a part of me that thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to handle this course load.’ But never did I think I would take a withdrawal or leave of absence. My goal is to graduate on time, and it’s an issue — but one I’m fighting with to make happen.

How involved have your parents (Tripp and Lisa) been in the recovery process?
They’ve been up a couple times whenever I’ve needed help with something, and been up to the games to come see me and taking me out to eat. My mom is constantly in contact with me, seeing if I need anything. She’s talking to all of her doctor friends. One of my friends from high school had issues with concussions, and she’s been talking to his family about what they did for him to get rid of his symptoms and handle certain situations. She’s been great. My dad’s been great.

How different is it to lose your routine?
It’s tough. It was different when you’re still around the team everyday, at every meeting at all of the film sessions. I was still invovled mentally, but just couldn’t do the physical part. Now that I’ve fully stepped back, I’m not able to travel on the road, it’s definitely difficult. It’s not something I like at all. It can be difficult to watch the games on TV, because you want to be there and support them.”

What did you do last night?
I actually texted Charles (Carmouche) after the game. My mom called me and told me she wanted to tell Charles congratulations and how proud she was for him. We grew up playing basketball together on the same AAU teams until when we were in college. We’ve got a really close relationship. I text all the guys and wish them luck for the game.”

How much more notoriety do you notice the injury getting in basketball circles now?
“That’s been one of the more interesting things for me — the progression of what people look at when we talk about concussions. With all the news coming out about the NFL and how we’re supposed to handle it. I remember when I got my first concussion in high school and then I got my second one, the doctors told me we handle them on a case-by-case basis and not really as a history. In a matter of three years, it’s changed. These things do relate. They correlate, and we have to look at the whole body of work — not just one instance. That’s been interesting to see, especially the changes in policy.

Happy Friday, here’s some gifts to start the day

Mississippi guard Marshall Henderson awaits a foul call in the second half against Georgia in Oxford, Miss., on Feb. 16. The Rebels face LSU on Saturday.

To start you Friday, here’s a primer on LSU a day ahead of its season-finale against Ole Miss.

We have a podcast touching on a critical victory at Wednesday against Texas A&M in College Station. The win briefly moved LSU into the No. 7 seed, but Thursday’s tremors shifted the Tigers back into the No. 9 seed and still potentially facing Georgia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Now, they welcome in NCAA tournament bubble hopeful Ole Miss, which got a crucial victory over fellow at-large contender Alabama on Tuesday. They’re spearheaded by sniper Marshall Henderson, with whom I have a love/hate appreciation. As of this morning, they teeter on the edge and would miss the NCAA Tournament.

That said, here’s some links to get you caught up:

SEC Tourney Seeding Update: Thursday night

First, I’d like to thank Gov. Rick Perry and Texas for setting the speed limit at 75 mph on some stretches of Texas 6 and I-10. You helped me shave an hour off the trek back this morning.

Next, we’ll have a podcast up tomorrow morning looking ahead to Ole Miss’ arrival at the PMAC on Saturday.

Now, on to the matter at hand: Setting up a pivotal final day of the nine-week slog that was the SEC slate. (Hint: Put back in a bye week and shift the schedule back to the start of January.)

Kentucky entered the day with the biggest trap game of the SEC’s bubble teams. We knew there was a defacto knockout tilt Tuesday between Bama and Ole Miss, but if the ‘Cats could escape Athens they had a chance for a bid-sealing win Saturday at Rupp against Florida.

And Coach Cal’s kiddos stubbed their toe.

Per ESPN’s Bubble Watch, UK’s resume wasn’t exactly sterling, but its chief plus was the Wildcats avoided bad losses and had a solid home victory against Mizzou. Here’s an excerpt:

Kentucky [20-9 (11-5), RPI: 51, SOS: 70] The one main advantage the Wildcats have over the rest of the ugly bubble ducklings is their lack of bad losses. Sure, sure — a home loss to Texas A&M isn’t great, but compared to some of the horrors you’ll encounter on some of the other bubble resumes out there, Kentucky’s sheet is mostly clean. What has the Wildcats in such shaky position is a criterion more important than bad losses or a lack thereof: Other than a road-averse Missouri team, they simply haven’t beaten anyone. Meanwhile, that home loss to Baylor just looks worse and worse, Maryland is itself very much on the outside of the bubble and all the RPI/SOS numbers are predictably mediocre. There is good news, however: UK’s final regular-season game brings the Florida Gators — the SEC’s lone marquee-win opportunity — to Rupp Arena. Provided they don’t slip up at Georgia first, that could be a win-and-in proposition for the Wildcats.

Now, the top of the SEC standings are in wrench, and Georgia has created a similar pile-up in spots seven through nine. The result: Lots of hand-wringing on Saturday.

This is what the seeding picture looks like:

  1. Florida (24-5, 14-3)
  2. Kentucky (20-11, 11-6)
  3. Missouri 22-8, 11-6)
  4. Ole Miss (22-8, 11-6)
  5.  Alabama (20-11, 11-6)
  6. Tennessee (18-10, 10-7)
  7. Arkansas (18-12, 9-8)
  8. Georgia (9-8, 15-15)
  9. LSU (18-10, 9-8)
  10. Vanderbilt (13-16, 7-10)
  11. Texas A&M (17-13, 7-10)
  12. South Carolina (14-16, 4-13)
  13. Auburn (9-21, 3-14)
  14. Mississippi State (8-21, 3-14)

OK, there’s a lot to parse out here. Let’s start with the top of the bracket.

UK doesn’t fall out of the second seed, even if it’s NCAA tourney hopes are on total life support. How so? They own a 2-1 record vs. Bama, Ole Miss and Mizzou — the best mark off the quartet. Bama is 1-2 against the three teams in the tie, so they remain in the No. 5 seed. Mizzou and Ole Miss have the exact same record 2-2. Now you move on to the Rebels and Tigers records against the Gators. Mizzou is 1-1; Ole Miss is 0-1. Thus, MU is the third seed, Ole Miss is the No. 4. The possible scenarios for Saturday are numerous, and we’ll leave them be.

Let’s say this much: Ole Miss has major incentive as the arrive in Baton Rouge. They need a top 100 RPI win to offset to further offset an awful loss to Mississsippi State. They’d like to get out of Florida’s path in Nashville, if only for a deep run to further bolster their resume; a win might help their seeding. Finally, coach Andy Kennedy might be fighting for his job.

The Rebels needs are set against another potential logjam: Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU are all within a game of each other in spots six through nine. Let’s starting by untangling the mess with the Hogs, Bulldogs and Tigers.

All three of those teams are 1-1 against each other, meaning we compare records against Florida. The Hogs are the lone team with a victory, so they lay claim to the No. 7 seed. LSU and Georgia are a combined 0-3 against the Gators, but we move on to head-to-head since we’re settling a tie for the No. 8 seed. The Bulldogs victory in January gives them the edge.

So, LSU, without doing anything, slips back to the No. 9 seed. That’s exactly where they sat on Monday. And they’d still be in line to face Georgia at noon on Wednesday. Oh, they also remain in line to draw Florida in the quarterfinals. If anything, the victory of Texas A&M on Wednesday helped ensure the No. 9 seed would be the floor for seeding and brush back the Aggies from the NIT bubble.

It’s risky, but I’d like to parse out the best- and worst-case scenarios that could come to fruition for LSU. I like to dispense with pain first. Here’s the worst-case scenario: LSU falls, while UT, UA and UGA all claim victories. It produces the outcome below.

  • Tennessee (19-11, 11-7) 
  • Arkansas (19-12, 10-8)
  • Georgia (16-15, 10-8)
  • LSU (18-13, 9-9)

It’s pretty easy to see: LSU would remain the No. 9 seed. Like I said, that’s floor.  Arkansas holds on to the No. 7 seed by virtue of its head-to-head victory over Georgia.

But here’s the other issue: LSU’s NIT chances take a hit. They’d be first in the pecking order for the NIT out of the group right now. Assuming UT gets in with an RPI of 56, LSU’s current No. 80 rating is ahead of Arkansas (No. 83) and Georgia (No. 134). But it figures to change if this scenario unfolds Saturday.

Now, on to the best-case situation for LSU: They win, everyone else loses. The results are below.

  • Tennessee (18-12, 10-8)
  • LSU (19-10, 10-8)
  • Arkansas (18-3, 9-9)
  • Georgia (15-16, 9-9)

It’s not really crazy. Tennessee gets the No. 6 seed because of its 82-72 victory over LSU, who plateaus at the No. 7 seed. Arkansas slides to No. 8, but stays ahead of Georiga by virtue of head-to-head edge.

Whew.

Obviously, LSU has its own motivations against the Rebels. A victory could get them out of a potential quarterfinal date with Florida. It gives them a 6:30 tipoff Wednesday and a fairly normal routine. It also further enhances the NIT profile.

 

 

SEC Tourney Seeding: Late Wednesday Update

I’ll be quick, considering I’m tired and they might want to close the press room at Reed Arena.

LSU’s victory over Texas A&M moves the Tigers (18-10, 9-8) into a seventh-place tie with Arkansas (18-12, 9-8). Based on a head-to-head victory last week, LSU currently occupies the No. 7 seed.

Here’s what’s important: That’s the ceiling.

Why? Because in a two-way tie with Tennessee at 10-8, the Vols own the tiebreaker with their 82-72 victory in Knoxville. If it’s a three-way tie between Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU, this is the outcome.

6. Tennessee (19-11, 10-8 and 1-0 vs. Florida)
7. Arkansas (19-12, 10-8 and 1-1 vs. UF)
8. LSU (18-11, 10-8 and 0-1 vs. UF)

That said, here’s your updated seeding after Wednesday’s results.
1. Florida (24-5, 14-3)– secured No.1 seed with SEC title
2. Kentucky (20-9, 11-5)
3. Missouri (22-8, 11-6)
4. Ole Miss (22-8, 11-6)
5. Alabama (19-11, 11-6)
6. Tennessee (18-11, 10-7)
7. LSU (18-10, 9-8)
8. Arkansas (18-12, 9-8)
9. Georgia (8-8, 14-15)
10. Vanderbilt (14-15, 7-10, owns head-to-head tiebreaker with Aggies)
11. Texas A&M (17-13, 7-10)
12. South Carolina (14-16, 4-13)
13. Auburn (9-21, 3-14)
14. Mississippi State (8-21, 3-14)

Good night from College Station.