Football teams have been going away to training camp seemingly forever, though many college programs are now keeping their preseason practices on campus.
New Louisiana State coach Trent Johnson will use the same concept in basketball in his first season with the Tigers. LSU will spend the first three days of practice, Oct. 17-19, working out at Louisiana College’s West Fieldhouse in Pineville, La.
“It’s something I did at Stanford and Nevada,” Johnson told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “The situation with this team is we are all new to each other.
“It’s not a boot camp. It just gives us the opportunity to know how we’re going to travel. It’s a teaching environment. These guys have to get a feel for what we want to do.”
LSU won’t have to worry too much about how they’re going to travel as it will play a school-record 21 games at home in 2008-09. Among the more intriguing non-conference games at Baton Rouge include visits from Washington State on Dec. 27 and Xavier on Jan. 24. The Tigers will also play Texas A&M in Houston on Dec. 20 and visit Utah on Jan. 6.
“It’s a very challenging schedule,” Johnson said. “We did the best we could at the last minute to get a mix of teams with different styles of play. Every game will be a challenge for us.”
LSU was 13-18 last season but Johnson will have four senior starters back despite forward Anthony Randolph leaving for the NBA after his freshman season in guard Marcus Thornton (19.6 points a game, 5.6 rebounds a game), center Chris Johnson (11.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and guard Terry Martin (8.3 ppg) and guard Garrett Temple (6.4 ppg, 3.6 assists a game).
Thornton was 43rd in the nation of percentage of shots (32.2) last season and Johnson was 47th in percentage of blocks (8.6).
Jamar Smith Dumped
Guard Jamar Smith won’t be returning to Illinois’ program next season as he has been thrown off the team by coach Bruce Weber after sitting out last season as a redshirt following his conviction for driving under the influence.
Weber’s decision came after Champaign County state’s attorney Julia Reitz filed a petition to revoke Smith’s probation for his DUI. Smith was not allowed to drink under terms of the probation and police told Reitz that Smith admitted to drinking three beers when they found him while responding to an unrelated call outside a bar in Champaign, Ill.
“Jamar’s decision to violate the terms of our personal agreement for his potential return to our basketball program has left me with no other recourse but to rescind that opportunity,” Weber said.
Smith, who has two years of eligibility remaining, played in 53 games in his two seasons at Illinois. He started six times and averaged 8.0 points a game.
Illinois returns all of its guards from last season’s 16-19 team, including starters Chester Frazier, Trent Meacham and Demetri McCamey. The Fighting Illini is also expected to add Alex Legion, a sharp-shooting transfer from Kentucky, to its backcourt in late December.
UCR Picks Up a Bulldog
California-Riverside has added eight new players to its roster after finishing 9-21 last season and the latest is forward Larry Gurganious, a forward who transferred from Gonzaga and has one season of eligibility remaining, though he is petitioning the NCAA for a second season after missing 2006-07 with a back injury.
Gurganious averaged 3.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in 11.2 minutes a game last season.
“It’s the best fit for me,” Gurganious told the Spokane Spokesman Review about his transfer. “We have seven new guys coming in that are great guys and looking to win. That’s the biggest thing--the program is ready to win.”
The fifth installment of Operation Hardwood, a USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour that will include eight current or former college basketball coaches, will begin this week with a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center in Washington, D.C., before a trip to visit troops in the Persian Gulf.
Current coaches on the tour are Dayton’s Brian Gregory, American’s Jeff Jones, Hofstra’s Tom Pecora, Manhattan’s Barry Rohrssen, Texas-Pan American’s Tom Schuberth and DePaul’s Jerry Wainwright. They will be joined by ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, former coach at St. John’s, and National Association of Basketball Coaches deputy director Reggie Minton, former coach at Air Force.
“These men and women sacrifice so much to serve our country,” Gregory said. “For me to be given the opportunity to show our support is unbelievable. I’m very, very honored to be part of it.
“For eight days, we hope to give them a little fun and little bit of home back to them. They put themselves in harm’s way every day and it will be a great honor to be over there with them.”
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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