Andrew Del Piero admitted his one-year Westlake High School basketball career was anything but spectacular.
Eleven inches and some added coordination later, he’s LSU basketball’s newest scholarship player.
Playing only one year of organized basketball during his freshman year of high school, Del Piero used pickup games at the University Student Recreational Complex to gauge his progress since that less-than- memorable last time on a court.
“Some of the guys I played with on a regular basis told me that they were going to walk-on tryouts,” Del Piero said. “I felt like I was doing pretty well against them, so I decided to go in and talk to the coaches.”
Making the team prior to the 2010 season under former head coach Trent Johnson, the 7-foot-3 junior said playing in the Southeastern Conference is light years away from what he became accustomed to in the UREC.
“They pretty much had to change my game completely,” Del Piero said. “Everyone’s bigger, stronger, faster; it’s crazy. The pace of the game is completely different.”
A former Tiger Band tuba player, Del Piero said while marching in and playing those hair-raising four notes in Tiger Stadium is an experience like no other, he’s excited to finally forge his own identity.
“The thing about being in Tiger Band and marching in Tiger Stadium is you’re trying to blend in with everybody,” Del Piero said. “Here… you’re trying to do things to stand out above competition.”
Playing in only four games in his first season of eligibility last year, Del Piero said his conditioning was almost nonexistent –– something he vowed to improve upon to give the Tigers valuable minutes under new coach Johnny Jones.
Now with a renewed energy and markedly improved conditioning after the first few weeks of official practice, Del Piero said he prides himself on his defense in the paint and will use it as a cornerstone of his play on the fledgling Tiger team.
“I like to think that people get fewer scoring opportunities in the paint when I’m in the game,” Del Piero said. “I can throw shots around, take charges and be a good help on the defensive end of the floor.”
Often guarding 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Johnny O’Bryant III in practice, Del Piero’s practice habits haven’t gone unnoticed by either his coach or his teammates.
“Andrew’s gotten 20 times better this year,” O’Bryant said. “He wants to be a good ballplayer. He doesn’t give me anything easy.”
Jones rewarded the former walk-on with a scholarship before practice began earlier this month.
“I’ve been really pleased with his effort everyday in practice,” Jones said. “He’s shown that he has a passion for it. He’s been excited to get to practice everyday.”
Admitting his game is still a work in progress, Del Piero said his constant work on the floor coupled with his understanding of the game built his confidence that he will be able to last in the SEC.
As for the scholarship he was rewarded with, Del Piero wasn’t the only one excited.
“My family was really happy about that one,” Del Piero said. “Out of state tuition is expensive.”