The LSU men’s basketball team will most likely be without sophomore forward Johnny O’Bryant III when it takes on McNeese State tonight.
O’Bryant did not practice for the Tigers on Sunday or Monday because of a strained calf, and coach Johnny Jones said O’Bryant was “a long shot” to play against the Cowboys (1-0).
O’Bryant provided the spark for the Tigers (1-0) against UC-Santa Barbara last Friday, recording 13 points and eight rebounds in the first 13 minutes before leaving the game.
Jones stressed that one person alone wouldn’t be able to pick up the slack in O’Bryant’s absence, and said he’ll be looking for a team effort to fill in for his big man.
“I think it would be hard to possibly put that on one particular person,” Jones said. “It’s going to probably take a unified team effort for us to get to where we’re trying to go. ... It’s going to be important that we share the basketball.”
Sophomore guard Anthony Hickey said even though O’Bryant’s absence may hurt the Tigers’ ability to rebound, the players on the bench are ready to contribute.
“We’re gonna bring it regardless,” Hickey said. “... It’s all about who’s gonna step up next.”
The Tigers will be looking to junior forwards Jalen Courtney and Shavon Coleman to step up and play significant minutes at the forward position.
Courtney grabbed five rebounds and scored two points through 12 minutes of action against UC-Santa Barbara, and Coleman contributed six points and four rebounds in place of O’Bryant.
“[Coleman] is very good with his feet in terms of getting around,” Jones said. “He’s long and lengthy with his arms, and he’s guarded big guys before.”
But size may not be a pressing issue for the Tigers on Tuesday. McNeese State sports a relatively small roster, with 6-foot-8 freshman forward Austin Lewis being its tallest player.
With two small lineups on the floor, both teams will rely heavily on their guards to produce points.
But recent performances may alleviate any worries. Senior guard Charles Carmouche led the Tigers with 16 points against UC-Santa Barbara, and freshman guard Malik Morgan and freshman forward Shane Hammink both chipped in 10 points apiece.
Tuesday night’s game will be a special one for Jones when he reunites with McNeese State’s coach Dave Simmons. Jones was Simmons’ backup when the two played basketball at DeRidder High School.
The two coaches made a point to never schedule each other when Jones coached at North Texas, but they will square off this season because the schedule was set prior to Jones’ arrival at LSU.
“It’ll be a very interesting game for both of us, and obviously a very emotional time for both of us,” Jones said. “...It’ll just be for bragging rights between us two, and the guy who doesn’t fare as well probably doesn’t get to go home for a while.”