OPINION

Hoop dreams

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com

At the end of last season, the future of LSU basketball looked bleak.

In the midst of a pay for play scandal that involved an FBI wiretap of phone calls made by Tiger head coach Will Wade, LSU suspended Wade indefinitely. 

With Wade being subpoenaed to testify in court about this phone conversations and with the certain animosity that was brewing between Wade and the school during his suspension, it appeared we were on our way to a messy ending.

At that moment, it looked like there was no way Wade would be leading the Tigers in 2019. Along with that, there was a fear that Wade's testimony could give the NCAA ammo in a hefty punishment for the program.

And while all of this was going on in Baton Rouge, a host of key players from LSU's Sweet 16 team announced they were leaving school early for the NBA Draft.

But then a judge ruled Wade would not have to testify at the trial. Then Wade's suspension was ended and he was officially reinstated. 

And with him back at the helm, Skylar Mays, Javonte Smart, Emmitt Williams and Marlon Taylor all decided to come back to Baton Rouge.

And now, what looked like a certain disaster and a quick drop back into the basement of the SEC has turned into excitement about what the new year can bring for LSU basketball.

Now, the Tigers will be without three crucial pieces from last year's deep NCAA Tournament run.

First and foremost, they have lost point guard Tremont Waters, who was their most consistent player the past two seasons and who time and time again came up with big shots in key moments. Look no further than his buzzer-beater against Maryland in the Round of 32 last year.

They will also lose their two big men in Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams. Reid could score from anywhere on the floor, and Bigby-Williams was a 6-foot-11 rim protector.

Together, the two combined for 479 rebounds.

But the Tigers still have plenty of firepower back from last year. This includes a terrific back court of Mays and Smart.

As a junior, Mays was third on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game. Also, LSU didn't shoot 3-pointers very well last year, but among players that took at least 50 shots from behind the arc, he was fourth on the team in 3-point percentage.

Smart averaged 11 points per game as a true freshman and showed he could get it done in big games. In the Tigers' overtime upset over Tennessee, he scored 29 points.

Also returning for LSU will be two guys in Williams and Darius Days, who were very productive as true freshmen. Days led the team in 3-point-shooting percentage, and Williams was third on the team in rebounding.

Also, Taylor returns as the Tigers' best perimeter defender. He is also a human highlight reel when it comes to running the floor and being on the receiving end of alley-oops.

A new face for LSU fans to be excited about is 6-foot-9 true freshman Trendon Watford, who was ranked by Rivals as the 19th-best recruit in the country.

And in the offseason, Wade has been very high on junior-college transfer Charles Manning, Jr. Manning is a 6-foot-5 guard that impressed the coaching staff on the Tigers' trip to Spain over the summer.

Wade recently said that he wasn't used to coaching a team like the one the Tigers had last year, a team with big guys like Reid and Bigby-Williams. 

He's much more comfortable with smaller lineups. That's why he's so pumped up about this year's team. The team lacks size, but they can all get up and down the court in a hurry. 

That tells you that the Tigers are going to be very fun to watch offensively. Here's to hoping they can mix in just enough defense to win as well.

They lost some key pieces, but I trust Wade. With the amount of talent at his disposal, I think it could be another productive year in Baton Rouge, with LSU having another strong chance to advance past the Round of 32.