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D.J. Augustin and LSU Basketball

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The interplay between D.J. Augustin and LSU basketball has an interesting history.  A New Orleans native, Augustin was recruited heavily by both LSU and Texas for their 2006 signing class.  At the beginning of Augustin’s senior year of high school however, basketball took a back seat to real life.

The interplay between D.J. Augustin and LSU basketball has an interesting history.  A New Orleans native, Augustin was recruited heavily by both LSU and Texas for their 2006 signing class.  At the beginning of Augustin’s senior year of high school however, basketball took a back seat to real life.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit and the subsequent flooding destroyed Augustin’s home.  Displaced, the Augustin family relocated to a Houston suburb, where D.J. played out his senior season.   The strength of Texas’ program, coupled with his family new location, prompted the McDonalds All-American to choose to play his collegiate ball for the Longhorns. 

At the time, LSU fans lamented the loss of another “in-state” prospect.  Fortunately for LSU, the story doesn’t end there. 

Two years later, D.J. Augustin had become a star for the Longhorns.  The sophomore was the team’s leading scorer on his way to being voted a consensus All-American.  Augustin’s play helped Texas earn a two-seed in the 2008 NCAA tournament. 

In the midst of their NCAA run, Texas came across third-seeded Stanford in the sweet sixteen.  Stanford was sporting one of their better teams in recent years, led by the Lopez brothers. 

A close first half gave way to an easy Texas victory.  Staying in character, D.J. Augustin had 23 points, seven assists and triggered a 20-3 second half run as Texas broke open a one-point game and defeated Stanford, 82-62

A good but relatively non-descript game for Augustin; the performance had little importance to LSU.  Except that the man on the sidelines for Stanford that day was Trent Johnson. 

“As hard as it is for me to say, they are better,” Johnson said of Texas. “They have got three, four guys who are pretty good basketball players, and it would be easy for me to sit up here and say, `Well, we ran out of gas or didn’t do this or didn’t do that.’ We have done what we’ve done all year long. We competed and came up short because they were better at crucial times.”

Two weeks later Trent Johnson was LSU’s new coach. 

In answering questions as to why he would leave a successful program at Stanford to come to LSU, Johnson did not pull punches.  Johnson stated that LSU provided him with a better chance to consistently compete for conference and national championships, an expectation that he did not feel was realistic at Stanford.    

When pushed for details, Johnson said that he came to the conclusion while watching film of D.J. Augustin’s performance against his team.  He commented on the raw speed and ability of Augustin. 

Augustin’s performance that day started a butterfly effect that eventually landed Trent Johnson at LSU.   

Johnson felt he couldn’t recruit the type of players he wanted with consistency at Stanford.  He wanted players like D.J. Augustin and felt LSU gave him a better opportunity to get them.  

Although diplomatic in his assertions, Johnson conceded that the regional recruiting base and lower academic requirements at LSU were motivating factors in his switch.   For the record, Augustin was an Academic All-American at Texas and could handle the academic requirements of any school.  Regardless, Johnson’s mind was made up; he was coming to LSU. 

Trent Johnson was born in Northern California and raised in Seattle.  He played his college ball at Boise State and went on to coach at Nevada and Stanford.   He is a west-coast guy with no ties to the South.  

Logic would not suggest that he would come to LSU, so credit Athletic Director Joe Alleva with recognizing an opportunity and seizing it.   None of this is possible without his choice and the board’s approval.  

But it is interesting to see how a disappointing result during the John Brady era has had a positive impact on the LSU program.  The loss of Augustin as a recruit eventually paid some indirect benefit to the program. 

Last year under Brady, LSU was 8-13 (1-6 in conference).  Under Butch Pierre, the Tigers finished out 5-5.  This year LSU is 21-4 (9-1), sits atop the SEC and has broken into the top-25 for the first time in two years. 

There are a host of reasons for LSU’s success on the hardwood this year.  The return of Tasmin Mitchell, the weakness of the SEC and the emergence of a point guard all play a role.  But a main part of LSU’s success is the arrival of Trent Johnson.  And a main part of Trent Johnson’s departure from Stanford was the play of D.J. Augustin that day.