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2017 Hoops Final Preview: The Frontcourt

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Coach Wade brings big changes to his big men

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the final preview article for LSU Basketball before their season opener against Alcorn State this Friday. If you missed it, I posted about the guards in this preview article here, but let’s cover the other half of the roster today.

Returning Players

#1 - Duop Reath (Sr.)

From an offensive standpoint, Duop Reath is LSU’s best returning player, averaging 12.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last year. The early season loss of Craig Victor II piled a ton of responsibility onto Reath in his first year with the Tigers, and his lack of rest and backup support was pretty evident in his decline in defensive performance through the second half of the season. Coach Wade has had nothing but praises for Duop’s potential, noting that he’s looked more confident on defense while establishing himself as one of LSU’s primary scoring threats this season.

#21 - Aaron Epps (Sr.)

Among those primary scoring threats is LSU’s most lettered player on the team, Aaron Epps. In his earlier years in Baton Rouge, Epps established himself as a big, long body not afraid to take shots from beyond the arc, and he displayed that confidence last season, converting 14 of his 32 attempted three pointers. Epps also managed to snag the second most rebounds of returning players (only behind Reath) despite only logging 17.2 minutes per game. Will Wade has specifically mentioned Aaron Epps’ knack for scoring, and it’d probably be a safe bet to anticipate him starting the season opener.

#44 - Wayde Sims (So.)

As a freshman last season, Sims played 19.0 minutes per game when he should’ve played no more than a dozen or so. Not that he is or was bad, but he was very visibly behind the curve once conference play began, and the Tigers always found themselves relying too heavily on players that just weren’t ready for it. Craig Victor is dismissed, Reath either fouls out (he did 6 times) or has three quick fouls in the first half, and suddenly Epps and the undersized Sims are all we’ve got for way too long of a stretch. He’s shown some really good IQ on the offensive side of the ball and has just as good of a jumper from outside as Aaron Epps, but he just cannot be relied upon to defend the larger forwards in the SEC. I can see him taking on a heavier workload if the Tigers fall behind games early and need points immediately, but I’d anticipate Sims’ production this season to mostly come from the bench.

New Players

#10 - Galen Alexander (Fr.)

Breaux Bridge native Galen Alexander joins the Tigers as an ESPN Top 100 prospect from Lafayette Christian Academy. Unfortunately, Alexander suffered an injury in December, so we don’t have an entire senior season of stats to look at, but he was averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds at the time. Alexander was rated as a four star prospect by 247, and the third best Louisiana recruit, right behind Brandon Rachal and Western Kentucky guard Josh Anderson. Alexander will serve as some much needed forward depth, and probably won’t appear in games until late in the first half, but he’s definitely got the potential to surprise some folks and make a larger impact than anticipated.

#11 - Kavell Bigby-Williams (Sr. Transfer)

I won’t spend too much time on Bigby-Williams because he won’t be a member of this year’s squad, but his addition to the program is still very noteworthy. The 6’11” forward transferred to LSU from Oregon by way of...England, making him only the third player from England to play in the Final Four. He’ll be a tremendous asset for the 2018-19 squad, but for this season he’ll serve more as the sage old man on the bench a la 2017 Carlos Beltran.

#13 - Jeremy Combs (Sr. Grad)

One of the most “sneaky” good newcomers to the Tigers this offseason, Jeremy Combs joins LSU after graduating from North Texas, where he was coached by now assistant coach for LSU, Tony Benford. Combs has struggled with an ankle injury lately, missing 16 total games from last season. Throughout his Mean Green career, Combs hauled in 18 double doubles, a number I would anticipate to rise soon and often with his year at LSU. If, and that’s a big if, he can stay healthy and happy on that ankle, look for Combs to play significant time, if not start most of the season.

#35 - Mayan Kiir (Fr.)

Three star prospect Mayan Kiir joins the Tigers in a very similar fashion as Duop Reath. A native of South Sudan, Kiir also moved to Australia before finding a home at a prep school in Florida for the last four years. At the time of his signing, Kiir was rated as a four star, Top 100 prospect by ESPN, although 247 gave him the three star treatment. With five forwards seemingly ahead of Kiir on the depth chart, I wouldn’t anticipate a ton of playing time in significant situations, barring something going terribly, terribly wrong. That being said, something about Kiir really makes me feel like he’ll be a reliable depth option for a full four years at LSU. There are better forwards on the team, but he’ll have his moments over the years where we’ll be thankful to have him.

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The Tigers tip off at home against the Alcorn State Braves this Friday evening at approximately 7pm, or exactly 16 hours before the football game. Be sure to go out and support your Tigers and new head coach Will Wade in their official beginning of the campaign to bring LSU Basketball back from a complete joke, back to a winning team, back to the tournament. This season in particular may not be the most impressive, but everything Coach Wade has done and said so far makes it impossible to not be optimistic of our basketball program’s future.