By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BATON ROUGE, La. – They were 11 days that LSU head coach Trent Johnson hopes will prove to be valuable to his team’s success when the 2011-12 season begins.
In a summer tour of Italy this past May, Johnson’s team played six games and came away with six victories. Following back-to-back losing seasons that have produced just 21 victories and having not reached postseason play since the 2008-09 campaign, Johnson believes that one of the most beneficial aspects of his team’s international trip was the winning mindset that his team gained.
“It was the ability to learn how to win,” Johnson said last week at his team’s annual preseason media day. “We had every opportunity to fold and to play not to win. From that standpoint, I thought it was very productive because there is no doubt that from what we have been through in this past year, guys have lost their confidence, but they are also bigger and stronger so they know what to expect from each other.”
Playing in contests that featured international rules allowed the Tigers to refine their offense. After ranking last in the Southeastern Conference in scoring average last season at 62.2 points per game, Johnson’s Tigers were able to improve their shooting while working under the constraints of a 24-second shot clock this past May.
“You play international rules and the game is basically all about offense with a 24-second shot clock,” Johnson said. “They do not like to guard you, and they like to get real physical with you, so it put us in some very adverse situations.”
While Johnson’s team worked on a motion offense during its Italy trip, he said Tuesday that the key to being successful on offense won’t revolve around perfecting one type of offense, or favoring one scheme to another.
“To be successful at the elite level on a consistent basis, you have to be really flexible,” Johnson said. “You have to be able to play fast, you have to be able to play half court and be structured, and you also have to be able to run some type of motion so you won’t be predictable in what you do.”
Following a 2010-11 season in which the Tigers did not have a senior on their roster, this year’s edition of the LSU team features three fourth-year players.
Senior forward Storm Warren said last week that the team’s upperclassmen have embraced their leadership role on the squad.
“I take the responsibility of being an upperclassman and being a part of this team for going on four years now very seriously,” Warren said. “The team knows that anytime they need any type of advice or anything, they can come to me. I’ll help them out in any possible way.”
Between featuring a veteran lineup and having benefitted from the squad’s international trip this past summer, Johnson expects that his team will be prepared and motivated to add to the win column in 2011-12.
“I think this is a team that is quite fed up with losing,” Johnson said. “The trip was quite productive in that sense.”