New men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones will make his first appearance at Southeastern Conference Media Day when he joins women’s coach Nikki Caldwell at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., in representing LSU at the annual preseason event.
Jones and Caldwell will both appear before the media during the 1-3 p.m. session Thursday that includes coaches from Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi State.
In previous years, all SEC schools have been represented by one men’s and one women’s player in addition to the two coaches. But with the conference expanding to 14 teams, this year’s Media Day will include coaches only.
“It will be exciting just to have an opportunity to go up and talk about the LSU basketball program and where we see ourselves moving forward,” Jones said. “I see where we were picked 11th or something in the league. It’s important we try to make progress and move up from that spot.”
The media’s preseason poll released Tuesday had Kentucky picked to defend its SEC crown after going 16-0 in the conference last year. LSU was picked 11th, ahead of only Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State in the 14-team, one-division league.
Caldwell will represent LSU at Media Day for the second time after leading the Lady Tigers to a berth in the title game of the SEC tournament and the second round of NCAA tournament last year.
In her second season, Caldwell has a roster of only 10 players and must replace five seniors.
The Kentucky women were the media’s pick to win the SEC, followed by Georgia and Vanderbilt. LSU was picked sixth, two spots behind Pat Summitt-less Tennessee and one spot behind SEC newcomer Texas A&M.
Jones faces the challenge of replacing three seniors from a team that reached the first round of the NIT in Trent Johnson’s final season as coach. Leading scorer and rebounder Justin Hamilton entered the NBA draft with one season of eligibility remaining.
With a roster that includes 11 scholarship players, LSU will rely heavily on a group of five newcomers.
But Jones said the first step in returning the Tigers back to their Dale Brown-era heyday is getting the players to establish a winning mindset.
“It will start on the floor from practice to games,” Jones said. “We have to be in a different mindset and have an attitude and mentality that we want to be better.”
Injuries to junior Jalen Courtney and senior Charles Carmouche, a Memphis transfer, have limited the already thin Tigers during preseason practice. Three walk-ons have been working out with the team, but Jones said it’s too early to determine if they will become part of the permanent roster.
LSU will travel to scrimmage an undisclosed opponent this weekend.
After playing Arkansas-Monticello in a preseason game Nov. 5 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, the Tigers will tip off their regular-season schedule against UC Santa Barbara at home Nov. 9.
“We just hope that we can continue to move forward and continue to get better,” Jones said. “I think some great things could really be in store for us.”