Andre Stringer suffers from type-casting.
The character sketch is time-worn, too. An undersized guard with a textbook jumper and a keen sense to rise with his back straight, elbow cocked in and pointed at the rim before a flip of the wrist.
So, the sight with less than five minutes to go against Massachusetts might have proved jarring.
Stringer shimmied, then took a jab step. The defender shifted left, rocked back slightly on his heels. And the senior LSU guard whipped the ball behind his back, pounded out a dribble and rose from the floor. Instead of a perfectly arcing 3-pointer, Stringer dropped in a 12-foot teardrop floater.
In a 92-90 loss, Stringer’s 21 points tied a career-high, but his timely shooting touch showed up again Tuesday after rearing its head in the Tigers’ exhibition game against Xavier. And as the Tigers (0-1) host Northwestern State (2-0 after a 111-92 win over Auburn on Friday) Saturday, the senior’s become a catalyst for an offense still breaking in youth.
“I always thought I was capable of hitting those shots,” Stringer said. “It’s just the fact that I’ve been more aggressive than I have been in past years.”
Over the offseason, the popular logic was keeping forward Johnny O’Bryant III in the fold was vital from a scoring perspective, considering O’Bryant posted 14.7 points and all 15 of his double-doubles in Southeastern Conference play.
But the implicit concern was apparent: What happens if O’Bryant is in foul trouble, hurt or struggling in the face of likely double teams?
So far, Stringer has proven the optimal antidote.
“We always want to be aggressive with Johnny in or out,” Stringer said. ‘We always stayed that way within the game plan as if he was on the floor. Obviously, we want to play through him. He’s the focal point of our team. But we remain aggressive as if he were on the floor.”
Against Xavier, Stringer scored 11 points in three minutes, spurring a 16-1 run for a 20-7 lead in an 80-45 victory. On Tuesday, his jump shooting was a catalyst after O’Bryant had just picked up his fourth foul with 13:32 left and LSU down by five.
UMass quickly reeled of five points, four coming on dunks by forward Cady LaLanne and pushing the margin out to 69-59. The Tigers, who trailed by double-digits three times, were on the precipice of being put away.
Then Stringer canned a 3-pointer on the right wing to start paring the deficit. A minute later, Anthony Hickey hit a jumper with 12:18 to play. Finally, Stringer knocked down another three-pointer to draw LSU within four on a 13-4 run to trail 73-72 with 10:06 left.
Hickey, who added 16 points off the bench, and Stringer also provided early evidence they can navigate tricky situations when freshman guard Tim Quarterman is trying to scale the learning curve.
Against the Minutemen, Quarterman seemingly struggled to find the pulse of the game, scoring just five points and notching a lone assist. No, the 6-6, 175-pound four-star recruit wasn’t a liability. Instead, he simply discovered a road environment against a veteran point guard in UMass’ Chaz Williams conspired to quell his playmaking acumen.
“It was a little tough to get going,” Quarterman said Thursday.
So, coach Johnny Jones turned to Hickey off the bench, inserting a veteran who wouldn’t be rattled by Williams — a Brooklyn native — and jawing or the face but stilted pace.
“I just want him to be at his best whenever he’s called because he’s a tenacious player when he hits the floor,” Jones said. “Offensively and defensively, he’s strong. You know that you can count on him, and he’s going to give you everything that he has.”
And Hickey and Stringer buoyed LSU after it fell behind 28-18 — the first double-digit gap of the day — and coming out a TV timeout with less than seven minutes until the half.
Stringer twice sank a pair of free throws to cut the gap to five points, including to 36-31 with 3:44 until the break. Then came a three-pointer to keep it at 38-35 at the 2:53 mark. And another jumper with 35 seconds on the clock to slice the gap to a sole point.
So, a lone game into the regular season, perhaps it time to revise the description of Stringer in scouting reports.
“I’m capable of making big shots and not afraid of it,” he said. “That’s why I’m thinking more of them are going in. I’m getting myself into a rhythm.”