Harris: As LSU keeps building, Andre Stringer has seen it all

Andre Stringer is the last piece of evidence.

On Saturday, the LSU guard, a senior, will walk to center court around 3:45 p.m., accept tokens of appreciation, embrace his family and receive a fond farewell ahead of facing Georgia in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

And with Stringer striding out the door, so goes the final vestige of the Tigers’ failed resurrection plan four years ago under former coach Trent Johnson.

Already a relic in the era of the one-and-done player, Stringer’s string in Baton Rouge is evidence of how fickle predictions of grandeur can be when 18-year-old men scrawl their signatures on letters of intent.

Perhaps no one more than Stringer is witness to LSU, a program that has lived a feast-or-famine existence for more than 15 seasons, carrying out what amounts to two teardown jobs in such a short span.

Matt Derenbecker, the centerpiece of that class as a four-star prospect, was a nomad. The Country Day product lasted just 16 games in Baton Rouge before leaving the program for personal reasons.

Next came a lone season at Dayton, where he was probably most well known for sending Butler guard Rotnei Clark off on a stretcher during a drive to the basket. Finally, he had a short-lived stint this season at UNO.

Ralston Turner left town after Johnson departed for TCU. He landed at N.C. State, where he has been a decent reserve, plugging in about 10 points per game.

Forward Jalen Courtney? He’s at Morehead State after transferring last April. That came after he was supplanted in the lineup by 7-foot-3 Andrew Del Piero, the LSU marching band’s former tuba player.

So it leaves Stringer, a four-star recruit from Forest Hills in Jackson, Miss., as the only man standing in a career that has included a switch from point guard to shooting guard and starter to reserve.

“I’m big on loyalty,” Stringer said. “I’m not saying those other guys are not, but when I committed to this school, it was to the community and to the team. I love it here, and I always will.”

No one accuses the other three of desertion. Nor should they, considering more than 500 players — or 12.4 percent of Division I rosters — changed programs after last season. Bailing on your original program is no longer a sin.

Instead, it’s an indictment of rhetoric used before players ever reach campus.

Derenbecker, the state’s Gatorade Player of Year, tangled with letting his social life undermine his skills and put him in a bind academically. So he decided he needed a change of scenery.

Turner’s exit is all too common when the coach who recruited you leaves. You could argue Courtney did his part: He helped get friend Johnny O’Bryant III to campus.

Stringer, though, never thought about leaving. He couldn’t find another high-major program any closer to home, and he has carved out a niche as a reliable jump shooter hitting at a 39.1 percent clip from behind the arc.

“I have been stuck with a lot of different roles, and I think it’s a testament to the type of player that I am,” Stringer said.

The common criticisms of Johnson were his inability on the recruiting trail to lock up in-state talent and his scattershot ability to assess talent.

Sure, there is Derenbecker or John Isaac or K.C. Ross-Miller, who never made it to campus but managed to help incite a brawl last week as a member of New Mexico State’s roster by firing a ball at a Utah Valley State player.

But there’s also O’Bryant, Stringer and Anthony Hickey to factor into the equation. Simply, it’s a mixed bag.

Still, Jones had to carry out triage work when he showed up at his alma mater in April 2012, just two weeks before the spring signing period, after Turner transferred and center Josh Hamilton left for the NBA.

There was little depth to be found, making Stringer’s decision to stick around vital.

“I’m fortunate that I’ve had an opportunity to be a part of it, to watch him work, prepare and get ready — what he’s been able to do for the team,” Jones said this week.

Stringer has the proper perspective to guide this crop of freshmen — one rated as a consensus top-10 class — as it faces critiques that it underwhelmed after being tabbed as a potential NCAA tournament squad.

“You know everyone expects everything right away out of you,” Stringer said. “The only thing you can really do as a person and as a player is to remain in tune with yourself, working hard and trying to avoid the opinions and the expectations when you come in.”