LSU enjoys two week break before taking on ULM

Johnny Jones is hesitant to say his team will be completely healthy for its next game, Dec. 14 against Louisiana-Monroe.

After all, he thought that last week too.

“Everybody should be fine,” the LSU coach said before backtracking. “Say that, and we thought we were going to be fine and full speed in Orlando.”

The Tigers (5-2) were not. Forward Shane Hammink suffered from a virus and didn’t play in the three-game set at the Old Spice Classic.

Hammink has recovered, and Jones’ team has a 12-day break to heel any bumps and bruises before their final five nonconference games.

The stretch of games begins at home against the Warhawks and is highlighted by a trip to Texas Tech on Dec. 18 and a home match against Alabama-Birmingham, which upset North Carolina on Saturday.

That wasn’t lost on Jones while speaking at his monthly luncheon at the L’Auberge Casino and Hotel on Tuesday.

“Not sure if you saw what they were able to do a few nights ago. Beat North Carolina,” Jones said to the crowd. “We have UAB coming in here. We look forward to that challenge.”

Those games, though, seem so far away. LSU is in the midst of an unusually long break for final exams. Even Jones admits it’s a longer than normal spell without a game.

For a team with a hobbled budding star – Jarell Martin – it’s only a good thing, the coach said.

“It’s probably a good time for us to get some guys healed,” Jones said. “We had injuries.”

Martin, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound freshman from Baton Rouge, has been recovering from a high ankle sprain and is “70 to 75 percent,” Jones said.

“Hopefully we’ll get Jarrell back close to 100 percent because he hasn’t really been 100 percent,” the coach said.

Jones addressed the status of former Scotlandville High forward Brian Bridgewater, a spring signee in limbo with the NCAA. Bridgewater’s appeal is still being processed.

The NCAA deemed him ineligible to play but allowed him to enroll in LSU on athletic scholarship. Jones hopes soon that the governing body will allow the 6-6, 230-pounder to practice with the team.

“He will be available for us next year, and he’s doing an excellent job of taking care of his business off the floor,” Jones said. “They still could rule to allow him to start practicing with us. It’s still out there.”

LSU will have this weekend off but will practice about 10 days during the 12-day break, with six to seven of those “going really hard,” Jones said.

The Tigers are fresh off an NCAA gournament résumé-boosting win over Butler in Orlando.

They beat St. Joseph’s in the opener and then fell to No. 16 Memphis despite leading for much of the game.

LSU committed 24 turnovers against Memphis, but the team’s 2-1 showing at the event will help a squad expected to be resting on the NCAA tournament bubble come March.

Jones said his team gained confidence and his freshmen “grew up.”

“I thought our guys passed the test with flying colors,” he said. “I was proud of them, the way they played. We’re excited about the future.”

The future is in the distance and so is the next game.

“It helps,” Jones said of the lengthy break. “Because at least we saw where we were and what we’re capable of with the guys we have. I think it’ll benefit more so than hurt us.”