LSU coach Johnny Jones didn’t couch that change is coming to the Tigers’ lineup.
Two days after LSU looked listless in an 18-point loss to Tennessee, Jones didn’t step back from his postgame statement that minutes, roles and starting spots were back up for grabs.
So ahead of the a Saturday trip to South Carolina (7-7, 0-1 Southeastern Conference), will the Tigers (9-4, 0-1) roll out a new starting five?
“Yes,” Jones said.
Would he care to share what swaps will be made?
“No,” he said.
Deducing the candidates up for a demotion, though, isn’t a process that’s difficult as LSU tries to pull itself out of a two-game slide in which they’ve stagnated offensively and struggled with the kind of focus needed to lock down consistently on the end.
“We kind of got a little exposed on Tuesday,” Jones said. “When you’ve got tape, and people have tape and understand how they’re going to attack you, you need to make adjustments.”
Reading tea leaves suggests junior forward Shavon Coleman, who is averaging 8.4 points and 3.2 rebounds off the bench, seems like a candidate to take Jarell Martin’s slot.
The McDonald’s All-American’s transition to the small forward spot has been stilted at points this season, and process not helped by a high-ankle sprain suffered just 10 seconds into the season opener at Massachusetts.
Jones has never criticized the Baton Rouge native but simply noted the process has been vexing at points.
“We’ve really put him in a tough situation,” Jones said.
The blend of size at 6-foot-9 and 241 pounds with the fluid athleticism found in traditional off guards is still alluring. Yet, Martin, who is only in his third true year of organized basketball, is still balancing potential with mastering nuances between driving and settling for jump shots.
“It’s knowing when to,” Jones said. “We can show him on tape. But as the game’s progressing and we’re going against opponents, he’ll learn when to shot fake and make one good bounce and get to the lane and make a plays.”
Sure, the Baton Rouge native has shown flourishes, such as a first half against UAB in which he scored 10 points and put up his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in a rout of McNeese State.
Yet the pendulum swung back against the Rams and Volunteers, outings in which Martin averaged 6.5 points 2.5 rebounds.
“Just whatever it is to get us going and playing better as a team,” Martin said. “Whether it’s me starting or coming off the bench, I just want what’s best for us.”
A head-to-head comparison tips the scales toward Coleman, too.
The senior has been more assertive attacking the rim so far, getting up 38 shots to Martin’s 16, and shooting a better percentage (38.2) behind the 3-point line than Martin. Throw in a better assist rate and steal rate, meaning Coleman might have more evidence in his favor.
“The experience he has on the floor, sometimes the matchups may be better for him just because of the size and quickness of the opponent out there on the floor for him on the perimeter,” Jones said.
Just don’t pick Coleman’s thoughts on the matter. There’s only diplomatic words to be heard.
“I can’t really say,” Coleman said. “It’s always coach’s decision. If he thinks I need to play more minutes, if he feels like other guys should play more minutes, then it’s the best thing for the team. We understand he’s just trying to help us win games.”
The time to tinker, though, is scant — a reality that had Jones ready to make a decision by the end of Thursday.
“We’ll have an idea as to the direction that we’d like to go,” he said. “But we want to make sure we have it down in practice.”
Kentucky tickets on sale
Single-game tickets for the LSU-Kentucky game go on sale at 8 a.m. Friday at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office and at LSUtix.net
Tickets start at $14 for adults and $5 for youngsters under 12. The game is set for Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 8 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The contest will be televised nationally n ESPN.
Tickets can be purchased at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 24 hours a day online at LSUtix.net. To purchase tickets, call (225) 578-2184 or 800-960-8587.
Tickets remain on sale for the remaining eight home Southeastern Conference games as well. The Tigers will next be at home on Saturday, Jan. 18 against Vanderbilt at 8 p.m.