New LSU coach McMahon rebuilds roster despite uncertainty


Suspension

Baton Rouge, Los Angeles – It’s a new era at LSU.

Almost a whole new team, for that matter.

Not long after Matt McMahon was appointed to take over the Tigers, which is still under investigation due to the NCAA’s allegations against former coach Will Wade, every player in the scholarship either graduated, left for the NBA draft or made it to the transfer gate.

But McMahon was able to fill all 13 scholarships available in time for this season.

“We have 13 new players,” McMahon said. “We are trying to take these talented players and build them into one cohesive unit.

“We have to work hard and with great intent to try to build that chemistry and that culture that will – hopefully – lead to a standard, a performance that will lead to victory,” McMahon added.

McMahon brought three players from his 2022 NCAA Tournament in Murray State — KJ Williams, Justice Hill and Trae Hannibal — to Baton Rouge. He also added four high school recruits and attracted three players who were on LSU’s roster prior to his hire: Moaney Wilkinson, Justice Williams, and Adam Miller.

McMahon also added three transfers he never coached: Northwestern’s Kendall Coleman, Mississippi’s Derek Fountain, and North Carolina’s Cam Hayes.

Now it looks like LSU has a slate with the potential to compete for the NCAA Championship berth. The question is whether the NCAA will allow LSU to play in it.

McMahon said he doesn’t care what the NCAA will do as it considers allegations that Wade offered improper benefits to recruits, albeit before rule changes that now allow players to earn money from their name, image or likeness.

“We have to control what we can control,” McMahon said. “Whatever happened in the past, I have nothing to do with it…it has nothing to do with us what is happening from the NCAA going forward. So we never talk about it. I came to LSU to move the LSU basketball program forward.”

Miller was from Illinois in 2021 and was expected to play a prominent role before a major knee ligament tear that sidelined him all last season.

The goalkeeper averaged 8.3 points in his only season with Illini in 2020-21. He hasn’t played in about 18 months, but has recently been allowed to go full speed.

“His progress was off the charts,” McMahon said. “We have to temper expectations for him as well because it will be practical.”

McMahon won 154 games in seven seasons at Murray State, with a win percentage of 69.7%, won four Ohio Valley Conference titles, and made three NCAA games.

The most famous McMahon player in Murray State was current NBA star Ja Morant. But he also had OVC Player of the Year on last year’s list at Williams and Hill’s trusted scorer. Williams averaged 18 points, 8.4 rebounds and fired 53.8% last season. Hill was the first OVC after averaging 13.4 points and 5.1 assists per game.

The four freshmen that McMahon brought to LSU are Cornelius Williams, Galen Reed, Terrell Ward and Sean Phillips.

McMahon said Reed, who is 6-foot-10, isn’t “just a basket-walking guy. He’s the era of today’s striker, skilled in the ocean, he can really get past him, creating a dribble.”

The coach said that Ward has scoring ability and that Phillips is the 7-footer who lost about 70 pounds to drop his weight down to about 245.

“You see the commitment he made to improve,” McMahon said. “He is a man who can protect the basket.”

Williams entered the season 6-10 with a shoulder injury, but is expected to be a versatile player on the front court who can defend.

The Tigers open the season at home against Kansas City on November 9.

Their no-conference encounters include a game against Wake Forest in Atlanta on December 10 and a home game against the 25th Texas Tech in the SEC/Big 12 competition on January 28.

LSU will begin playing at home against the Arkansas No. 10 on December 28 before traveling to Kentucky No. 4 on January 3.

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