BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – For the first time since the start of the 2019-20 season, the SEC Tipoff returned to the Grand Bohemian Hotel and all 14 Southeastern Conference men’s basketball teams went through the events of the day on Wednesday like it had never been missed.
LSU was one of those teams starting late morning and finishing in the early afternoon with first-year LSU Coach Matt McMahon along with preseason All-SEC second team selection KJ Williams and Adam Miller going through the various media stops from such outlets as ESPN, CBS, Sirius XM Radio and NCAA/Turner Sports.
Much of the content will be used during the course of the men’s basketball season on telecasts on those networks and some of the content will not be used until the post-season broadcast.
All three LSU members appeared live on SEC Now on the SEC Network and all three also met in separate sessions with the main media group of writers and local and area TV broadcasters that gathered for the event.
Here are some of the comments from Coach McMahon in his first go around in the Main Media Room:
MATT McMAHON: We’re three weeks out from our season opener. Absolutely love our players. We’re now going about the process of building a team, which for me is one of the more fun parts of the job. Excited about the opportunities ahead for our group. I’d love to open it up for any questions.
Q. I have a question about Justice Hill. What made him such a great player for you at Murray State, and how easy was it to welcome him to LSU, and how do you expect his game to transfer from Murray to now the SEC?
MATT McMAHON: Yeah, great questions. I love Justice. Comes from a great family, very high-character young man. Had an awesome season for us last year. Was one of the tops in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. Had some monster games where he shot it extremely well from three. Had the game at Belmont where he was 8 of 10 from three, had 36 points. Played extremely well in our win at Memphis last season. He’s really grown and developed as a leader, which I think is so important at the point guard position. Elite athlete, great speed. And you combine that with his work ethic, I think he’s much improved from where he was a year ago with us at Murray State. Obviously for me, I’m hoping he’ll transition very well to LSU because we’re counting on him to do so.
Q. I know he was coming along, you had taken him along slowly, but Adam Miller … he about where you thought he would be when you took over?
MATT McMAHON: Adam has been awesome. Only been with him seven months now. Relentless competitor. Very tough. I have great admiration for his work ethic and commitment and discipline to get back from the devastating knee injury he suffered about this time a year ago. First inter-squad scrimmage this past weekend with officials. He’s only been cleared for live play for about nine weeks now, but I think his progress has been off the charts. And I think that’s a great credit to Shawn Eddy, our trainer, and medical staff, and even more importantly, Adam’s commitment to do the work to get back.
But I’m really excited about him. An absolute joy to get to coach him. Incredibly smart, high basketball IQ. Really analyzes every aspect of the game.
So, it’s good for me as a coach because you have to make sure you know what you’re talking about and you’re prepared because he’s going to have great questions every day. He wants to get better every day.
I think the next step for him, similar to what I just said about Justice, is taking a step forward as a leader of our team. I think he has great respect and credibility in our locker room because he is such a high-level player and because of his work ethic. And now for us as a team, we need some guys to step forward into that leadership role, and I think he’s a great candidate there.
Q. You’re one of six new coaches in the league. There’s usually turnover every year, but that’s a lot of turnover. What do you think that says about the SEC? You’re kind of one of the young up-and-coming guys coming in. What do you think about this class of coaches?
MATT McMAHON: Well, there are some outstanding coaches coming into the league. I think one of the reasons you see the SEC now is easily one of the top one or two conferences in the country is because of the coaches already established here in the league. You have multiple Hall of Fame coaches. When you look at the last three years in the NBA Draft, the SEC has had 12 more picks than any other league, twice as many lottery picks as any other league.
I think you see the rise of the SEC as a basketball league. Obviously for me that was very appealing. As a competitor, you want the opportunity to go and compete against the best every night, and you’re certainly going to get that opportunity here in the SEC.
Q. What should people expect from your team this year, your style of play? Can you describe that for people who have never seen you coach?
MATT McMAHON: That’s a great question, and still a lot of unknown there. We have essentially 13 new players. We’re trying to take these talented players and build them into one cohesive unit.
I think we have to work extremely hard and very intentionally to try and build that chemistry and that culture that will lead to, what we hope, a standard, a performance that will lead to winning. For us, I think we have to — first and foremost, I hope you’ll see a product on the floor that we compete every possession, play extremely hard and with great unselfishness.
And when you look at some of the better teams I’ve been fortunate to be a part of, there’s a balance there. A balanced offense and defense. I think last year we were 12th in the country in defense, 13th in offense. I think to play at the pace we want to play, we want to be an up-tempo team, first and foremost you have to defend and rebound or you don’t get the opportunity to play in transition.
We’ll be a work in progress; that’s for sure. But I like the steps our team is taking. Ultimately, we want to put a product out on the floor that the LSU fans and students and alumni will be proud of and want to support because of how hard we play, how tough we are, how together we are, and ultimately hopefully lead to winning.
Q. Coach, as much as the game has changed over the years, are there certain fundamentals that you point to and say, if we do these two or three things well, this leads to winning basketball, fundamentals, or something like that?
MATT McMAHON: Oh, I think so. The game and everything that goes into recruiting, sure, some of that is changing. But at the end of the day the product on the floor is still the same. Defense and rebounding, being an efficient, offensive team that generates high-quality shots, limits their turnovers, I think that’ll always be the case in basketball. We’re working every day to build a fundamentally sound team at both ends of the floor that will give us an opportunity to win games.
(Provided by LSU Athletics)