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From the Sidelines

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / October 21, 1998

On a day that the LSU football team was watching its hopes for a SEC championship fade, the LSU basketball team was beginning a season that they hope will end in postseason play.

Saturday was the first day that college programs could begin practice and the LSU Tigers started bright and early at 7:30 a.m. That three-hourpractice was followed by Fan Day at 3:30 p.m. when the fans got to meetthe players and get autographs. The Tigers also split into two teams andplayed a 12-minute game. And from the looks of it, while these Tigers maynot have the height and talent of many other teams, few teams will have as much hustle or determination.

As these players were being introduced by coach John Brady, perhaps the most asked question going through the fans’ minds was who are these guys? There were no nationally-known players like a Chris Jackson or a Shaquille O’Neal. No Randy Livingstons or Ronnie Hendersons, either.Local fans may remember Collis Temple III for the games he played in the River Parishes for University High School. Some may recall his fatherplaying for LSU. Maurice Carter and Willie Anderson are the best-knownnames returning from last year’s squad. But Darryl Cooper, Omar Mance(who if the game Saturday is any indication owns a deadly jump shot) and Jamaal Wolfe? Program sales should be brisk in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center this season.

Actually, the Tigers’ best known recruit is not with the team yet.

Stromile Swift, a Parade All-American, recently retook the ACT test and needs one more point to become eligible after the first five games of the season. He could add some badly needed scoring to a team that is trying tohave its first winning season in six years.

LSU fans will not be the only ones having a hard time identifying their players on the court. Just look at the preseason All-American teamselected by one major publication. Michigan State guard Mateen Cleaves,Connecticut forward Richard Hamilton, Duke guard Trajan Langdon, Utah forward Andre Miller and Texas Christian forward Lee Nailon.

Where are the Kevin Garnetts and the Kobe Bryants, the players that should be dotting these teams? In the NBA that’s where, forsaking the college game for a chance at the big bucks. Actually, they are sitting at homewaiting out what could turn out to be a disastrous lockout.

Looking at the All-American team, two other things stick out. Of the first,second and third teams, there is only one sophomore and three juniors. Therest are all seniors.

Also, on those three teams, Northwestern’s Evan Eschmeyer was the only center selected while seven guards were named. Coaches are emphasizingspeed over size now. The days of the a Patrick Ewing or a HakeemOlajuwon carrying a team may be on the decline.

But just because more talented players are heading to the NBA earlier does not mean that the college game is being diminished. Just look at lastseason’s NCAA Tournament to see that the excitement and drama is still there. This season might be the same with no dominating team on theboard. Today’s college basketball landscape gives hope to many a team.Yes, even for those scrappers at LSU.

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