BATON ROUGE (WVUE) -
Sophomore guard Tremont Waters came into this season as an established leader and continues to build on his game. But the difference between this year and last year's team results is the support around him, specifically from this freshman class. Their ability to learn the college game quickly has been key, and it's a credit to the job their head coach has done giving them room to grow.
"Coach (Will) Wade's freedom," says Waters. "He lets his players play. Last year, we had more of a structured system. But he knows that we have a lot of talent on this team, and we have a lot more play-makers."
What's underrated is the team chemistry. The Tigers call themselves a family and really mean it, even the new guys. But truth be told, this freshmen class has been familiar with each other for quite some time through various basketball camps.
"They were a close group when we recruited them," says head coach Will Wade. "Those freshmen all knew each other. Those freshmen all talked to each other. They were a pretty tight-knit group when we recruited them."
While it's freshman forward Naz Reid whose stat line often stands out, it's another first-year player, Javonte Smart, that's making headlines with his attitude as much as his game. Coach Wade calls him a pit bull who brings the aggressive mentality that this team needed.
"The best thing about him is when you needed him the most and in the biggest moments, he delivers," says Wade. "He doesn't ever shy away when it's tough. When it's tough sledding, he doesn't ever shy away. The moment's never too big for him. That's really, really hard to do as a freshman."
You're also hard-pressed to find a freshman who talks as much trash as Smart does.
"I try to get in their heads and make them talk back," says Smart. "Some people really don't talk. Once they start talking, that means I got them a little bit."
Sure, it may look elementary on the surface, but that aggressiveness is an extension of the personality that makes Smart so valuable as a player.
"He's going to go get it," says Waters. "Whoever's in front of him, whatever's in front of him, he's going to run through it as if it was a brick wall, and he needed something on the other side. That's just his character. It's great to have someone on your side that you know isn't going to back down from anyone."
That’s exactly the mentality LSU on Wednesday Florida and certainly on Saturday against fifth-ranked Tennessee.