Freshman LSU basketball coach Matt McMahon is ready to take his program-building project to the next level.
After laying the groundwork for his new team over the past three and a half months, McMahon begins the second phase of the job on Wednesday with the start of pre-season training.
While the players who gathered on June 6 for summer training already have a lot of work under their belts, there is still a lot to do for a roster that has 10 newcomers among its 13 scholarship players.
It made the summer a little different for McMahon, who started the previous seven seasons at Murray State with an established schedule to work with.
“For me, this summer was strictly about individual player development (and) just getting better on the pitch,” he said. “Living in the weight room is getting bigger, stronger, faster.”
When LSU takes the stage for its first official practice Wednesday afternoon, the Tigers will be exactly 42 days away from their Nov. 9 season opener against Missouri-Kansas City.
The next six weeks will include 28 practices, two scrimmages behind closed doors and 12 days off, as prescribed by NCAA rules.
It will then be time, McMahon said, to fully focus on the upcoming season.
“We did a lot more team activity this summer than we normally would, trying to get a basic understanding of the attacking and defensive systems,” he said. “We had to build relationships, whether it was player-to-player, player-to-coach or coach-to-coach.
“The only way to achieve this is to invest heavily in time.”
With that task behind McMahon and his coaching staff, the next step in the building process that begins Wednesday will be the evaluation phase.
“Who will win their role in the team, and what attacking and defensive style of play will give us the best opportunity to win with these players in those respective roles?” he said. “Assessment of the players and the team will be essential.”
Clearly, McMahon said he and his team are excited to reach the next stage.
“I really enjoyed coaching our team; what’s really important is that the uptake has been good,” he said. “We really tried to establish the work ethic and the selflessness that we want our team to show on a daily basis.
“We obviously have a long way to go trying to mix so many new pieces together. … That’s what these next 42 days are really going to be like for us.
By mid-July, McMahon was reluctant to talk about how individuals were doing in early practice.
But last week, he noted junior forward Mwani Wilkinson, second-year guard Adam Miller and junior guard Justice Hill had impressed. He was also overall happy with his team’s progress.
“Mwani has just been rock solid from day one since I got here,” McMahon said. “He’s been so consistent… I’ve been very happy with him.
“I’m excited about the progress Adam has made coming back from a knee injury and 10 months of rehabilitation, and ‘Juice’ Hill has shown great ethical leadership. work and competition.”
McMahon noted that Miller, who didn’t play a minute a year ago after tearing his left ACL last October, has been training hard after being cleared 3½ weeks ago by the medical staff.
This is just the start for McMahon.
“I’m excited to see who’s going to take on these important roles for us,” he said. “That’s what the next 42 days are going to be about. They will tell us a lot, of course.