February 9, 2012

Johnson responds to Gathers' remarks

LSU basketball coach Trent Johnson opened his post-practice press conference Thursday afternoon talking about his team's performance in its loss at Vanderbilt one day earlier.

He expressed hope that the Tigers would learn from that defeat as it prepared for back-to-back home games against Alabama on Saturday and Mississippi State on Tuesday.

While Johnson and his team were in Nashville, Ricardo Gathers announced his commitment to Baylor. Gathers, the No. 1 prospect in Louisiana, had been the top priority of LSU's recruiting for the last three seasons.

To add insult to injury, Gathers explained that one reason for his decision to go to Baylor was the fact that Johnson didn't show enough interest in him. Gathers gave the impression that Bears coach Scott Drew outworked Johnson.

That suggestion drew some fire from Johnson.

"It's comical," said Johnson, in response to Gathers' statements. "It takes people about five to ten minutes after they meet me to know how I am wired. For anybody to think that our basketball staff under my leadership doesn't work is comical.

"I'm glad that people didn't talk to my wife. She sees when I am not around. If I'm not in our gym, I'm not holding Jackie's (wife) hand. I am not out in a bar drinking. By the rules, I am in somebody's gym. My life is pretty sterile. To question my work ethic is not right."

Johnson rarely reveals any information about recruiting. He did say Thursday that he "feels good about signing two more players." River Ridge (La.) Curtis wing Malik Morgan, the No. 2 player in the state behind Gasthers, signed with the Tigers last November.

"The reason I don't feel good about sharing whom I recruiting is that there is a whole process that's involved," Johnson said. "I want enough time to educate the player and his family about the environment at LSU. I want them to know what LSU is about and what their role is going to be.

"The player and his family need to know and understand all of this before they are asked a bunch of questions. For me, it's all about the kid and it will always be about the kid. It's not the coach. It's not the story. It's the kid. I am always concerned about the welfare of the young man."

Johnson admitted that he doesn't care if a player announces a commitment.

"A person becomes a recruitable athlete in the ninth grade," Johnson said. "A lot can go on from that time until college. I am not an advocate of verbal commitments."

Johnson acknowledged that recruiting is the lifeline of any successful program.

"You have got to be pretty stupid if you don't recruit," Johnson said. "I like to have a bunch of talent out there. I am always going to take the best possible player I can get. I don't get caught up in rankings. We just have to stay the course and get kids who fit the puzzle."


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