BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Trent Johnson has watched his LSU
basketball team stumble to back-to-back last-place Southeastern
Conference finishes the past two seasons.
The coach then saw three members of last year's nine-player
rotation transfer to other schools during the past offseason. Still, the coach was upbeat on Wednesday, asserting that his 2011-12 squad is ready to compete again in the SEC.
"The attention to detail and the concentration level of the players in individual workouts have been very good," Johnson said. "Nobody is going to stop me from enjoying coaching this basketball team. I feel good about where we're at.
"Everything is in place for us to have a very productive year. We have enough talent to compete with people. We won't be at the mercy of some teams in certain situations. I feel good about this group. The next thing for us is to win a lot of ball games."
Johnson has experienced one peak and two valleys in his first three seasons as Tigers coach. In his first year, LSU won the SEC title. The Tigers were 27-8 overall with 13 victories in 16 conference games.
In Johnson's second and third years at LSU, his teams won a total of 22 games, including just five in SEC play. The three players who left the program were wings Aaron Dotson and Matt Derenbecker and post player Garrett Green.
Dotson and Derenbecker divided playing time at one position with Ralston
Turner manning the other wing spot. Green was a backup post player.
However, Johnson feels very good about this team's depth due to the addition of four players -- 7-foot Iowa State transfer Justin Hamilton and freshmen Anthony Hickey, John Isaac and Johnny O'Bryant.
Hamilton is projected to be a starting post player, while all three freshmen will get immediate playing time.
"Justin brings a lot of experience having started for two years at Iowa State," Johnson said. "He will allow Storm Warren and Malcolm White to be who they are. They were playing out of position last year."
Warren and White were the two starting post players, but neither was a true center. Hamilton will provide the Tigers with that missing size in the post. Warren and White will be joined in the inside rotation by one of the freshmen -- the 6-foot-9 O'Bryant.
"All three freshmen are going to fit in immediately," Johnson said. "We didn't recruit those guys to sit. There will be a learning curve for them. But, I think they'll be fine. They all have a good basketball IQ."
Hickey will challenge senior Chris Bass for the starting point guard position. Andre Stringer, who was the No. 1 point guard a year ago as a freshman, has been shifted to a wing. Isaac and Eddie Ludwig will compete with Stringer for a starting perimeter berth. Ludwig has been shifted from a post position.
"We definitely have enough at the wings," Johnson said. "Eddie is back where he's more comfortable. Andre can really stretch the defense. He wasn't comfortable last year when he had to make everybody better as a point guard. John is very competitive. We'll be better defensively on the perimeter."