- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Johnny Jones’ first couple years as LSU’s head coach has been defined by improvement, but also roster turnover.

He’s still trying to end what has grown to a six-year stint without an NCAA tournament bid for the Tigers, and if he’s going to succeed this season, it’s going to require major contributions from some new players.

The Tigers return just two players who averaged more than 12 minutes per game last season - Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin. The biggest loss is two-time All-SEC center Johnny O’Bryant, who left early for the NBA.

“We have five new faces and some of them will be key components,” Jones said at LSU’s media day on Wednesday. “We have seen some great things in practice so far. But, it won’t be until we get into the schedule that we’ll know a lot about this team. That’s tough because we’ll have to try to win games while we learning about our team.”

Mickey and Martin played huge roles as freshmen a season ago. Mickey, a member of the All-SEC Defensive Team, averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game. He blocked 106 shots joining Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in school history to reach triple figures in blocks in a season.

Martin, who was a member of the All-SEC Freshman team like Mickey, contributed ten points and five rebounds per game. Mickey will be used in the post as he was last year, while Martin will once again play on the wing and in the post.

The only other returning player who is expected to see major playing time is guard Tim Quarterman.

The three newcomers who are projected to be on the floor for a lot of minutes are point guard Josh Gray, shooting guard Keith Hornsby and center Elbert Robinson. Gray averaged a nation’s best 34.7 points per game at Odessa (Tex.) College.

Hornsby sat out last season after transferring from North Carolina-Asheville. Two seasons ago, Hornsby averaged 15 points and four rebounds per game as a sophomore at UNC-Asheville. Robinson, a freshman from Garland (Tex.), averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks as a high school senior.

Gray and Hornsby will probably form the Tigers’ starting backcourt. If LSU wants to use a big lineup, Robinson will be the center with Martin at small forward. If the Tigers want to use a smaller lineup, Quarterman can be the small forward with Martin going inside next to Mickey.

“We can do some different things with this year’s team,” Mickey said. “We can use a different combination of guys. We can use Elbert at the ‘five’ or we can go small with somebody at the ‘three.’”

Jones also has a newcomer on his coaching staff in former NBA head coach Eric Musselman, who spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Arizona State. Musselman was a head coach with the Golden State Warriors (2002-04) and the Sacramento Kings (2006-07).

“Eric is a great addition to our team,” Jones said. “He is just like a new player on our team. He is trying to learn our system and our philosophy right now. He’s going to be a huge plus for us.”

The Tigers have been close to reaching the NCAA tournament in the past two campaigns.

LSU finished with a 9-9 Southeastern Conference record in both of Jones’ first two seasons. The Tigers made no postseason appearance in Jones’ first year. Last March, LSU was invited to the NIT where it lost in the second round at SMU.

“We are excited about taking the next step in our program,” Jones said. “In our first year, we won 19 games. In our second year, we won 20 games. We continued to build and we got to the postseason. I liked the way the guys have bought in.”

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