POSTED: Monday, October 28, 2013 - 9:00pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 12:34am
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — Both Nikki Caldwell and Johnny Jones enter the new college basketball season with a handful of key returning players that should pave the way in terms of leadership. Those players will play a critical role in making sure the two programs continue to move in the right direction.
But, an influx of new international talent could bring an added dimension and play just as important a role when striving to achieve their team goals.
On the women’s team, Rina Hill is only in her second year in the U.S. She learned basketball in her home country of Japan.
“Rina is a true point guard in every sense of the word,” Caldwell, who led the Tigers to the Sweet 16 last season, said. “She is by far one of the hardest working players and that’s refreshing to see that in a freshman.”
Meanwhile, Hill’s parents are working hard to try and figure out how they’ll watch their daughter play. “They are trying to get this special channel,” Hill said smiling.
On the court, she’s still adjusting to the American-style game noticing the difference in the American-born players. “People in the states are more physical and have more power. They are quicker. That’s one thing I had to adjust to. I think I learned I-Q stuff in Japan and if I can grow on that it will be good.”
Just across the hall in the men’s practice building Johnny Jones welcomes new two new foreign assets Darcy Malone and John Odu.
“Malone has the ability to shoot the three at seven-foot tall. That’s something that you can’t teach,” Johnny Jones, who enters his second year as the LSU men’s basketball head coach, said.
“A lot of people aren’t familiar with the way Australians and people outside America play. I think I will surprise people,” Malone said with a thick Australian accent. “If I need to shoot 3’s I’ll do that. But, if I need to play defense and rebound that’s what I’ll do,” he added.
Junior College transfer John Odu hails from Nigeria. He’ll be counted on for many minutes of defense and rebounds.
“Odu is one of the best shot-blockers and low block defenders we have on this team. He’s good at finishing around the rim. He understands where his limitations lie and he does a good job of sticking to those areas,” Jones said.
In a Nigerian accent, almost too hard to understand, Odu agreed. “What I do best is rebound, block shots and defense. What I don’t do well is offensive post moves.”
The Lady Tigers will host an exhibition Wednesday at the PMAC against Tennessee Temple.
The Men’s team will play Xavier in an exhibition November 6. That game will also be in the PMAC.