Recruiting begins right away for Jones

Ricardo Gathers considered LSU but signed with Baylor instead. Courtesy Andrew Shurtleff

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Johnny Jones is officially the head man at LSU.

Now, he'd better get to work.

It's no secret that the timing of Trent Johnson's departure put LSU behind the eight ball in the recruiting world. The Tigers didn't have a coach when basketball's national signing day arrived last Wednesday, and he's got a limited window of time to make up for that fact.

Asked about it at his introductory press conference Monday, Jones said he had already gotten started on the recruiting trail. But the real heavy lifting is still to come.

"We've just got to make sure we roll up our sleeves and not look for any situation where we're looking for excuses," Jones said. "We've got to go out there and try to identify some people who haven't been signed yet."

That part shouldn't be too much of a problem. It's well-documented that there are still plenty of unsigned players waiting for the right situation, including Thibodaux, La., forward Shavon Coleman. But in the scramble to make up for lost time, Jones said he refuses to make the mistake of signing players just to sign them.

"We don't want to waste any scholarships and be hung out there with somebody for the next three or four years that's not going to help move the program forward," he said.

That sounds like quite a balancing act. Jones smiled wryly when asked about highly touted prospect Ricardo Gathers, who signed his letter of intent with Baylor on Monday morning. There isn't an abundance of uncommitted talent left, nor is there a lot of time to identify them. Jones' time on the recruiting trail during the weekend, before he was even introduced, is a telling sign of that truth. After being hired Friday evening, Jones said he had already talked with the LSU compliance office about the current recruiting situation by Saturday morning.

"I hit the road. I had an opportunity to go visit with some kids out there. I spent some time with Malik Morgan, who (LSU) had signed before, just to make sure we had some hands-on," Jones said. "We've been working really hard. I can tell you it's kind of been a one-man wrecking crew right now for me, because no one else is on board."

Jones said he hopes to alleviate his work load with some hires in the coming days. He wouldn't specify names, but he said he hopes to bring some of his assistants at North Texas along. Asked about the possibility of adding any other former LSU figures, such as current NBA D-League coach Randy Livingston, to his staff, Jones smiled and said "I'm an LSU guy."

Jones seems to have an idea of where things are headed in his first week on the job. Considering the lost time to make up for, the Tigers can't afford for that direction to go anywhere but straight ahead.

"I've got to get out of here this afternoon and get back and close some things out at my old job … and at the same time hit the ground running there in Dallas, go touch some people at the schools there," Jones said following the press conference. "This weekend is a huge weekend for us in terms of recruiting, and it will be non-stop for us."