LSU's Hickey says he will stay

As the remaining LSU players trickled into the room for the news conference introducing Johnny Jones as their new head coach, point guard Anthony Hickey was conspicuously absent.

But he arrived just before the news conference started and took a seat at a table with teammates. It's a seat that, much to the relief of Jones and LSU basketball fans, he's willing to keep.

"I'm in here for the long run," he said. "I wasn't really thinking about leaving. It was just rumors, you know, when the coach is leaving."

Those rumors centered around Hickey's desire to be closer to family in his home state of Kentucky. Instead, he referred to the LSU team as "my family here."

With Hickey on board, all seven scholarship players returning from the 18-15 team said they would return to play for Jones. That includes starters Hickey, forward Johnny O'Bryant and wings Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner.

Hickey's return is crucial, given LSU's lack of depth at point guard.

The 5-foot-11 former Kentucky Mr. Basketball made the SEC's All-Freshman team after averaging 8.9 points and a team-high 3.8 assists in 2012. He started 31 of LSU's 33 games and showed defensive prowess, ripping off an SEC-best 2.1 steals a game.

His backup, Chris Bass, was a senior. The 2011 starter, Stringer, was moved to shooting guard last season. So LSU could not afford to lose Hickey. Stringer could be a combo guard next season, giving Hickey some rest while playing the point (something former coach Trent Johnson mentioned as a possibility at a season-ending news conference).

The best news for Hickey is with Jones coming in, LSU will likely play a style more suited for his game. Often, Hickey's instincts as an aggressive attacker on offensive and a gambling ball-hawk on defense ran counter to the more conservative approach preferred by Johnson.

Jones said his pitch to Hickey was that he was a man who understood the position and liked his skill set.

"I told him I was a point guard like him," said Jones, who as a player was LSU's "Bullet" in the early 1980s, a jet-quick point guard who played on LSU's 1981 Final Four team as a freshman and finished with 271 career assists in four years. "I told him he fit into our style of play."

North Texas routinely had one of the most fast-paced teams in the Sun Belt, playing a running style that might be a fit for the quick and aggressive Hickey.

"Me and (O'Bryant) always talked about how we want to play up-tempo on the offensive end," Hickey said. "Getting the ball out of the net and just pushing it, that's something I've been doing my whole life. (Jones) wanting to do the same thing, that's a great connection we have."