LSU awaits word on Ja’Vonte Smart, Will Wade; Naz Reid cleared to play
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU interim head coach Tony Benford and the Tigers are preparing for the SEC Tournament in Nashville.
Everyone associated with the LSU basketball program is waiting to learn the future of head coach Will Wade, who was suspended Friday, Mar. 8 amid an FBI wiretap investigation, and freshman guard Ja’Vonte Smart, who was forced to sit out the Tigers’ SEC championship win over Vanderbilt.
Benford answered questions Tuesday after the team practiced. He said there has been no update on Smart. He also addressed comments from opposing fans labeling the Tigers as the villain.
“We can’t control the noise outside the circle," said Benford. "But we can control the noise inside the circle. We have to talk to each other.”
Benford said forward Naz Reid has been cleared to play after sitting out Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt with an injury suffered in the game against Florida.
“Naz is good to go. He’s got fresh legs. He was good today,” Benford added.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards chimed in Tuesday morning on the suspension when asked by a reporter after a BESE Hearing.
“That’s a very tough decision that they made,” Edwards said, adding he spoke with LSU President F. King Alexander on the university’s decision to suspend head coach Will Wade.
“It’s hard for me to disagree with that decision under those circumstances although I will tell you it is my fervent hope that Coach Wade has a way to clear this up,” Edwards said.
“Like everybody else, I’m a huge LSU fan and this is the best year we’ve had in many, many years in terms of our basketball program. And so, hopefully, we can get past this,” Edwards said.
When asked on the likelihood of Wade returning to coach the LSU Men’s Basketball program, Edwards appeared optimistic.
“Certainly, it’s possible because he’s been suspended. He hasn’t been terminated. And it just depends on the facts as they come out and what his version of events is and so forth. So, obviously that’s possible, but I can’t make a prediction here today. This is something for the president of the university, but also the athletic director, and the board of supervisors. They’re the primary players in this, along with the coach. So we’ll have to see how this plays out.”
LSU freshman forward Naz Reid is set to return to action Friday at the SEC basketball tournament, Benford said Monday on the coaches’ teleconference.
The Tigers will face either Arkansas or Florida in the quarterfinals of the tournament to start things off for the Tigers Friday, Mar. 15.
The final will be Sunday at noon on ESPN.
LSU students held a protest on campus Tuesday after athletic director Joe Alleva handed down the suspensions. The event was poorly attended. A march is scheduled for 6 p.m.
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