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September 22, 2006

Notebook: Minor ready for major role at LSU

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Ask Tack Minor about the season-ending knee injury that cost him a chance to be part of LSU's first Final Four run in 20 years and there is no talk of feeling unfortunate or unlucky.

The Tigers junior point guard sounds guilty, blaming himself for not playing a bigger part in the super season.

Minor, who missed the first semester due to an academic suspension, didn't play until the team's eighth game last season. Two games later, still trying to work his way back into playing shape against Cincinnati, the 5-foot-11 floor general went to make a move with the ball and immediately heard a pop in his knee.

Minor says he knew exactly what happened before feeling any pain.

"I was frustrated when I got suspended," Minor told Rivals.com. "I definitely wasn't working out the right way. My weight got to around 212 pounds and I didn't have my legs under me yet.

"It was the biggest mistake of my life."

It turned out to be a slightly-torn meniscus. The injury was far from career-ending, but was severe enough to require surgery and put the Houston native on the shelf for the rest of the season.

Minor, who had started all 30 of LSU's games the previous season, was relegated to watching his team play on television. That was an experience that turned out to be more painful than the injury and the rehab that followed.

"I was really stressing and thinking about how I can't be around my teammates," Minor said. "I was crying every single day. I didn't know how I would get through it."

Thankfully for Minor, his mother did. Margaret Minor called her son every day. While she always had plenty of comforting words, every conversation carried the same message: Start taking school seriously.

"My mom is the strongest person in my family (has three sisters and four brothers) and she is always asking about my classes," Minor said. "She really motivated me to take care of my academics."

Minor did just that in the spring semester, making sure there would be no doubts surrounding his eligibility for the upcoming season. When the summer arrived, the former four-star recruit went back home to Houston and started taking his conditioning seriously. He began working out with former NBA guard John Lucas, who started training Minor when the youngster was in 10th grade. Minor also played in pick-up games loaded with NBA players, including Damon Stoudamire and T.J. Ford.

When Minor got back to Baton Rouge last month he weighed 194 pounds the lowest since his high school days when he was ranked the nation's No. 38 prospect.

"John Lucas helped me get stronger and with getting that mentality of a point guard," Minor said. "When I started playing I was favoring my other knee a little and it kept flaring up, but I kept playing through it. I'm 100 percent now."

That's great news for the Tigers. Junior center Glen Davis (18.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg), the SEC's reigning Player of the Year, and small forward Tasmin Mitchell (11.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg) return. The addition of a pair of proven transfers, shooting guards Dameon Mason and Terry Martin, should give the team enough firepower to make back-to-back Final Four trips. Mason averaged 11.9 points per game two seasons ago at Marquette. Martin was averaging 7.4 ppg midway through his freshman season at Texas Tech last year before switching schools.

A healthy Minor will be needed to make all those scoring weapons shine. He's the only true point guard on the roster with any starting experience. Plus, with the loss of Darrel Mitchell (16.8 ppg, 4.4 asg), the Tigers will need a veteran leader in their backcourt.

That's a role that Minor, who has been criticized in the past for careless ball handling and taking too many ill-advised shots, desperately wants. He feels he's ready to take on a leadership role after watching the Tigers win 26 of their 27 games without him last season.

"At first I thought 'They can't win without me,' but when they started winning I realized they really don't need me," he said. "I got it into my head that nobody needs nobody.

"Being selfish won't help. I want my teammates to put their trust in me. To me we are even better than last year. We've got the athletes, but we have to play like a team."

Thankfully for the Tigers, they'll also have to play with a more accountable and more appreciative version of their old point guard.

Note to Athletic Directors: Don't Bothering Calling Crean

It looks like any recruits considering Marquette won't have to worry about head coach Tom Crean leaving. At least not until well after their college careers are complete.

Crean, whose name often surfaces when openings up come up at major programs, agreed to a 10-year contract extension on Wednesday that will keep him with the Golden Eagles until 2016-17. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel reported that Crean made $1.6 million last year.

The news could pay big dividends on the recruiting front.

The Golden Eagles have secured commitments from a pair of seniors, including highly coveted power forward Trevor Mbakwe. ranked among the nation's top 150 prospects, Mbakwe holds scholarship offers from several major programs.

Top 100 junior Nick Williams, a shooting guard from Mobile, Ala., made an early commitment to Marquette last month. Korie Lucious, one of the nation's top point guards in the class of 2008, plays at Milwaukee prep power Rufus King.

Crean, 40, has compiled a 141-76 (.650 winning percentage) record in his seven years at Marquette. He led the Golden Eagles to a surprising fourth-place finish in the Big East and their first NCAA Tournament appearance in three years last season. His tenure is highlighted by a run to the Final Four in 2003.

Top Recruiting Classes Go Head-to-Head

The ongoing debate over the nation's top recruiting class could be decided by the middle of the season. At least when it comes to the short-term winner.

North Carolina and Ohio State, which landed the No. 1 and No. 2 classes, meet on Nov. 29 in Chapel Hill, N.C. for the marquee game in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. An injury might take some luster off the matchup. Buckeyes freshman Greg Oden's status remains questionable for the game. Oden underwent wrist surgery for torn ligaments in July.

Texas, which came in at No. 3 in the rankings with a class highlighted by the nation's No. 2 prospect Kevin Durant, heads to Tennessee on Dec. 23. Bruce Pearl and the Vols put together the sixth-best class in the nation and three of their five freshman - point guard Ramar Smith and big men Duke Crews and Wayne Chism - could all be starting in the matchup.

Connecticut and its fourth-ranked class will face Georgia Tech, which reeled in the eighth-ranked class led by top 10 prospects Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Jan. 11.

The Vols also travel to Ohio State on Jan. 13.

Quick hits

  • A second suspect involved in the shooting of five Duquesne players turned himself into police Wednesday. William Holmes, 18, of Penn Hills, Penn., has been charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and weapons-related offenses.

  • Duke announced it will have sophomore captains for the first time in school history on Wednesday. Sophomores Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts, who both started last season, and junior DeMarcus Nelson are all team captains.

  • Santa Clara retired the No. 11 jersey of NBA star and alum Steve Nash when he spoke at the school's convocation ceremony on Monday. Nash led the Broncos to three NCAA tournaments and their famous upset of No. 2 seed Arizona in 1993.

  • Oklahoma State freshman forward Gary Flowers was suspended on Wednesday for a violation of team rules.

    Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his mailbag.

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