LSU power forward Johnny O’Bryant III has heard it all before: not quick enough, not agile, inconsistent, overweight. In his three years of college basketball, the NBA prospect and 2012-13 second-team All-SEC selection decided he has had enough.
With a new trainer and a tremendous conditioning program, the 6-foot-9 junior showed off a slimmed-down frame – 256 pounds – and a much-improved game during the Old Spice Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
O’Bryant led the Tigers with 17 points on 8-for-14 shooting, adding eight rebounds and three assists, as LSU (5-2) wrapped up a hard-fought victory against Butler (5-2) in Game 10 of the three-day tournament on Sunday afternoon, winning 70-68 in overtime.
LSU coach Johnny Jones is grateful that his team’s leader is stepping up every aspect of his game. “It’s great to see when hard work pays off,” Jones said after Sunday’s win. “I thought at the midpoint of last year a light came on and Johnny understood that the reason that he was having success was because of the time and energy he put in.”
Jones added that his staff is excited about O’Bryant’s willingness to keep improving beyond the summer and throughout the season, and that it speaks volumes about his commitment to the game.
O’Bryant has been working with a trainer who keeps him on a low-sugar diet – at least one lower in sugar than O’Bryant’s old diet, or lack thereof. “He preaches eating habits. I ate a lot of sugary snacks, sugary drinks – he preaches a lot of vegetables, a lot of lean meats,” O’Bryant said. “And conditioning, he killed me a lot of times on treadmills and outside, but it was all worth it.
“When we had breaks in summer school and right before school started, I just stayed (on campus) the whole month and worked out three times a day with the strength coach and on the court. I knew the team we were going to have this year and I knew I had to be the leader, so I had to step up.”
An NBA scout in attendance said O’Bryant’s display this holiday weekend of his development as a teammate has made as much of an impact as his improved conditioning.
“The thing that impressed me most was that he was really competing a lot better than he did last year – I thought there were a lot of times last year when he took plays off. And his consistency and his work ethic, it looked like he was connected to the team.”