LSU Shaq statue will drive recruiting

by Troy Gaulden

With the recent unveiling of a statue bearing the likeness of Shaquille O’Neal, the LSU basketball program took a step forward with recruiting.

The Shaq statue sits in front of the basketball practice facility | Photo by Troy Gaulden

After finishing at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference for the past two seasons, the program is looking to turn things around.  It all starts with recruiting.  A statue of arguably the most well-known athlete to ever sport purple and gold is a great start.  This is more than just a statue to LSU.

Along with the statue of Shaq, the LSU basketball practice facility keeps LSU in the running for recruits.  Shaq even took note of the LSU basketball program’s overall improvements over the years.

“I spoke to the team last year, and I was like, listen, you guys got everything you want here.  You may think you have everything, but I didn’t have any of this, and I made it.  You know you guys have computers and internet, practice facilities and study halls and stuff like that.  My message to them was to take advantage,” says Shaq.

The 900-pound bronze statue was sculpted by Hanlon Sculpture Studio and sits in front of the basketball practice facility.  Alleva says visiting recruits will definitely be impressed by the statue.

LSU is cheering for Chico

by Troy Gaulden

To help pay for LSU Cheerleading associate head coach Chico Garcia’s medical expenses, LSU Cheerleading established Cheering for Chico, a website that shares updates on Chico and allows anyone to post to Chico.

T-shirt design by Tiger District

Also, T-shirts can be purchased through the website, with all proceeds going toward Chico’s fund.  LSU spirit director Pauline Zernott says they are striving to raise around $150,000.

Although Chico is currently hospitalized, he still manages to coach the LSU cheer squad with the use of FaceTime on an ipad.  The cheerleaders aren’t surprised by Chico’s determination.

“It definitely shows how strong of a person he is, and you know it takes a very strong-willed and determined person to sit there and know they might not be able to move or might not be able to walk for a few months or years even.  But, that hasn’t stopped him from what his ultimate goal is and that’s making us better as a squad,” said LSU cheerleader Courtney Begnaud.

According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division, the 19-foot boat struck a private pier, severely injuring Chico.  Chico is currently paralyzed from the chest down after suffering a spinal cord injury in the cervical region.  There were four others on board.  Two people were released from the hospital, and two children remained hospitalized.  The cause of the accident is currently under investigation.

UPDATE (Oct. 5):

According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, charges were filed against Jack Riffle for his involvement in the boating accident.

Riffle was charged with driving a boat while intoxicated, reckless operation of a moving vessel and four counts of first-degree negligent injury.

Chico is still paralyzed from the chest down.  He is currently in the Shepherd Center, a rehab hospital in Atlanta that specializes in spinal cord injuries.