The LSU Tigers were quietly developing one of the top programs in the SEC, and looked like the top threat to the Kentucky Wildcats in the conference. With a strong recruiting class coming in for the 2015-16 season, it looked as though the Tigers would take another step forward.
However, before they were able to implement their plan and see all of their talented pieces on the floor at one time, they are forced to take a step back and plan another course of action. On the heels of Jarell Martin foregoing his final two years of eligibility with the Tigers and entering the NBA Draft, fellow sophomore Jordan Mickey made the same decision on Tuesday afternoon. Mickey will throw his name into the ring that is the NBA Draft, thus leaving the NCAA in the rearview mirror.
The loss of these two players will undoubtedly cause LSU some headaches moving forwards. Here’s a look at what the Tigers are losing, in Martin and Mickey, and a brief outlook for the 2015-16 season.
The 6’10” Martin and the 6’8″ Mickey gave the LSU Tigers a formidable front court that rivalled some of the top forward tandems in the entire NCAA. Martin averaged 16.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest, while Mickey averaged 15.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Both of these players were the top two scorers and rebounders on the Tigers’ roster.
Mickey was also one of the nation’s top shot-blockers. Mickey averaged a nation-best 3.85 blocks per contest this past season. Over his two year career, Mickey recorded an impressive 219 blocks, which ranks 2nd all-time by an LSU player. The only guy ahead of Mickey on that list is some guy that you may have heard of, and his name is Shaquille O’Neal (412).
Both Martin and Mickey were rumoured to leave school after their freshmen campaigns, but they made the decision to stay with the Tigers. That led to some high expectations around the program for the 2014-15 season, but it’s safe to say they didn’t quite live up to them. At the end of the regular season, the Tigers found themselves in a tie for 3rd place in the SEC with an 11 – 7 record. An opening round loss to Auburn in the conference tournament put their NCAA Tournament chances in a bit of jeopardy, but the worrying was all for not.
The Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament as a 9-seed, and were knocked off by NC State in their opening round game. With that, the Tigers’ underwhelming season was over, and the speculation began as to whether or not the likes of Martin and Mickey would return to Baton Rouge.
The speculation ended early, as both declared for the NBA Draft. Their decisions left fans of the Tigers wondering what could have been.
There was a ton of anticipation around the program for the 2015-16 season. The Tigers received a commitment from the top overall recruit in the 2015 class, as Ben Simmons found the Tigers to be the best place for him to develop as a basketball player. The native of Australia was awarded with the Morgan Wootten award, which is given annually to the best McDonald’s All-American player who exemplifies outstanding character, leadership, and best embodies the values of being a student-athlete in the classroom and in the community. The accolade is another indication of just how special Simmons is as a player, and will only keep Tigers fans excited about the upcoming season.
With Mickey and Martin leaving school, the freshman will have the opening in the front court that he needs to see a significant amount of playing time right off the hop.
Add in shooting guard Antonio Blakeney, and the Tigers have two five-star recruits coming to Baton Rouge this season. The native of Orlando, FL helps to solidify the back court, and gives the Tigers a top scoring option from the back end.
Despite the departure of the two forwards, the Tigers should still be a tough threat next season with the talent they have coming in and the talent they have returning. Guards Keith Hornsby, Tim Quarterman, Josh Gray and Jalyn Patterson will provide the Tigers with some much-needed experience and offensive talent from the back end. The front court is where the Tigers will need to see some improvement. Big men Brian Bridgewater and Elbert Robinson III will need to see some improvement in their games if LSU wants to make an impact in the SEC.
Despite their inexperience at the forward spots, LSU has the talent in place to make it back to the big dance in 2015-16. The loss of both Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey will hurt, but the Tigers have enough fight in them to survive without them on their roster moving forward.