The last major connection to the Ben Simmons short-lived era at LSU will discover Thursday night how he must continue his basketball career.
The NBA draft will be held Thursday and former Tigers wing Antonio Blakeney is not expected to be drafted.
USA TODAY Sports
Blakeney was a freshman at LSU at the same time as Simmons with whom he was a teammate on the summer basketball circuit. Blakeney signed with the Tigers simply because of his relationship with Simmons.
In two seasons at LSU, Blakeney averaged 14 points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal per game. Blakeney, who averaged one turnover per game, shot 44 percent from the field and 74 percent from the foul line. Blakeney, who started 54 games in two years, made 35 percent of his 3-point shots.
Draft Express rates Blakeney as the No. 96 prospect in the draft. Therefore, Blakeney is not projected to be selected Thursday. For the first time in four years, no Tigers player will be selected in the NBA draft. Johnny O’Bryant, Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey and Simmons were drafted from 2014-16.
According to Josh Riddell of Draft Express, Blakeney has some positive qualities. But, his body of work at LSU left much to be desired. Riddell believes that Blakeney could get the chance to make a NBA roster in the future after a few years of seasoning in the Developmental League.
“Blakeney has clear-cut NBA potential with his athleticism and scoring prowess,” Riddell wrote in his evaluation. “But, he had two underwhelming seasons in college. Blakeney is a streaky shooter who can get hot in spurts. But, he will force up shots outside of the rhythm of the offense.
“Blakeney has experience in a ball-screen offense which is a plus. He is more than a straight-line driver. But, when he gets going at top speed, his handle gets too loose and he will lose the ball in traffic.”
Riddell is concerned about Blakeney’s decision-making ability on the offensive end of the floor.
“Blakeney has potential as a scorer on the ball,” Riddell wrote. “He has a quick first step, but he struggled to create efficient looks for himself.
“Blakeney is erratic with his decisions when he gets into the lane. He will drive into traffic, he will pick up his dribble too early or he will leave the ground without a clear passing lane. Blakeney’s court vision and decision-making need a lot of work.”
Like most players on Jones’ teams at LSU, Blakeney has shown to be a less than adequate defender. Riddell feels that Blakeney’s defensive problems are mainly due to his lack of commitment.
“Blakeney has the tools to be a solid on-ball defender,” Riddell wrote. “But, he is far from a stopper. He has the length to contest jump shots and the lateral quickness to stay in front of the ball.
“However, Blakeney has shown poor energy and awareness on the defensive end. He doesn’t always work hard to defend and he is a step slow to rotate over.”
As regards the future of Tigers basketball, new coach Will Wade may have an obstacle in bringing on board Kavell Bigby-Williams, a transfer from Oregon.
There is a published report that Bigby-Williams played last season for the Ducks while under investigation for sexual assault. Bigby-Williams has committed to LSU, but has not signed a scholarship.
The 6-foot-11 Bigby-Williams played sparingly as a junior for the Ducks last season. However, he was a junior college All-American two years ago at Gillette (Wyo.). Bigby-Williams averaged 17 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots per game in 2015.
If Bigby-Williams does join the program, he must sit out next season before becoming eligible for the 2018-19 campaign as a fifth-year senior. Wade has used a variety of methods to change the Tigers roster.
First, there are two high school signees – post player Mayan Kiir, who originally signed with Wade at VCU, and point guard Tremont Waters, who signed with Georgetown last November. Second, there is a graduate transfer – post player Jeremy Combs from North Texas.
Third, there is a junior college transfer – wing Daryl Edwards. Finally, toss in two high school players signed by former coach Johnny Jones – wings Galen Alexander and Brandon Rachal – and one can see the drastic turnover in personnel from the last two disappointing years under Jones.