The Tigers are gearing up for the 2016-17 season. Monday night they played an exhibition game in Baton Rouge (recap here). Expectations for this year's squad are abnormally low. LSU was predicted to finish 12th place in the league and, once again, miss the NCAA Tournament.
Are The Tigers going to average 80 points a game? No. Will they finish last in the SEC? Probably not. The expectations for this season are much lower than last year. At the very least, that leaves less room for disappointment. Most of the fan base has exceptionally low expectations for this year and do not care to look for any information to the contrary. So, look no further for an unbiased, statistic-based preview of this year's guards:
1. Skylar Mays (Fr): Mays is a Baton Rouge native. He played for three years at University High, before transferring to Findley Prep for his Senior season. He helped the Cubs win back-to-back 3A State Championships in 2014 and 2015. He also set the record for assists in a game during the Louisiana State High School Tournament. In his Senior year he averaged 10.9 points, 3 rebounds, and 2.7 steals per game. Further review of Mays will have to wait until he gets real game time.
2. Kieran Hayward (Fr): The next Freshman on the list. Hayward is a Sydney, Australia native. He was recruited during the AUSA Tour of Summer 2015. Hayward is a year removed from high school, but in his Senior season he average 18 points per game and eights rebounds. His stats are impressive, but he likely will not see much playing time his Freshmen year thanks to Blakeney, Sampson and Patterson.
3. Marshall Graves (Fr): Graves was also a part of the two back-to-back State Championship teams at University High, along with teammates Mays and Wayde Sims. In his Senior season he made a school record 91.4% of his free throws. He was also given a honorable mention all-state spot by the Louisiana Sports' Writers. Graves played point guard at U High, but Coach Johnny Jones has given no indication on the Freshman, except the guard distinction listed next to his name on the official team roster. Graves is another young player that can compete for some playing time at the beginning of the season, but it will likely decrease during league play.
4. Reed Vial (So): Vial is the Henry Shortess of the 2016-17 season. He was offered a scholarship by Coach Jones as a walk-on. He is in his third year at LSU, but listed as a redshirt Sophomore. Vial is another Baton Rouge native. He was a two-time All-District player at Parkview Baptist, where he averaged 20 points a game during his Senior year.
5. Branden Jenkins (Jr): Jenkins is junior college transfer from Lee College in Baytown,Texas. He averaged 15.6 points and shot over 50% at Lee College. He was a nice pickup by Coach Jones and staff, but he may not see much time off the bench this year thanks to Patterson, Blakeney and others. If he can step up and be leader for this young group of guards, he will see an increase in his playing time.
6. Jalyn Patterson (Jr): Jalyn started in 16 games last season. On average, he played for a half of the games he started and averaged 4.7 points per game. Patterson will likely see a little more playing time this season, with the exit of Tim Quarterman. As a Junior in a young group of guards, Patterson has the opportunity to be a leader. He should be a force on defense and improve on his 34 steals from last season.
7. Brandon Sampson (So): Sampson may be the most exciting player in this year's groups of guards. He is also the player with the most questions leading into the 2016-17 season. Last year Sampson played in a total of 27 games, but he only started five. He had flashes of brilliance, but at other times looked inexperienced. Early in the 2015 season it looked like Sampson would see steady action, but his numbers and playing time dropped as the team entered SEC play. This year he should start at the beginning of the season and should have several more solid performances than last season.
8. Antonio Blakeney (So): Blakeney was named to the All-SEC Freshman team last season. He should improve even more this year. In 2015-16 Blakeney played in all 33 games and started in 24. He averaged 12.6 points per game and made 74.8% of his shots from inside the arc. In the final two games of the season he made 31 of 32 attempts. The Tigers will use Blakeney early, and often, this year. He is likely to be a starter from the beginning of the season.
The Tigers will have more experience and depth at Guard this season. With the exit of Keith Hornsby and Tim Quarterman, older leaders will have to step up. Blakeney and Patterson will likely be the starters at the beginning of the season, but Sampson and Jenkins could challenge that. Freshmen Mays, Hayward and Graves could also fight for playing time. LSU may initially struggle after the departure of Hornsby and others, but overall this season's team will have more depth at guard.