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2017 Hoops Preview: The Backcourt

A bigger look at the smaller guys

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve kept up with LSU basketball news at all this offseason, you’ll know our entire roster had a huge overhaul between March and today, with only five scholarship players from last season on the current squad. Let’s take a deeper dive into our terrifyingly fresh roster to see what to expect this season, starting with the guards.

Returning Players

#0 - Brandon Sampson (Jr.)

After Antonio Blakeney’s early departure from the team for the NBA draft in the offseason, Sampson is the sole survivor from the hopeful 2015 freshman trio that included Ben Simmons. Sampson finished last season behind only Blakeney and forward Duop Reath in minutes (27.5 MPG) and scoring (11.6 PPG), while leading all guards with a 47.5% shooting mark, slotting him as one of the most important offensive weapons in our backcourt. That being said, he turned the ball over 63 times while only tallying 42 assists last year, and while a lower AST rate is expected for shooting guards, that’s a huge area of his game to improve.

#4 - Skylar Mays (So.)

As a freshman starter in all but six games last season, Skylar Mays led the Tigers in assists (113), steals (40), and free throw shooting (81.2%). I know there aren’t too many stats to break down a player defensively, but Mays looked like the most important weapon on defense last year, regardless of position. I know that’s not saying too much for an unbelievably bad defensive team, but it may lead to significantly more playing time under Coach Wade, who’s made it pretty clear the team’s current focus is keeping the other team from scoring.

#12 - Marshall Graves (So.)

I’m not going to spend too many words on walk-ons here. They can end up being very important, but God bless us if it really comes to that. Graves scored four points and snagged five rebounds last season.

#15 - Reed Vial (Jr.)

Same as above, but only one point, one rebound.

New Players

#2 - Brandon Rachal (Fr.)

6’5”, 215 pound guard Brandon Rachal comes to LSU from Natchitoches this season as a four star recruit. Rachal led Natchitoches-Central to three 5A state championships, winning it all in 2014 and 2016. He’s been named District MVP, State MVP, and State Championships MVP throughout his high school career, and averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists during his senior season.

#3 - Tremont Waters (Fr.)

Former Georgetown commit and 10th ranked point guard prospect Tremont Waters joins the Tigers this season from Notre Dame High School in Connecticut. In his senior season, Waters averaged 25.3 points, 4.6 assists, and 4.6 steals, and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut. He also played in the Jordan Brand All-Star game, where he put up 8 points and 2 assists. While Coach Wade hasn’t made any explicit statements about starters just yet, the way he’s been talking up Waters makes it hard to believe he won’t be the opening day PG over Mays.

#5 - Daryl Edwards (Jr. JUCO)

Junior College transfer Daryl Edwards joins the Tigers as the 23rd ranked JUCO prospect from Northwest Florida State. Edwards may not be the largest minutes contributor for LSU this season, but he adds some much-needed guard depth, as well as a reliable shot off the bench. He averaged 13.6 points and 3.9 assists last season, but more impressively shot 48.9% from the field and over 46% from beyond the arc.

#14 - Randy Onwuasor (Sr. Grad)

If you read my offseason recap from earlier this month, Randy Onwuasor’s name probably stuck out because of his college basketball résumé as well as...that cool ass last name. Onwuasor finds a new home in Baton Rouge this year after playing for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds, to whom he transferred from Texas Tech. He led Southern Utah as well as the entire Big Sky Conference in scoring last year with 23.6 points per game, good for fifth most in all of Division I Basketball. Onwuasor also shot 82.7% from the free throw line, and scored an incredible 43 points against Montana State in last year’s Big Sky Tournament.

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Losing Antonio Blakeney is a huge loss for our backcourt, no question at all. But I really like the deeper, more experienced options and scoring threats this group of guards brings to the table over last year’s group, even with Blakeney. As far as the starting five is concerned, I’m pretty confident Tremont Waters and Brandon Sampson will be guys Coach Wade will pencil in regularly, but there are plenty of options for a third guard in the lineup, especially with Rachal’s height and Onwuasor’s scoring ability.