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2018-19 LSU Basketball Preview

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The Tigers are ranked by the AP for the first time in three years

NCAA Basketball: SEC Basketball Tipoff Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Happy BYE hate week, everyone! While football is in the midst of probably finishing better than 6-6, we’ve got an exciting basketball season less than two weeks from tipping off. The Basketball Tigers find themselves ranked 23rd in the AP Preseason Poll, their first appearance on the poll since the first handful of games led by Ben Simmons.

The Offseason

April 27 - JUCO guard Marlon Taylor of Panola College signs with LSU. Taylor averaged 17.0 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game in 2018, and will have two years of eligibility for the Tigers.

May 31 - LSU adds JUCO guard Danya Kingsby and power forward Courtese Cooper to the roster. Kingsby, a Junior, helped Southern Idaho to the championship game of the National Junior College Tournament last year. Cooper played his freshman year at Triton College and will have three years of eligibility with the Tigers.

June 25 - Former Tigers Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney are named NBA Rookie of the Year and NBA G League Rookie of the Year respectively.

July 25 - Brandon Rachal announces his transfer from LSU after one season with the Tigers.

August 6 - Aundre Hyatt, who had recently reclassified from the 2019 class to 2018, signs with LSU to wrap up the #4 recruiting class in the nation. The 6-foot-7 forward led his high school team with 18 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game last year.

August 16 - Will Wade wears this ill-fitting yet awesome polo as a guest speaker. Seriously, someone drop me a link if you find that polo anywhere, I need it yesterday

August 21 - Right handed pitcher Will Reese officially trades in his cleats for sneakers and joins the LSU Basketball team as a walk on.

September 28 - Instead of officially beginning practice like any other season, LSU mourns the loss of Wayde Sims after his senseless murder early that morning. He had two great years at LSU and had two better years ahead of him. He was the son of Fay and Wayne Sims. He was 20.

October 13 - Ahead of the football game against Georgia, LSU Basketball holds an open practice in the PMAC.

October 16 - On the eve of SEC Media Days, a taped conversation between Coach Wade and Christian Dawkins failed to be admitted into evidence for the Adidas-related corruption trial.

October 17 - Wade addresses the issue at Media Days: “Certainly, it was a little bit surprising, but I’m not really going to react to what the defense attorney said,” Wade said. “I certainly get it that the judge didn’t let it in. I will say I’m very proud of everything I’ve done as LSU’s head coach … I’m very proud of what we’ve done at LSU. I, or we, have never, ever, done business of any kind with Christian Dawkins… Mr. Dawkins,” Wade added. “So that’s really what I’ll say about that, and I’ll move forward from there and take any questions about our team and our season as we move forward.”

October 18 - On a lighter note, LSU showed off these sweet new uniforms. If you don’t like them we can’t be friends.

October 22 - LSU Basketball is ranked #23 by the Associated Press, their first appearance in the national poll in almost three years.

The Guards

#1 - Ja’vonte Smart, Freshman

As a local kid attending Scotlandville Magnet a mere 11 miles from the PMAC, Ja’vonte Smart was the first Tiger to join LSU’s 4th-ranked recruiting class. Smart is a three time Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year and a three time Class 5A Most Outstanding Player. The four star committed to the Tigers as the top-ranked prospect from Louisiana and the 35th ranked overall prospect in the 2018 class. As a senior at Scotlandville, Smart averaged 32.9 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and 6.1 assists per game.

#3 - Tremont Waters, Sophomore

No other player truly embodied the beginning of Will Wade’s tenure more than Tremont Waters. I know this phrase can be overused, but he really does make the entire team better by being on the court. That’s supported not only by his 15.9 points per game, but his 6.0 assists per game. His 198 assists are the second most in a single season by a Tiger, and beat out Ben Simmons’ 158 mark to take claim of the LSU Freshman record.

Waters also had his fair share of game-changing shots from forty or so yards away. I would argue the game-winner to upset #11 Texas A&M as his most memorable shot of the season.

#4 - Skylar Mays, Junior

As the other Baton Rouge native on the team, Skylar Mays is the last remaining scholarship player to precede Will Wade. When Tremont Waters was off the court, Coach Wade usually trusted Mays to run his offense, but it was his defense that made the most impact for last year’s Tigers. As a 6-foot-4 guard, he really spreads out well around the arc and would more often than not switch over to defend an opponent’s best offensive weapon. In addition to averaging 11.3 points and 3.0 assists, Mays finished last season with a 17-game steal streak and averaged 1.6 steals per game.

#5 - Daryl Edwards, Senior

Edwards joined the Tigers last year as a JUCO from Northwest Florida State and immediately made an offensive impact by averaging 6.8 points, third most of all returning players behind the aforementioned Mays and Waters. He scored a career high 21 points off an 8-of-10 performance from the field in a loss to Alabama, and played 22 minutes per game for the Tigers. Edwards’ 37.1% mark from the arc was the best among all LSU guards, and second on the team behind Duop Reath’s 42.2%.

#12 - Marshall Graves, Junior

In addition to Skylar Mays, walk on Marshall Graves is the only other player left from the last Johnny Jones team. Graves appeared in 14 games for the Tigers last year, where he scored 18 total points and dished out 9 assists.

#13 - Will Reese, Sophomore (RS)

As a right handed pitcher for LSU Baseball, Reese pitched a total of 8.1 innings over 10 games before joining the basketball team as a walk on. Reese led Anacoco High School to back-to-back Class B titles in 2015 and 2016 and averaged 27 points and 9 rebounds as a senior. The 6-foot-3 guard can also apparently dunk.

#14 - Marlon Taylor, Junior

The 6-foot-5 guard Taylor joins the Tigers after two seasons at Panola College. He averaged 17.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in his sophomore season for the Ponies. While he should end up being a solid contributor to the team, Taylor could possibly miss the first couple games of the season with a broken finger he suffered in practice Monday.

#20 - Danya Kingsby, Junior

Another JUCO newcomer, Kingsby joins the Tigers after two years at Southern Idaho. The Milwaukee native averaged 13.3 points and 3.7 assists for the Golden Eagles on the way to their runner-up finish in the NJCAA Championship. His 38.2% mark from behind the three point line would have led all LSU guards last season.

The Forwards

#0 - Naz Reid, Freshman

A big part of the exciting build to last season was keeping track of the recruiting class Wade was putting together, further emphasized last September when five star forward Naz Reid committed to LSU. Reid is rated by 247 as the 18th best overall prospect of the 2018 class and put up a double-double in the McDonald’s All-American game. As a senior Reid averaged 14.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while helping his team win a state title. The state title game was won 63-61 after Reid slammed an alley-oop with 6.3 seconds left. We could go on and on about the guy, but if you care about basketball enough to make it this far down, chance are you’ve been aware of this guy for a while.

#11 - Kavell Bigby-Williams, Senior

Before last season, the 6’11” forward transferred to LSU from Oregon by way of England, making him only the third player from England to play in the Final Four. After sitting out for transfer rules last season, Bigby-Williams will bring a heavy defensive presence as well as some much-needed rim protection. He blocked 28 shots in 37 games for the Ducks in 2016-17, but averaged 16.8 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 5.6 blocks per game in his sophomore season for Gillette College.

#15 - Aundre Hyatt, Freshman

Originally slated for the 2019 recruiting class, Hyatt decided to reclassify and join LSU early over the summer, replacing the open roster spot left from Brandon Rachal transferring. Hyatt, the 6-foot-7 forward born in 2000, led his high school team with 18 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. He was also named Virginia Player of the Year while leading Miller School to a 27-4 record and a state championship.

#21 - Courtese Cooper, Sophomore

During his freshman season, Courtese Cooper helped Division II Triton College to a national championship before becoming LSU’s third JUCO addition for the season. He started all but one game for the Trojans, averaging 10.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks. If you’re like me and will miss seeing Duop Reath and Aaron Epps pull up for three pointers, rest assured Cooper will pick up that slack as he converted 40% from outside the arc last year.

#22 - Darius Days, Freshman

The Florida native Days played for Rock School in Gainesville where he averaged over 21 points and 10 rebounds before heading to IMG Academy for his senior year. Days joins the Tigers as a four star recruit and the 13th best power forward prospect in the country. It’s pretty ridiculous to realize this guy is only the third best forward Wade signed in this class.

#24 - Emmitt Williams, Freshman

Ranked 21st overall by ESPN and 26th by 247, Williams joins the Tigers as Will Wade’s second five star signee. He led Oak Ridge High School to a 30-4 record and a state championship last year while averaging 17.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. Williams scored 44 points in the Jordan Brand Classic, breaking the game’s record of 34 points set by LeBron James.

#44

The Tigers returned no forwards from last season.

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After seeing improvement from 10-21 to 18-15 and an NIT appearance in only one season under Will Wade, it’s really hard to not be excited about the upcoming season. Couple that improvement with one of the best signing classes in LSU Basketball history...it’s hard to believe there are still season tickets available.

The Tigers are ranked #23 at the moment, but that’s only good for sixth in the Southeastern Conference. The SEC is rated the fourth strongest conference by KenPom, so nothing is given for this season at all. Hold your Tournament expectations and predictions off for a bit; this is going to be one of the more competitive seasons in recent memory.