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LSU Basketball: Where Do We Go From Here?

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Will Wade’s back, but what does he have to work with?

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After a 38-day long suspension, Will Wade was reinstated as head coach of the LSU men’s basketball program Sunday night. Reinstating Wade this past Sunday was as big a news dump as it gets. LSU put Wade back in charge on the same day as Tiger Woods winning the Master’s, day two of the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs and the season premier of Game of Thrones.

Wade is back, but what players will he have for the 2019-20 season? Since LSU’s season ended in the Sweet 16 against Michigan State, the Tigers have seen Naz Reid, Tremont Waters, Skylar Mays, Javonte Smart and Emmitt Williams all declare for the draft. LSU will also be losing Kavell Bigby-Williams and Darryl Edwards to graduation, but freshman forward Darius Days announced he’d be returning for his sophomore season.

On the surface, next season’s prospects don’t seem too promising for LSU. Potentially losing your entire finishing five (Waters, Mays, Smart, Reid and Bigby-Williams) is never a good thing, but will LSU lose all those players? Chances are that they won’t actually.

There were new NCAA rules put into place in 2018 that allows players to declare for the draft, sign with an agent and even go to the NBA’s combine or the G-League’s version of the combine but still return to school. Frankly, it’s something every player should do. Tremont Waters did it just last season. Go to the combine, get an honest evaluation from the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee (UAC) and make a better, more informed decision afterward. If a player does not get a UAC evaluation, they forfeit their eligibility.

This brings us back to the players that declared for the draft. Naz Reid did not request a UACs and is therefore gone. Reid isn’t even on campus anymore, he’s back home in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Reid leaving isn’t a surprise at all, he was always a one-and-done prospect and has the potential to be selected in the first round.

Tremont Waters isn’t as sure a bet to get selected as Reid. ESPN has Waters as the 49th overall prospect, but The Athletic lists him 99th overall and NBADraft.net doesn’t even list him. Remember, the NBA Draft only has 60 selections, so Waters is either selected late in draft or not at all. The biggest knock on Waters is his height and frankly he’s probably not going to grow much taller anytime soon. Waters might have pushed his draft stock as high as it can possibly get and another year wouldn’t do him much good. Waters is still taking classes but he reportedly did not ask for a UAC. If he did not ask for a UAC he can’t return to the program like last season.

Skylar Mays did not mention signing with an agent when he declared for the draft on his Instagram. Mays isn’t projected as a prospect in this summer’s draft. Mays, the pre-med major, is still in school and still excelling at his classes. It’s more than likely Mays returns to campus for his senior season and makes up that money he could get playing ball as a future doctor.

Javonte Smart, like Mays, didn’t mention an agent nor is he listed as a prospect for the draft. He’s still in school and it’s a safe bet to think that Smart goes through the draft process, gets his feedback from the NBA and comes back to LSU for his sophomore season. Smart said in the locker room after losing in the Sweet 16 that he was “probably” coming back and while the last few weeks of the season were ugly, that shouldn’t be reason enough to leave school for a draft he won’t get picked in.

Emmitt Williams declared but, as he told his hometown paper in Fort Myers, he’s getting feedback.

“All I did was enter my name in it so I can get the feedback from the NBA,” Williams said. “It’s not like I’m leaving college or anything. I can always go back and do my full four years, still get my degree.”

If we’re keeping score two of the five players who declared, Reid and Waters, are probably gone while Mays, Smart and Williams are probably coming back. Couple those three with Darius Days and Marlon Taylor and LSU returns a solid core from its SEC Championship team.

As for recruiting, LSU has five spots open and has filled two: JUCO guard Charles Manning and James Bishop, a guard coming to LSU out of high school. LSU is also in pursuit of five-star power forward Trendon Watford. Watford put LSU in his top five along with Duke, Alabama, Memphis and Indiana. The current dead period ends April 18 and Wade and his staff can start recruiting again on the 19th.