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Greatest LSU Athletes of the Decade: #37 Johnny O’Bryant III

It wasn’t easy, which is what made him great

SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals
Putting in work
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

LSU made the Final Four in 2006. Not only would it miss the tournament the next season, the Tigers would fail to make the tournament for seven of the next eight seasons.

LSU would fire John Brady, hire and then fire Trent Johnson, and finally hire Johnny Jones to reverse the slide. Johnson’s tenure was nothing short of disaster, but before he was forced out, he did leave the program with a fine parting gift: Parade All-American Johnny O’Bryant III.

Johnny O’Bryant doesn’t get quite the credit he deserves because he played during the basketball dark years, but he was a critical recruit who turned the tide of top tier talent overlooking Baton Rouge. He was the first Parade All-American to play for the Tigers since Tasmin Mitchell.

O’Bryant is one of 21 LSU players to have over 1000 points and 500 rebounds in his career, scoring 1,1157 points and grabbing 702 boards. His 25 double-doubles ties for sixth all-time in LSU history.

He was LSU’s leading scorer and leading rebounder for two consecutive seasons, as LSU got back to .500 in SEC play under his leadership. He was named the Coaches’ All-SEC 1st team in both 2013 and 2014, the first LSU player to make two All-SEC first teams since Glen Davis and Brandon Bass on the Final Four team. The last player to achieve that honor for LSU before that was Ronnie Henderson in 1995 and 1996.

Things did not come easy for O’Bryant, and he wasn’t fast tracked for success like some other Tiger greats. His father went to prison when Johnny was just six years old, a function of his addiction to drugs and alcohol.

His dad believes he only saw his son play twice in high school, but Johnny reached out to his father and asked him to move to Baton Rouge, where his dad would become his biggest support, while the son returned the favor and helped his father through addiction recovery.

Johnny O’Bryant III didn’t just support the Tigers during a tough time, he held up his father in an even darker period. It puts going 9-9 in conference play and missing the tournament in perspective.

He stayed for his junior year when many experts expected O’Bryant to leave school early, as he gave himself one more year to try and carry LSU out of its postseason drought. He was unable to pull the team out of the doldrums, but he did mentor three freshmen who eventually would: Jordan Mickey, Jarell Martin, and Tim Quarterman.

Johnny O’Bryant III gave everything he had to this program. And that’s a lot easier to do when the team is hanging banners and everyone wants to tell you how great you are. O’Bryant did it when the team struggled and it was hard to find anyone outside of campus who would admit to being an LSU basketball fan.

Those are the truest of Tigers. He is the rock of this program upon which we would eventually build the resurgence. Johnny O’Bryant III played for mediocre teams, but he was an all-time great.