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Freshman point guard Tremont Waters earning summer praise at LSU

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LSU head coach Will Wade had high praise for freshman point guard Tremont Waters as he made a radio appearance this week. Joining 104.5 ESPN Baton Rouge’s “After Further Review” with guest host Cody Worsham, Wade said that his new floor general is already making an impact despite committing in early June.

The four-star point guard, previously committed to Georgetown before they opted to make a coaching change, has already added eight pounds of muscle, according to Wade, while he’s also been a positive presence with his teammates.

“Yea, a big one. We’re counting on that. He’s a good player,” Wade said on the show about Waters. “He’s still learning everything that goes with college basketball and the speed and pace of the game. Boy, he’s a tremendous learner. He has a phenomenal background. He’s a great listener.”

“He’s someone we’re counting on in a huge way. Our team is confident in him.”

Wade goes on to speak about the rest of the summer workouts the Tigers are going through, which is broken down by Billy Embody of Tiger Blitz. It includes some interesting anecdotes on Wade bringing strength and conditioning coach Greg Goldin from VCU with him to LSU and how that has been an early impact.

As for Waters, he’s going to be an intriguing freshman to watch because it appears that he’ll have full control of the LSU early.

One of the more steady floor generals in the Class of 2017, I’m anxious to see how Waters plays in Wade’s system. If Wade follows a “Havoc” style that has been popular among VCU disciples, then Waters doesn’t fit the traditional mold of size and athleticism you’d desire in a pressing guard. But he’s also very talented as an offensive playmaker and he could be a huge boost to the Tiger offense. Either way, look for Waters to be one of the more productive freshman guards in college basketball this season.

(H/t: Billy Embody from Tiger Blitz)

LSU keeps five-star Class of 2018 prospect home as Javonte Smart pledges to Tigers

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LSU is keeping a crucial in-state recruit at home as five-star Class of 2018 guard Javonte Smart pledged to the Tigers on Friday.

The 6-foot-4 Smart is currently regarded as the No. 11 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2018 rankings as he’s been one of the most productive guards in the class over the past few years. New head coach Will Wade has given himself a very important backcourt piece for the future with Smart’s commitment, and it also sends a message to the rest of the SEC that Wade means business when it comes to maintaining his home recruiting base. Smart is a native of Scotlandville, Louisiana as he’s the best prospect from the state in his class.

With LSU also landing four-star point guard Tremont Waters this spring for the Class of 2017, the Tigers have two very good pieces to build around the next few seasons when it comes to their backcourt.

Smart is LSU’s first commitment in the Class of 2018.

Playing in the Nike EYBL with Houston Hoops this spring, Smart averaged 15.1 points, 4.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. A much-improved all-around scorer, besides being a solid distributor, Smart is the type of guard who can come in and immediately make an impact as a freshman for the Tigers.

Now that LSU has its main target locked up before the July live evaluation period, it’ll be interesting to see who else the Tigers pursue in the next few weeks. Five-star Nazreon Reid, a Class of 2018 big man, is already scheduled to take an official visit to Baton Rouge this weekend.

LSU parting ways with Johnny Jones after SEC Tournament

(Travis Spradling/The Advocate via AP)
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LSU is ready to part ways with head coach Johnny Jones after this season, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The news of Jones was first reported by Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com.

The 55-year-old Jones is coming off of a disappointing two-year stretch in which the Tigers failed to make the NCAA tournament despite having No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and then piling up a 10-20 record so far this season.

Jones will coach the Tigers in the SEC Tournament this week. A former LSU basketball player who spent 12 years as an assistant coach at the program under Dale Brown, Jones spent five seasons as the head coach of his alma mater.

Jones is 89-70 during his tenure at LSU, including a 41-47 mark in SEC play. After arriving from North Texas, the native of DeRidder, Louisiana guided the Tigers to the NIT and NCAA tournament in this second and third seasons, respectively, before generating a lot of buzz by getting Simmons and a great recruiting class around him.

Despite having Simmons and a top-10 recruiting class that included another McDonald’s All-American in guard Antonio Blakeney, the Tigers came woefully short of expectations as they finished 19-14 and opted for no postseason after missing the NCAA tournament. Things got worse this season without a superstar like Simmons as LSU finished 2-16 in the SEC.

Jones has amassed a 294-232 career record as a head coach as that includes stops at Memphis (in an interim capacity), North Texas and LSU.

LSU and Missouri are now both open jobs in the SEC after the two programs finished at the bottom of the league this season.

Ben Simmons becomes LSU’s second-ever top overall draft pick

Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP
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Thursday night the worst-kept secret in the 2016 NBA Draft became official news, as the Philadelphia 76ers selected former LSU forward Ben Simmons with the top overall pick. Simmons was expected by many to be taken first overall, and with his selection he becomes the second LSU product to be taken first overall in an NBA Draft.

The first was Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal, who was taken by the Orlando Magic in 1992. In total nine former LSU players have been top five draft picks in program history, with Bob Pettit (1954) and Stromile Swift (2000) going second overall in their respective drafts.

Simmons posted gaudy numbers in his lone season at LSU, averaging 22.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game despite the absence of a perimeter shot. And the team wasn’t as successful as expected either, as the Tigers failed to qualify for the 2016 NCAA tournament and sat out postseason play.

LSU’s Ben Simmons not eligible for Wooden Award for academic issue

(Hilary Scheinu(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)k/The Advocate via AP)
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LSU freshman Ben Simmons is putting up huge numbers and is widely considered to be the leading candidate for the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA Draft but he won’t be on the final ballot for the Wooden Award. According to LSU head coach Johnny Jones, Simmons didn’t meet all of the academic requirements for the award and Simmons wasn’t certified by the school to be included on the 15-person final ballot.

“From what I was told, he didn’t meet all of the requirements,” Jones said to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. “He wasn’t certified by the school to be on the ballot.”

LSU spokesman Kent Lowe also told Goodman that Simmons “did not have the necessary criteria to be eligible.”

The Wooden Award has a criteria that student-athletes must meet to be eligible, including academic pursuits. Simmons is averaging 19.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game but he was benched to start LSU’s loss against Tennessee on Feb. 20 for an academic-related issue.

Here are the Wooden Award’s guidelines:

  • Consideration should be given to scholastic achievement and aspirations. All candidates must have a cumulative 2.00 grade point average since enrolling in their current university.
  • Candidates must exhibit strength of character, both on and off the court.
  • Candidates should be those who contribute to the team effort.
  • Candidates must excel in both offense and defense.
  • Candidates should be considered on their performance over the course of the entire season (pre-conference, conference and tournament play).

LSU has an important bubble game against Kentucky on Saturday afternoon. With a win and some help, the Tigers could be the No. 1 seed in the SEC conference tournament next week. A loss to the Wildcats on Saturday could drop LSU to the No. 5 seed in that same tournament, and more importantly, potentially on the wrong side of the bubble for Selection Sunday.

LSU’s Ben Simmons playing with finger injury on shooting hand

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In the aftermath of LSU’s home loss to Alabama Wednesday night, head coach Johnny Jones noted that his best player has been playing at less than full strength.

Thursday afternoon Jones stated to the media that freshman forward Ben Simmons has been playing with an injured finger on his left hand according to Sheldon Mickles of The Advocate. It’s unknown which finger Simmons injured and when the injury occurred, with Jones not providing any clarity on either front Thursday.

When asked during his twice-weekly media availability if Simmons was playing with an injury, Jones said, “Yes, it happened a couple of games ago. It’s on his shooting hand.”

Jones did not elaborate on which finger was affected and whether it hindered his shooting touch, and Simmons did not attend the media session.

Simmons has shot 50 percent or better from the field in seven of LSU’s last eight games, with the Tigers’ loss to South Carolina being the only exception. Wednesday night Simmons scored 20 points, shooting 5-for-10 from the field and 10-for-19 from the foul line.

LSU, which is part of the bubble conversation while also just a game behind Kentucky in the SEC standings, plays its next two games on the road beginning with Saturday’s contest at Tennessee.