Jarell Martin announced on Wednesday afternoon that he will be forgoing his final two seasons of eligibility to enter his name in the NBA Draft.
Martin just finished up his sophomore season at LSU, where he averaged 16.9 points and 9.2 boards. LSU’s season came to a disappointing finish, as the Tigers blews a 13-point second half lead to N.C. State in the opening round of the Big Dance.
Martin is projected as a late first round pick, according to Draft Express, but he’s not the only front court piece that LSU fans are waiting to hear from. Reports came out on Tuesday that Jordan Mickey was planning on declaring for the draft, and Mickey released a statement on Tuesday responding to those reports.
“I have not made a decision one way or the other at this time,” Mickey said in a statement. “But […] I do plan to explore my options regarding my future plans.
LSU’s Jarell Martin throws down impressive follow dunk (VIDEO)
LSU got off to a good start in its game against No. 8 NC State, taking a 40-26 lead into the half. One of the key players for Johnny Jones’ team was forward Jarell Martin, who accounted for ten points and seven rebounds and threw down the emphatic follow dunk seen above.
When the shot was released Martin was outside of the three-point arc. This is what can happen when no one boxes out.
Weekly Awards: Sir’Dominic Pointer and Baylor shine in a wild week of hoops
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Sir’Dominic Pointer, St. John’s
Pointer was sensational this week as the Johnnies landed two critical wins that have punched their NCAA tournament ticket. In a win over Xavier on Monday, Pointer had 19 points, nine boards, six blocks, four steals and three assists, following that up with 24 points, 10 boards, two blocks and two assists in a double-digit win over Georgetown on Saturday.
The two wins this week completed a stretch of seven games where St. John’s won six out of seven, a stretch that has taken this team from NIT-bound to the NCAA tournament. At one point in time, the Johnnies were just 3-6 in Big East play, and without the energy that Pointer has brought to this team, they would not have made this turnaround. As good as Kris Dunn, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and about half of Villanova’s roster has been, Pointer has been the best player in the Big East this year, and he’s proven it of late.
THE ALL ‘THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM
Aaron White, Iowa: Iowa landed a pair of critical wins for their tournament resume, beating Illinois and winning at Penn State in overtime. White had 29 points and nine boards against Illinois and followed up with 21 points and 14 boards over the weekend.
Justise Winslow, Duke: Winslow was terrific this week for the Blue Devils, just as he has been terrific for them for the past month. After posting 15 and seven in the overtime win at Virginia Tech, he went for a career-high 23 points, nine boards and three blocks against Syracuse. When Winslow plays like this, Duke is much more dangerous.
Derrick Marks, Boise State: Marks went for 30 points, five boards and five assists in a win over New Mexico, following that up with 18 points to lead the Broncos to a win at San Diego State. The win may end up getting Boise State into the tournament.
Jarrell Martin, LSU: The Tigers kept themselves on the right side of the bubble with wins over Auburn and Ole Miss, and Martin starred in both, averaging 21.5 points and 12.0 boards.
Trey Lyles, Kentucky: Lyles scored 18 points in back-to-back games, giving Kentucky yet another player that can take over a game.
Notables: Obi Emegano (Oral Roberts), Nigel Johnson (Kansas State)
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Baylor Bears
Baylor picked up one of the most impressive wins of the season on Wednesday night, as they went into Hilton Coliseum, one of the toughest road venues in the country, and knocked off Iowa State. They followed that up with an impressive win over a short-handed West Virginia team, putting Scott Drew’s team in a great position to land a top three seed when the brackets are released in two weeks. I still feel like I don’t really have a grasp on this team, but at some point, you have to respect a team that can get to the offensive glass and shoot the three the way that Baylor can.
THEY WERE GOOD, TOO
Kansas State: The Wildcats knocked off the two best teams in the Big 12 this week, picking off both Kansas and Iowa State in Manhattan. All of a sudden. Kansas State — despite having a 15-15 record — has a chance to go to the NCAA tournament.
BYU: The Cougars did what they needed to do in order to have a chance at earning an at-large bid, by going into Spokane and knocking off Gonzaga. They’re not a lock for the tournament yet, but they’re close.
Maryland: The Terps beat Michigan on Saturday, a win that followed up their upset of No. 5 Wisconsin on Tuesday night. Dez Wells and Melo Trimble were fantastic all week long.
Villanova: While the rest of the potential No. 1 sees seem to be limping their way into the NCAA tournament, Villanova is playing as well as they have all year long. They beat Providence by 28 points on Tuesday, following that up with a 12 point win at Xavier.
Wichita State: The Shockers smacked around Northern Iowa in Koch Arena on Saturday, a win that earned them the Missouri Valley regular season title.
With Kentucky having established itself as the class of the SEC (if not the country) and Florida off to a slow start, it remains to be seen how the SEC will shake out in this final month before the start of conference play. One team looking to insert itself into the NCAA tournament bid conversation is LSU, and based upon talent alone there really isn’t a reason why LSU shouldn’t be in contention for an NCAA tournament bid come March.
However for a good portion of their game at No. 16 West Virginia on Thursday, LSU didn’t value the basketball in the manner fitting of an NCAA tournament team. Johnny Jones’ Tigers committed 24 turnovers, allowing the WVU pressure defense to get them going at a nearly chaotic tempo in the open floor. Add in a quiet night from Jordan Mickey, and most would assume that LSU was headed back to Baton Rouge with a loss.
However that would not be the case. Josh Gray’s driving layup with 7.4 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as LSU came back from 14 points down and handed the Mountaineers their first loss of the season by the final score of 74-73.
Both Gray and Keith Hornsby, two guards who began their college careers at other institutions, made plays down the stretch to give LSU a quality win for their resume. Hornsby was solid throughout, scoring 15 points and grabbing five rebounds, while Gray put forth a performance that wasn’t his best even with the game-winner. Gray scored seven points and dished out seven assists, but he also committed eight of LSU’s 24 turnovers.
Offensively Gray is a more impactful point guard for LSU than Anthony Hickey, now at Oklahoma State, was last season. But they can ill-afford to have him pressing the issue as he did on multiple occasions against West Virginia. Add in Jarell Martin’s (18 points, 14 rebounds) seven turnovers, and two players were responsible for 15 turnovers. West Virginia converted those turnovers into 25 points, but LSU managed to outscore West Virginia by 14 in the paint (36-22) and by ten on fast-break points (14-4).
It wasn’t pretty, especially with the turnovers and Jordan Mickey contributing just four points and six rebounds due in large part to foul trouble. But Johnny Jones’ team found a way to leave Morgantown with a win, and come March how the result looked won’t matter all that much when LSU’s resume is evaluated.
LONG BEACH, California — With a front court headlined by Johnny O’Bryant III and bolstered by the addition of a talented recruiting class led by forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, LSU entered the 2013-14 season with the expectation of competing for an NCAA tournament bid. In total, LSU returned five of its top seven players, which is why the SEC coaches picked the Tigers to finish fourth in the preseason poll.
Things didn’t work out that way.
LSU won 20 games but finished just 9-9 in conference play. Instead of spending Selection Sunday wondering where their NCAA tournament would begin, LSU found itself awaiting the NIT selection show. The Tigers lost in the second round to SMU, and while they did lose contributors such as O’Bryant, leading assist man Anthony Hickey and third-leading scorer Shavon Coleman, there is once again optimism in Baton Rouge.
Mickey and Martin lead the returnees, and LSU also adds a solid group of newcomers led by juco point guard Josh Gray and UNC Asheville transfer Keith Hornsby. From a talent standpoint, the belief is that the pieces are there to earn the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009. In order to make good on that potential, however, LSU is going to be the team that beat Kentucky without reverting to the team that went 2-7 on the road in SEC play this season.
“We have to be more consistent,” Mickey told NBCSports.com at the adidas Nations camp. “We beat some big-name teams but we weren’t able to string together wins like we needed to. We definitely need to work on being more consistent, and on our team defense.”
To Mickey’s point, there were multiple occasions in which LSU found a way to generate positive momentum, only to allow it to slip away with a lackluster performance. After losing two of their first three games to start SEC play the Tigers won back-to-back games, only to drop a two-point decision at Alabama on January 25. LSU managed to pick up wins over Kentucky and Arkansas in the games that followed, only to be soundly defeated at Georgia on February 6. And the Tigers struggled on the road, with their only wins coming against South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Obviously, that has to change if the Tigers are to take a step forward in 2014-15, and the hope is that their new point guard can help lead the charge.
Given his ability to score from the point guard position, Gray gives LSU an added dimension at the position. While Hickey did dish out 3.7 assists per game and did a good job of taking care of the basketball — his assist-to-turnover ratio ranked second in the SEC — he shot just 36.9 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Last season at Odessa, Gray accounted for 33.8 points and 5.9 assists per contest and, given the front court talent this group boasts, could potentially give LSU a boost it lacked a season ago. But he arrives on campus thinking not of how his ability to score can help the Tigers, but of the importance of establishing himself as a capable leader of the team. One of LSU’s biggest issues was that it had too many shot-happy guards on a team that should have been pounding the ball inside.
In order to best position himself, Gray’s worked hard not only on his individual game but also on establishing a rapport with his teammates and coaches during summer workouts.
“I’ve worked hard to make sure I’m ready to contribute and have an impact,” Gray told NBCSports.com. “I’m just going to be very coachable, do what my coach asks of me and we’ll go from there.”
From an efficiency standpoint, LSU finished in the middle of the SEC, ranking eighth in the conference in offensive efficiency, and the Tigers were even worse when it came to getting to the foul line. LSU scored just 18.6 percent of its points from the foul line in 2013-14, a number that ranked last in the SEC and is evidence of its struggles getting the ball to its bigs. O’Bryant was the Tigers’ most effective player when it came to getting to the foul line, and making strides in this area would give LSU more opportunities to put points on the board.
That’s just one area in which the Tigers, especially the members of the front court rotation, will need to account for the departure of their leading scorer. And according to Mickey, the act of “replacing” O’Bryant won’t fall on the shoulders of one player alone.
“We just have to make up for it as a team,” Mickey said. “We have to trust our offense, trust our coaches and not be selfish players.”
Mickey will be a key player for LSU as it looks to return to the NCAA tournament. He comes off of a season in which he established himself as one of the best freshmen in the SEC. Mickey started all 34 games for the Tigers in his first season, averaging 12.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per contest and ranking sixth in the SEC in field goal percentage (53.4 percent). Mickey’s worked hard to become a more consistent mid-range shooter, and for his new point guard, the experience of playing together at adidas Nations served as an eye-opener with regards to the amount of talent Mickey possesses.
“Coming out here and playing on the same team, that’s helped a lot,” Gray said at the time. “Now I know what he likes, what he doesn’t like and what positions he’s [at his best]. He cleans up the boards, he runs the floor, gets second-chance [opportunities] and blocks shots.”
This season, LSU won’t lack for talent in a conference that will once again be led by a loaded Kentucky squad and reigning league champ Florida. And once again, the question for the rest of the conference is who can step forward to challenge those two perennial juggernauts. The Tigers fashion themselves as a team capable of doing so, with their returnees and new faces like Gray and Hornsby, who has the potential to give this group the perimeter shooter needed to complement their front court options.
Yet in order to do so LSU will need to play with greater consistency than they did in 2013-14. With last year’s freshmen now sophomores, the hope is that last season’s experiences have helped those players grow. And with there being just one senior on this year’s roster, a good 2014-15 could very well serve as a springboard into the future for Johnny Jones’ Tigers.