LSU approaching rare air in college basketball world

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Tremont Waters, LSU vs. Auburn
(Photo: Stephen Lew)

With a 19-4 record and eight regular season road blocks remaining, LSU is producing 83.3 points per contest. That’s third best in the SEC and one spot ahead of their next foe, the Kentucky Wildcats who score 78.7 points per game.

It’s no fluke the Purple & Gold can score and win at such a high rate since the Tigers are loaded with talent. The good and bad side of recruiting great players is clear though. Obviously the team has received a jump start with six of the top eight players as new arrivals this season. But it took a little time to gel into a winning unit. But how long do you keep the core together?

The goal is to reach the Big Dance and advance in March Madness. As the success continues, individual players may be facing tough decisions at the conclusion of the campaign. Elite players are often one-and-done.

Point guard Tremont Waters considered the NBA draft last season, but wisely decided to return. The sophomore is the ring leader of the Tigers, averaging 15.7 points, 6.1 assists and 3.0 steals per game. If he were to enter the NBA draft, Waters has been slotted somewhere in the second round. But that could change depending how well the 5-11 lead guard and the Tigers play the rest of the way.

True freshman Naz Reid is a terror down low, currently with 13.9 points, 6.2 boards and one block each game plus an impressive 36.8 percent from long range for a young but strong forward. he is thought to have a chance to be a late first rounder.

Waters and Reid could be playing their final seasons at the PMAC but there are plenty of other difference makers in the fold.

Senior Kavell Bigby-Williams, the 6-11 graduate transfer, has been a welcome addition, hitting a team high 62.9 percent from the floor with 1.9 blocks and 6.0 rebounds per game.

Skylar Mays is an impressive scorer, hitting 46 percent from the field. The junior is scoring at a 13.3 points per game rate.

Freshman Emmitt Williams hits 60.8 percent from the floor, posting 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He joins Reid and Bigby-Williams to form an intimidating frontcourt.

The Tigers are fifth in the SEC in field goal percentage (47%) while also pulling down 13.2 offensive rebounds per contest. Their league-leading 9.8 steals per game also create easy scoring chances in transition.

FUTURE TIGERS

Meanwhile, head coach Will Wade is always looking to the future on the recruiting trail. The Tigers added a pair of players in the early signing period.

James Bishop (6-2, 170), a 3 star combo guard from Baltimore, picked the Tigers over offers from Marquette, St. John’s, VCU, Xavier, Cincinnati, Kansas State, Georgetown, Va. Tech, Seton Hall, No. Carolina State and Colorado.

Shooting guard Charles Manning (6-6, 180) from Riverhead, New York, inked with Wade over offers from Coppin State, Drake, Buffalo, Florida Gulf Coast, Houston, Iona, USF, UAB and St. Bonaventure. He began his career at Florida before transferring to South Western State College.

Not knowing just how many spots he’ll have to fill, Wade has his staff after more top talent for the spring signing period. Here are a few potential future Tigers:

PF Khadim Sy (6-10, 245), native of Dakar, Senegal

He transferred from Virginia Tech to his current home, Daytona State College. He averages 17.3 points, 9.5 rebounds per game, shooting 58% from the field. It’s shaping up to be an LSU-Ole Miss battle, with the Tigers in good shape.

PF Trendon Watford (6-9, 220) from Birmingham, Alabama

This 5 star can take over a contest, averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. Finalists are LSU, Alabama, Indiana and Memphis. His older brother, Christian, played at Indiana from 2010-’13.

SG Lester Quinones, (6-5, 180) out of Long Island, NY

Now attending IMG Academy, he is putting up 21.4 points per game, 5.3 assists and 91 percent from free throw stirpe. A pure shooter, Quinones has a quick release and great court vision. LSU has made his final four along with UCLA, Georgia and Maryland.

PF/C Raymond Hawkins (6-9, 225) from Henderson, Nevada.

Averaging 15.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 block while shooting 63.2% from the floor, he has Arkansas, LSU, DePaul, Kansas State and St. John’s trying to secure his signature. The Findlay Prep product has family in Arkansas.

The talent of the players on the roster and in LSU’s sights speak of a bright future beyond this current impressive campaign.

YOUNG GUNS DOWN SOUTH

The SEC is loaded with young talent. Who are the best freshmen for this season?

LSU’s man in the middle, the aforementioned Naz Reid (6-10, 240), is one of the bright stars and perhaps the best frosh in the post.

Arkansas’s Isaiah Joe (6-5, 167) is averaging 14 points a game. He is a zone buster, connecting on 44 percent of his shots from long range.

Alabama’s Kira Lewis (6-3, 170) is producing 14 points and 3.0 assists each game for Avery Johnson’s bunch.

A.J. Lawson (6-6, 172) from South Carolina has 13.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game to his credit.

Vanderbilt’s Simisolu Shittu (6-10, 240) is a solid contributor with 12 points and over seven boards per game.

Wing man Keldon Johnson (6-6, 211) has been a dangerous sixth man for Kentucky with 13.9 points and 5.3 rebounds on average.

Florida guard Noah Locke (6-3, 205) is a deep threat with 11.6 points on 43.1% shooting from behind arc. His Gators teammate Andrew Nembherd (6-5, 191) chips in a little bit of everything with 7.3 points, 5.6 assists and 2.7 rebounds per outing.

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