When coveted senior forward Jordan Mickey committed to LSU in September and vowed to spark the Tigers’ rebirth, there were few assurances that others would follow in his path.
LSU basketball is just one year removed from successive 11-win seasons and ushers in a new head coach with no prior head coaching experience at a high-major school. The future in Baton Rouge appeared brighter than it had at any point under former head man Trent Johnson, who inherited a talented squad in his first year at the helm and allowed the program to spiral thereafter. Still, the likelihood of the new coach on the block spearheading an immediate turnaround after spending his previous 11 seasons at a Sun Belt school seemed far-fetched.
At least to everyone other than the new coach himself.
Johnny Jones, the longtime North Texas caretaker who returns to the sidelines at his alma Mater, is beginning to back his bold promises of restoring the Tigers to national prominence. Thanks to his efforts accelerating a culture change at football-fanatical LSU, Jordan Mickey now has top-shelf accompanying him to the Bayou.
Five-star power forward Jarrell Martin signed on to spark the resurgence in Baton Rouge on Thursday, verbally committing to Jones and LSU. He had also been considering Alabama, Oklahoma State, St. John’s and Texas A&M.
A versatile 6-foot-8 power forward who can play inside or out, Martin’s emergence as a prospect has been slow developing, though not because of any shortcomings in his game. The Baton Rouge native was academically ineligible to play as a freshman and consequently transferred to Madison Prep, where he sat out his sophomore season in compliance with state transfer rules. Martin’s first full high school season was his junior year, when he averaged 26 points and 14 rebounds per game while leading his team to the Louisiana state tournament semifinals.
Martin is Jones’ third major pick-up in the class of 2013, joining the aforementioned Mickey and jack-of-all-trades swingman Tim Quarterman, both of whom committed within a span of four days. LSU also owns a commitment from Lee College sophomore Deng Deng, one of the top junior college transfers for next season, and fellow JuCo transfer John Odoh. Factoring in high school commits and junior college transfers, the Tigers now tote one of the top recruiting classes in all of high school basketball.
Johnny Jones has been the head coach at LSU for little more than six months, and already he’s assembled a recruiting class that dwarfs each of the four recruiting classes Trent Johnson mustered during his short tenure. Jones has excelled by resurrecting the John Brady recruiting philosophy—that is, building around homegrown talent—that made the former Tigers head coach largely successful during his 11-year stay at the school.
Jones has already notched commitments from two Texas-based JuCo transfers, beat out Ohio State and a local school (SMU) for a nearby Dallas prep star and just today seized the biggest jewel of all straight out of Baton Rouge. John Brady ultimately parlayed his local recruiting approach into a pair of Sweet 16 appearances and an improbable Final Four run.
At the pace Jones is working on the recruiting trail, not only will he zip by Brady in sustained on-court success, but dare I suggest he might also shed LSU’s stigma as a football-only school in the post-Dale Brown era? It sounds implausible. But two months ago so did the possibility of a longtime North Texas head coach bringing together one of the nation’s best recruiting classes in his first half-year on the job.