BATON ROUGE, La. — One of the first tasks that Ed Orgeron faced when he was hired as LSU’s football coach in December was recruiting the draft-eligible players on his team to return. In some cases it didn’t happen, but with guys like Christian LaCouture and K.J. Malone, it did.
Newly-hired LSU basketball coach Will Wade faces a similar story with one player on the current roster — sophomore guard Antonio Blakeney. Once Craig Victor was kicked off the team midseason, Blakeney became LSU’s only consistent productive player, averaging a team-high 17.2 points per game.
Wade said he will always encourage his players to do what is best for them as far as pursuing their professional careers.
“We will help those guys get where they want to go,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m a dream-maker. If it’s their dream to make it to the NBA, I have to help them get there.”
Wade will be better able to assess Blakeney’s situation after meeting with him individually, but on the surface Wade believes another year at LSU would be beneficial to team and player.
“I look forward to visiting with him and seeing where he is,” Wade said. “I would never tell anybody if they are a first-round NBA Draft pick not to go to the NBA, but I also think if you’re not, I think we have a ton to offer.”
Wade actually has a track record of doing this. In their first year at VCU, Wade and head coach Shaka Smart helped forward Larry Sanders make the jump from very good sophomore to No. 15 pick in the NBA Draft following his junior season.
Sure, Blakeney plays a different position than Sanders. But the concept of taking the next step remains the same.
“We are going to develop you, we are going to get you better,” Wade said. “We are going to develop you in our system. We are going to allow you to play with freedom within a little bit of structure from our ball screens. I think our program can be very, very good for him if he chooses to come back, but we don’t always know what’s best for the kids.
“We will certainly sit down and have a discussion. We want to put him in the best position to be successful.”