Steve Franz/LSU Athletics
LSU guard Antonio Blakeney

LSU athletics: Did Antonio Blakeney make the smart decision by going to the NBA?

Nick Suss

Welcome to the Bayou Bengal Briefing, SEC Country’s daily morning column covering LSU football, with LSU beat writer Nick Suss. Today, we focus on a busy day in LSU basketball, plus some NFL draft scouting, a Twitter wager to end all Twitter wagers and much, much more. Enjoy!

Changing the Tone

LSU sophomore guard Antonio Blakeney declared for the 2017 NBA Draft on Tuesday night, leaving the LSU basketball team without its leading scorer, leading 3-point shooter, second-leading rebounder and leader in minutes played.

In his farewell message, Blakeney went out of his way to say thank you to his “doubters.” So, since he gave us the out, let’s throw a little doubt his way.

I’ll preface this way: I think Antonio Blakeney is a good enough basketball player to be drafted toward the end of the second round. That’s better than former teammate Tim Quarterman, and Quarterman spent a significant chunk of this NBA season on roster with the Portland Trail Blazers.

But I also believe that Blakeney could’ve snuck himself into the late first round or early second round with another year of college, especially under Will Wade’s new system in Baton Rouge, where he could better show off his defensive talents.

It comes down to taking a mortgage on his own future. Blakeney will not be drafted as high this season as he would next year, barring a catastrophic injury or regression. But in declaring a year earlier, he gets an extra year’s worth of paychecks, which might well add up to the difference he would’ve earned with an extra year of college.

Blakeney’s not going to be the focal point of an NBA offense any time soon. Chances are, Blakeney will spend as much time in the D-League in 2017-18 as he will in the NBA. And for that, I think his decision seems a bit shortsighted. But who am I to criticize a guy for doing what he thinks is best for his future and getting paid in the process?

If you thrive on doubters, Antonio, I’m glad to be your doubter. But the only doubt I seem to have is the timing. The talent is there. But it seems foolish to leave LSU after the worst year in modern school history when you can leave it on an upswing.

But that’s just my opinion.

But that’s not all …

lsu-lsu football
LSU head basketball coach Will Wade (Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

Blakeney’s departure was the biggest piece of LSU basketball news Tuesday, but it wasn’t the only one. In fact, there were two other notable happenings in the LSU basketball-o-sphere.

  1. Wade wrangled former VCU signee and 4-star forward Mayan Kiir from his commitment with the Rams to a commitment to LSU on Tuesday. At 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds, Kiir will be one of the biggest Tigers on the roster next season, and, interestingly enough, he won’t be the only South Sudanese Australian. Kiir will join dual countryman Duop Reath as one of two South Sudanese defectors who took up home in Australia as children.
  2. Additionally, Wade hired assistant coach Greg Heiar away from Wichita State on Tuesday, helping to fill out his coaching staff. Heiar played an instrumental role in coaching Wichita State’s Final Four team in 2013 and its undefeated regular season in 2014, as well as a recruiter and talent developer. Bringing in a name as big as Heiar’s in assistant coaching should be considered a bit of a steal for Wade and LSU.

What’s the common trend here? Wade is bringing in his people. With every day, Johnny Jones’ fingerprints on the program seem fewer and further between. Wade is making this program younger and he’s making it more technically sound, two of the issues LSU lacked under the Jones administration.

And he seems to be getting his guys. Just like Ed Orgeron when he took over the football team, Wade is making an early push to reshape his staff and his personnel to resemble the sort of team he wants to coach. So far, all signs indicate positive progress. But it’s so early in his tenure that we can’t even start thinking about his first game.

So, don’t rush to too many judgments.

Don’t get too comfortable there

One of the most intriguing LSU football players to watch in the 2017 NFL Draft is Rickey Jefferson, the safety who started the first half of the 2016 season but missed the second half with a leg injury.

Jefferson looked good at pro day last week and, odds are, he’s got a fighting chance of sliding into a later round as a Day 3 selection. But even if he doesn’t get drafted, there’s interest. Just examine his Twitter feed from Tuesday.

Jefferson joked that this was the first time he’s been west of Texas, so the adventure might’ve been the fun part. But if he was, in fact, in Oakland to meet with the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders (he almost certainly was), there’s proof enough that the NFL hasn’t cast Jefferson off into the land of forgotten could-have-beens. Jefferson’s football career isn’t over. And it shouldn’t be.

If he were to catch on with a team, an ascendent franchise like the Raiders might be a fun fit. But I’m sure if you ask Jefferson, he just wants to make a team. And the next few weeks of private workouts are the audition to make that dream a reality.

Arbitrary Analysis, part 3

The LSU football team is on spring break this week. The Bayou Bengal Briefing is not. But as a way of getting into the mood, I am using the Briefing this week to count down my picks for the 5 best TV sitcom beach episodes.

Already this week I’ve recapped a classic from Psych and a Season 2 gem from Arrested Development, but today we get into the Big 3. And my pick for Wednesday would probably be a lot of people’s No. 1. So, let’s get into it. Here goes nothing:

No. 3: Beach Games (The Office U.S.)

I’ve long argued that Pam was the best and most rounded character in the American Office, and episodes like Beach Games are why. Sure, the episode wasn’t without its hilarious moments, like Andy’s neediness or the sumo scenes or Michael Scott just being Michael Scott.

But Pam grounded this show. More often than not, when something dramatic happened, Pam ignited the drama. But it was always in a positive light. Like the above scene from near the end of this episode when Pam plainly and simply confesses how she feels about Jim. And the rest of the Dunder-Mifflin staff for that matter.

In my opinion, Season 3 was the best season of The Office. And this episode might be the most important episode of the season, with humor, drama, character development and a whole mess of sand. But it also contained the tenderness that few other sitcoms would dare address. Instead of undercutting it with irony or cynicism, writer Greg Daniels leans into the heart.

And that’s what makes this episode stand out to me. Well, that and I’m a sucker for anything with a hot dog eating contest.

Check back to the Bayou Bengal Briefing on Thursday for our No. 2 pick on the countdown.

There was a baseball game Tuesday night

Indeed there was. The LSU baseball team defeated Louisiana-Lafayette, 3-2, to win the Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation Classic. The Tigers are now 12-2 all time in Wally Pontiff Classic games and 23-11 on the season.

Instead of recapping the game in full, I link you to my recap from the game. And I’ll let you watch this video I took of the tribute the game showed in honor of Pontiff. Words don’t do it justice. Just give it a click. You won’t regret it.

Programming note

As you should already know by this point, the No. 2 LSU gymnastics team will compete for a national championship this weekend in St. Louis. And, in case you haven’t checked yet, TV information about how to watch the events is slowly trickling out.

LSU will compete in the second team event on Friday, beginning at 7 p.m. CT on ESPNU and eventually switching over to ESPN around an hour later. The event will also be streamed and simulcast on WatchESPN for those of us, myself included, who don’t get ESPNU as a part of basic cable.

The Super Six, the true championship, will begin at 8 p.m. CT Saturday on ESPNU. Assuming LSU makes it that far, which it should, that is a must-watch for each and every Tigers fan.


Miss a previous edition of the Bayou Bengal Briefing? Find every one of SEC Country’s daily LSU football columns right here.