A big 2013 spring and summer catapulted Antonio Blakeney into the limelight. Over the course of those few months, he earned a national ranking and scholarship offers from Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Kansas State, Louisville, Miami, Missouri, Notre Dame, South Florida, UCF, Vanderbilt, Xavier, Arkansas and South Carolina.
It had become apparent, then, that he would spend his junior season very much in the spotlight.
And he handled the attention — and pressure — with aplomb. He then progressed into the 2014 offseason primed to erupt, and he didn't take long to get cooking. He torched the nets at the Gibbons Tournament of Champions in May, was stellar at times in Hampton at the at EYBL event — including one 42-point outburst — and also had his moments at June's NBPA Top 100 Camp.
He closed the EYBL season strongly at the Peach Jam and entered the early fall with a list that included Florida State, Louisville, Missouri, Kentucky, Oregon, LSU and USC. He pledged to Rick Pitino's Cardinals in early September and became another member of what was a star-studded incoming class, but after further reflection he reopened and picked rising SEC program LSU.
Purity is the buzz word on Blakeney. He's a pure scorer, someone whose nearly entire court existence orbits around putting the ball through the net. And for good reason: Very few players in America score so effectively.
Blakeney is a quick, shifty athlete capable of creating his own shot off the bounce. He loves to knife into the paint and loft in twisting, short runners or else floaters along the baseline. While not high percentage shots for most players, he hits more than a reasonable share and it's an aspect of his game that will translate to college and beyond.
|Blakeney's scoring ability could make him a star in Baton Rouge|
He boasts terrific body control and thus can change speeds or angles, and his first step enables him to blow past most defenders from a stationary position. He's also at least capable as a perimeter jump shooter, but certainly that aspect of his game requires more attention in the Deficits section.
Defensively, Blakeney possesses good length and quickness to smother wings, and particularly so as he gets stronger.
From a production standpoint, he averaged 20 points per game for E1T1 playing alongside national top-five prospect Ben Simmons — who's also headed to LSU. He shot very efficiently on two-point attempts and drilled over 80 percent from the foul line.
His long-range marksmanship has been spotty. At one time known as more of a shooter, Blakeney suffered in EYBL play last year by hitting only 29 percent on threes. His shot selection clearly contributed to the problem, as he has a tendency to force long bombs when he might be better served by passing the ball and working himself into position for cleaner attempts.
Of his 352 total shot attempts on the 2014 EYBL circuit, 137 of those were threes. Given his low accuracy from deep and his impressively high mark from closer in, Blakeney obviously should have focused on a higher twos-to-threes ratio. The Tigers, for their part, will require him to be more studious with his attempts once he enlists in the program.
He's also quite skinny at this stage, standing 6-4, 175 pounds. That doesn't loom as a long-term concern, but his lack of weight could surface as an issue his freshman season.
Everyone loves a scorer, and players who genuinely can succeed with that style tend to stay in the game for a long time. While he'll need to smooth the rough edges, Blakeney has a potency for numbers that can't be taught and rarely can be acquired.
For LSU, an SEC upstart that obviously also will feature Simmons, he'll have to gain muscle and become a more multi-dimensional player. The Tigers are building into a powerful force in what's currently a struggling league, and he projects a key component to that. If Simmons proves to be a one-year player, Blakeney — who I believe will need at least two — could step into he forefront as a sophomore.
And as he matures physically and mentally, Blakeney could emerge as a high volume star prior to making his own to the professional ranks.