LSU's growing basketball tree

A look at recent Tigers who have gone from LSU to the NBA.

Louisiana has been known to consistently produce high-level Division-I athletes in football year after year. The state of Louisiana has one of the

highest NFL players per capacity and the Nick Saban/Les Miles eras have taken advantage of this.

Basketball talent in Louisiana on the other hand has been spotty at best. The number of elite players in the state has not been at the same level as in the past due to a number of factors (Hurricane Katrina, lack of dominant high school programs, limited exposure for players). Clearly, this has affected Trent Johnson's ability to compete at the top of the league. The program-changing type players are not being developed and the overall talent level has been down.

However, when looking at the NBA rosters, LSU has an astonishing amount of players (6). More interesting is that most of the talent that has come through the program is 26 years of age or under.

Let's take a look at where these players came from and more importantly where they are going:

Brandon Bass

Brandon Bass (Boston Celtics): 11.9 ppg, 6 rpg
Bass was traded to the Boston Celtics just before the season in exchange for Glen "Big Baby" Davis. At first glance the trade looked one sided and the Celtics downgrading on talent. However, Bass has turned some heads this season with his play and it is all contributing to him having arguably his best season of his career. He has established a solid jumper to team with his athleticism in the paint. Bass has always been known for a strong work ethic, but struggled in previous spots (Orlando, Dallas, New Orleans) for picking up the team concepts. The oldest player on this list has a bright future and seems to have the chance to be a longtime league veteran. If Bass can continue to knock down open shots, then he is definitely a solid piece for the Celtics future. If nothing else, he will always be a ferocious rebounder and hustler.

Favorite skill: His ability to grab a rebound and go straight up with it in the middle up the paint and flush it among the trees.

Tyrus Thomas

Tyrus Thomas (Charlotte Bobcats): 5.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.7 bpg
Being selected 4th in the draft comes with a ton of expectations, and Thomas has struggled to translate his game to the NBA. While talented and athletic, he has struggled with being consistent and staying away from injury. Thomas was recently moved to the three-spot this year to use his length and frame to be a tough matchup for wing players. While this is still in the experimental process, so are the entire Charlotte Bobcats, who sport a dismal 4-28 record. Further proof Michael Jordan should not be running a team, but that's a discussion for another day. Thomas has plenty of room to grow with his shooting touch and overall offensive game, but the talent is there. In the ideal situation, he should be coming off the bench for a playoff team much like Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder). Although the maturity of Thomas has been questioned at times, he is only 25 and will soon be reaching his prime.

Favorite skill: ‘Nuff said! One of the greatest plays I've ever seen.

Glen Davis (Orlando Magic): 7.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg

Glen Davis

After falling to the second round of the 2007 draft, Glen Davis had something to prove in NBA minds. Combine that with Davis playing in Boston with three future Hall of Famers (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen) and you have a winning combination. Davis won a ring with Boston in 2007-08 while being a key part of the rotation. "Big Baby" is very skilled underneath the basket and can position his body to create great opportunities for himself. In the certain system with the Celtics, he was able to find a productive role. The waves in Beantown were not always smooth with Davis acting immature at times and being selfish on and off the court at times. The trade with Bass this off season was an opportunity to go to a team and be a main guy. This has not worked out so far this season and he has regressed in Orlando. Davis' game is polished enough to be one of the better power forwards, but only if he is focused and motivated. He will look to bounce back from a disappointing first half to the season.

Favorite skill: Getting the foul called while still shielding the ball from the defender and scoring, or any type of dance!

Anthony Randolph (Minnesota Timberwolves); 6.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg

Anthony Randolph

Out of all the players on the list, Randolph has been one of the more disappointing. In terms of skill, athleticism, ability, and length, Randolph is all you want in a player. Unfortunately, after departing school after only one season, the transition to the NBA has been difficult. He has shown flashes of brilliance at times, but cannot stay consistent for long periods. Randolph has a unique ability for a big man to dribble in the open floor and pass to other teammates. He also has a soft touch from the outside to match with a smooth inside game. Many times in the NBA it is about finding the team or organization to match your skill set. To say the least, Randolph has not found a comfortable spot, and it could be argued that leaving school as a freshman was a bit premature. His minutes with the Timberwolves this season have evaporated and do not be surprised to see him on the move again.

Favorite skill: Either a left-handed hook or dunk..... Why do left-handed people make sports look so much easier?

Marcus Thornton (Sacramento Kings): 18.3 ppg, 1.9 apg, 3.6 rpg

Marcus Thornton

Thornton is off to a blazing start this season and is leading the Kings in scoring. After being sparingly used with the New Orleans Hornets, Thornton was traded last season for Carl Landry. He plays the game with a true scorer's mentality and can knock down long-range 3-pointers with the best of them. Rebounding and steals are two areas that Thornton excels at as well, because of his nose for the ball. Seems like he finds a way to every loose ball or rebound sometimes. The Kings just signed Thornton to a long-term deal and expect him to be in their future plans, whether it be Sacramento or San Jose. His style reminds me of Jason Terry (Dallas Mavericks) with the ability to just go unconscious from anywhere on the court. Also, Thornton has the cajones to take and make the big shots late. One area that needs to improve is his willingness to create shots for his teammates, and this will only open the floor more for his scoring ability. If his game continues to improve and the Kings become a winning team then do not be surprised to see Thornton in an All-Star game soon.

Favorite skill: The simple art-form of his shot is perfect. It looks so effortless but it is "oh so pure" like a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick.

Chris Johnson (Portland Trail Blazers): 1.5 ppg, 0.7 rpg

Chris Johnson

If there is a success story out of the group then Johnson fits the bill. After going undrafted, Johnson played overseas in Turkey and Poland. While finding limited success, he was able to join an NBDL last season. Johnson tore up the NBDL and was selected to the All-Star team after he ranked in the top 10 in points, rebounds, and blocks. Shortly after, Portland extended a 10-day contract which allowed him to stick around and finish the season on a playoff team. Although his minutes are limited this season, Portland seems to regard him as a talented young player. Johnson is used mostly for his incredible length for blocking shots and rebounding on the defensive end. Like most young players, his offensive is still waiting to be developed and will come in years to come. His future is bright and could serve as a key piece to a playoff team.

Favorite skill: The fact that a 6-foot-11 person can run, jump, throw, catch, and dunk like him is utterly amazing. The best athlete I've ever been around.

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