On-court success crucial for LSU recruiting

Johnny Jones accomplished a lot by selling recruits on the potential of this LSU program. Now it's time for him to back it up in order to continue that momentum on the recruiting trail.

College basketball coaches are salesmen at heart, especially when it comes to recruiting. But even the best salesman needs something to sell.

Last year, LSU's coaches sold "new" and "exciting" and "potential." It worked, as they were able to put together a top 5 recruiting class.

However, selling a dream can only go so far. At some point recruits want to see actual production on the court and, after LSU failed to make the postseason in 2013, recruiting for 2014 has been tough.

LSU was able to land the top player in Louisiana for 2013, Jarell Martin, but has failed to land 2014's Craig Victor (Arizona) or Dominic Magee (Memphis). The Tigers did get a commitment this week from Tioga's Aaron Epps, a late-bloomer who could end up ranked among the state's top players.

LSU's 2014 class can still be a quality group. If LSU lands Chicago point guard Miles Reynolds, Dallas guard Cornelius Hudson and one (or both) of center Elbert Robinson and forward Jonah Bolden, the class will be stellar.

But if Robinson and Bolden sign elsewhere, the class will be average, at best, and likely rank near the bottom of the SEC.

This brings me back to the sales aspect of recruiting: LSU needs to have a successful season on the court, making the NCAA tournament at a minimum. This would validate the claims LSU's coaches are telling recruits, which is that LSU is on the way back to national prominence.

This is especially important because of the recruits LSU is involved with for 2015. LSU is one of the leaders – if not THE leader -- for Australian forward Ben Simmons, who is playing at Florida prep school Montverde Academy. Simmons, who is a 5-star and among the top players in the world in his age group, is the Godson of LSU assistant David Patrick. Some success on the court would give Patrick the ammunition he needs to close the deal with Simmons, who wants to play for a successful college program.

LSU is also recruiting local 4-star guard Brandon Sampson of Madison Prep, Dallas post Elijah Thomas, Shreveport guard Chad Lott, Jackson guard Malik Newman (now at Prime Prep), multiple Atlanta-area players, including Jalen Brown and Daniel Giddens, along with many other highly-ranked prospects.

A successful season would result in energetic crowds at the PMAC, which make for exciting recruiting visits, as well as national media buzz. Many recruits like the idea of being on the ground level of a rising program. However, they don't want to stay at ground level.

LSU head coach Johnny Jones is at a crucial point in his program. If LSU takes a step backwards on the court, it won't be a fatal blow to Jones' rebuilding efforts. But it could be the difference in his rebuilding being completed, or still several years away.

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