It’s high time we at TSD take our regular football Confidence Levels concept and extend it to LSU basketball, especially with a loaded Class of 2015 that could see Johnny Jones’ program add between four and six players.
The whole point: I aim to give you a feel for the Tigers’ chances at landing each of their top remaining targets. Using a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the highest, I’ll clue you in with the latest buzz – including positive or negative momentum – on each prospect’s recruitment. These numbers aren’t just coming out of thin air either. They’re based on rumblings I’ve gotten from prospects, their coaches and sources on the LSU side.
Be on the lookout for a new edition of Basketball Confidence Levels in the middle of each month leading up to the critical early signing period in November.
Below is my breakdown of LSU's top six targets (not including commitment Ben Simmons).
SG Antonio Blakeney – 6.0
The five-star shooting guard from Oak Ridge HS in Orlando remains atop the priority list for LSU’s staff, which made sure to position three coaches at virtually every EYBL game Blakeney played this summer for E1T1. As Blakeney told me in an interview about a month ago, he’s definitely felt the love from LSU and has hit it off well with assistant David Patrick. It also doesn’t hurt that E1T1 teammate Ben Simmons has remained steadfast in his recruitment of Blakeney. Scout’s No. 21 overall player in 2015 trimmed his list three weeks ago to seven programs – Florida State, Louisville, Missouri, Kentucky, Oregon, LSU and USC. I continue to hear it’s a battle between LSU, Louisville, Missouri and perhaps Kentucky, which entered the picture late in the summer with an offer. LSU’s chances were improved recently when Louisville received a commitment from shooting guard Donovan Mitchell. The next step for the Tigers is getting an official visit from Blakeney, who intends to sign in the early period. He’s a bona fide national recruit, so LSU will have to continue to work and sweat it out, but right now the Tigers feel they’re in a good position.
PF/C Elijah Thomas – 3.5
This number is up from where it was just three weeks to a month ago, when LSU’s recruitment of Thomas was thought to have flat-lined, and it could continue to rise. Now that the Tigers have missed out on four-star Noah Dickerson, who committed to Florida Sunday, Thomas is the number one post target for LSU in 2015. The only thing with Thomas, a five-star prospect: he’s been very unpredictable throughout his recruiting process. Still LSU does have two big assets in its corner – close family friend Jordan Mickey and Elbert Robinson, who Thomas knows from his prep days in Texas. Thomas, who sat out most of this summer with a wrist injury and has transferred from embattled Prime Prep to Lancaster HS, trimmed his list to six schools on Aug. 5. They are: Illinois, LSU, Oklahoma State, SMU, Texas A&M and UNLV. He also announced four of his intended official visits last week. The Tigers are first up to host Thomas, with the big man coming in for the football home opener on Sept. 6. It would be better for LSU to get him closer to November, when Thomas plans to sign, but they’ll get a big chance to make a lasting impression right off the bat.
SG Brandon Sampson – 7.0
Louisiana’s top prospect in the class is still very high on LSU’s wish list, even though the Tigers are putting a lot of eggs in the Blakeney basket. And the latest whispers have reminded that Sampson, a four-star prospect ranked No. 58 overall by Scout, is quite fond of LSU as well. Earlier this month Sampson told Scout’s Tracy Pierson: “LSU’s been showing me mad love. They’ve been in my recruitment since the beginning, so they are definitely one of those at the top of my list.” Things also took a turn for the better for LSU when UCLA, one of the Tigers’ chief competitors for Sampson, accepted a recent pledge from Prince Ali. The Bruins now have two five-star guards already in the 2015 class in Ali and Aaron Holiday, brother of Jrue. There’s still some uncertainty on which period Sampson will sign in, but things are beginning to point to LSU being in awfully good shape. Cal, which has been on Sampson hard since Cuonzo Martin arrived, St. John’s and Texas A&M are the other schools worth monitoring in this recruiting battle.
G/F Jack McVeigh – 6.0
This number could be higher, but less is known about McVeigh than any player on this list. The LSU staff doesn’t seem to mind that either, preferring that the Australian flies under the radar while David Patrick works his magic down under. McVeigh, a 6-8 wing player, has routinely been one of the top young Aussies in competition, even besting UCLA freshman Jonah Bolden when the two met in a U-17 tournament last year. It’s believed that Virginia, SMU and UCLA are the Tigers’ biggest competition while several other schools, like Boise State, have also expressed serious interest. Still, while McVeigh is a bit of an unknown on a national scale, the word from LSU circles is that the Tigers, which will have fellow countrymen Darcy Malone and Ben Simmons on the roster, are “in front.”
SG Matt McQuaid – 2.0
LSU was tossed around as one of the schools immediately in on McQuaid after the four-star shooting guard decommitted from SMU earlier in the summer. Since then, though, very little out there linking the two together. In a story released earlier today by Scout’s Brian Snow, McQuaid spoke about a recent unofficial visit to Michigan State and expressed a desire to take in Indiana’s campus soon. Unless things change in the near future, it doesn’t seem the native Texan has LSU anywhere near the top of his thought process. But it is worth noting that McQuaid plays on the same Team Texas AAU squad as Elijah Thomas (who didn’t get to play much with McQuaid this summer because of the wrist injury).
G Chad Lott – 2.5
This number could be even lower, but I’m not sure it’ll ever get any higher. This seems to be the ceiling on Lott, a three-star prospect, for LSU. He does have an offer, picked up in what seems like an eternity ago in June 2013, but Lott-to-LSU just doesn’t feel terribly likely. He included the Tigers in his trimmed-down list, released last week, that also features a trio of Lone Star State schools in Texas Tech, Houston and SMU as well as Creighton and UNLV, which has Jordan Cornish (former Nike Team Louisiana teammate of Lott’s) on the roster as a freshman. Johnny Jones and the staff continue to keep tabs on Lott, but at this stage he’s more of a backup plan should Blakeney and/or Sampson somehow fall through. My gut tells me Lott won’t settle for that, more likely opting for a place where he’s more coveted and can play sooner than later.
WAITING IN THE WINGS
For the most part the six names above represent LSU’s primary or first-up targets in this class, but the Tigers will certainly have their tracks covered in terms of contingency plans. The three biggest names to monitor in this department are all wings – 6-foot-5 three-star Christian James (Bellaire, TX), 6-foot-5 four-star Jacob Evans (St. Michael, Baton Rouge) and 6-foot-6 three-star Melvin Frazier (Higgins, Marrero). Of this trio Evans made arguably the biggest leap this summer, and he’s someone who has definitely intrigued the LSU staff. While Lott has slipped a bit in his standing, Evans is going in the opposite direction. And should push come to shove on choosing a replacement for Blakeney or Sampson, should the Tigers miss on either, I believe Evans might supplant Lott. The only question is whether Evans will have already fallen in love with another program. His trimmed list is due very soon.