Basketball Confidence Levels: September 2014

TSD's Ben Love gives a detailed look at where LSU basketball stands with each of its top remaining targets in the Class of 2015.

For the second month in a row TSD is rolling out Confidence Levels for LSU basketball’s Class of 2015, a potentially loaded group with talented targets inside Louisiana, throughout the Southeast and even abroad.

The whole point: I aim to give you a feel for the Tigers’ chances at landing each of the top remaining prospects on the team’s big board. 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 the prospects, their coaches and sources on the LSU side.

Be on the lookout for a new edition of Basketball Confidence Levels in mid-October, which should be the most interesting time period yet considering the onset of the early signing period in November.

Below is my breakdown of LSU's top six targets (not including commitment Ben Simmons).

**Last month’s ratings are in parentheses
FA: First Appearance in the Confidence Levels

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SG Antonio Blakeney – 4.0 (6.0)

So much has happened in Blakeney’s recruitment since the last Confidence Levels a month ago it’s not even funny. First he committed to Louisville days after his Labor Day weekend official visit. Then, 11 days later, he pulled the plug, reopening his recruitment and spawning rumors aplenty about shoe companies. If those whispers are true, and those in the know say they are, a Nike program will ultimately land Blakeney. That’s the good news for LSU. The bad news: Kentucky is also a Nike program and seems positioned as the favorite right now. Blakeney recently tweeted that he’ll receive in-home visits next week on three consecutive days from Missouri, LSU and Kentucky. Oregon is the fourth school said to be in his mix. I’m told Blakeney is very unlikely to relocate to the West Coast (Oregon) and that Missouri almost certainly won’t receive his pledge either. So I do believe LSU, which has been a player in these sweepstakes for some time, will be in his final two, but that other one is Kentucky. If it becomes a choice between the two SEC schools, for right now at least I’m giving Kentucky the edge. You almost have to.

PF Elijah Thomas – 4.5 (3.5)

To say that Thomas’ official visit the first weekend in September was a success would probably be an understatement. The big man has let the world know how much he enjoyed playing open court with current LSU players and a few pros, meeting Les Miles (although I’ve been told the football scholarship offer is malarkey, more a fun ruse) and being around his cousin Jordan Mickey. In fact here’s a quote from Thomas’ recent blog post on USA Today (LINK HERE). “The whole visit was a big eye-opener for me to what LSU had to offer, and I could definitely see myself going there. I feel like, based on the players that they would have when I came there, I could have a legit shot at winning a national title.”

Obviously that’s about as positive as it gets, and my number designation above should reflect that LSU has been the beneficiary of old Uncle ‘Mo lately with Thomas. But there are a few things going against the Tigers that won’t allow me to go 50/50 or higher on LSU’s chances. First, as ludicrous as it may sound, I’m told Thomas doesn’t see a clear path to playing time in Baton Rouge. He doesn’t want to play the five and knows LSU is bringing in Ben Simmons at the four. He even doesn’t completely buy that both Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin will be gone, per a source. So there’s that. The other part of it is formidable competition. Illinois has been one of, if not the, frontrunner for Thomas’ services for a while. He’ll be on campus in Champaign for an official visit this weekend.

SG Brandon Sampson – 9.0 (7.0)

Things continue to look better and better for the Tigers on this front. Sampson, the state’s top player, will begin an official visit to hometown LSU this weekend. That’s big news for Johnny Jones & Co., securing his first official and being able to continue courting Sampson and perhaps even swaying him to sign in the early period. For me that’s the only real drama left. The “when” part. Sampson has remained steadfast that he’ll ink in April, but I know the Tigers will be pushing for a November signature. Other outlets are reporting that Sampson will take an official visit to California next weekend and St. John’s in October for their Midnight Madness. We’ll see if the four-star from Baton Rouge ends up taking those visits, but the bottom line is the kid – and his family – have been too close to LSU athletics for too long for me to think this will turn out differently.

G/F Jack McVeigh – 8.0 (6.0)

Johnny Jones and lead recruiter David Patrick traveled to Australia together over the last week to touch base with McVeigh, and word is things went “very well.” I intended to go slightly higher on McVeigh’s number at first, but there was one revelation from the LSU staff’s recent trip down under that made me dial it back to an “8.” McVeigh may sign in the late period. So, yes, for those keeping score that makes three wings the Tigers are after (Sampson, McVeigh and the next young man) that all have given indications they may wait until April. And the funny thing is, I hear innuendo behind the scenes that each of the three could still sign early. Still, timing aside (and keep in mind, as I’ve mentioned before, Aussies typically don’t pay mind to the different signing periods), there’s plenty of reason to feel confident here. McVeigh may even make it in for an official visit in October, I’m told, but that’s still up in the air. If he does, his chances of signing early go up, probably exponentially.

SF Jacob Evans – 3.5 (FA)

The four-star wing from St. Michael (Baton Rouge) has risen more than any other player from last month to this month on my Confidence Levels. Evans was in my “Waiting in the Wings” section in August, but there’s no waiting anymore. Not on his part or LSU’s. Evans now has the Tigers in his final five, which also includes South Carolina, Auburn, Tulane and Cincinnati. He’s already taken visits in the last month to South Carolina, Auburn and Tulane, and Evans will be on Cincy’s campus this weekend. Word is he’ll take his OV to LSU sometime soon after, maybe even the following weekend when the football Tigers are hosting New Mexico State. It’s my observation that the two SEC schools and Tulane will provide stiff competition for LSU, but I believe the Tigers can make up a lot of ground during his visit. It’s not that he isn’t familiar with the campus, but they’re going to have to show Evans some love. In that regard LSU has a little ground to make up. Assuming that happens Evans’ number could take another big leap up come October’s Confidence Levels. Baby steps are better than no steps.

G Chad Lott – 1.5 (2.5)

There isn’t much of a buzz these days surrounding Lott and LSU. And, truthfully, there really hasn’t been in some time. I even contemplated removing the Byrd standout from this list, but he may still be the best contingency plan available should things go nuclear with the Tigers’ top three wing targets (not projecting that to happen, but backup plans are never a bad idea). Lott is down to Texas Tech, Houston, SMU, Creighton, UNLV and LSU. I believe Jones and the Tigers will continue to keep tabs on Lott, but he’s not anywhere near the top of the priority list.



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