But in just about every other conceivable fashion things were different this time around for the Baton Rouge native. The top player in the state of Louisiana was on his first official visit, taking in a campus he’s known for years and viewing it in a new light.
“I really got to see a lot of things like classrooms, how everything would go with the coaching system, player development and how all that would work,” Sampson told TSD. “They were really showing me a lot of the inside stuff, showing me how it would be if I was committed there. It was a pretty good visit.”
Sampson (6-4, 180) was hosted by former high school teammate Jarell Martin, but there were no shortage of Tigers anxious to rub elbows with him. “I hung out with Keith Hornsby, Josh Gray, Jordan Mickey, the freshman Jalyn [Patterson] from Florida, I spent a lot of time with him.”
On the court Sampson joined LSU’s team for a spirited open-court run Saturday morning. It was an experience at once validating and educational for Sampson.
“It felt pretty good. I think I was up to the speed they were playing, but it’s a whole different game,” explained Sampson. “People are stronger, quicker. I’m not completely at that level. I know what I have to work on, but it was good playing with them. It showed me what I have to improve on. I think I did pretty good, though. I didn’t do too bad.”
As for takeaways on what he can improve: “The main thing is getting stronger and my (basketball) IQ,” said Sampson. “You have to really think before you can do it at a high speed without reservations.”
The biggest revelation for Sampson during his weekend stay at LSU, however, didn’t come on the court. He was impressed with – and even a little surprised by – another aspect of the visit.
“They put my classes before me playing basketball and they really care about me,” Sampson remarked on what stood out to him. “They care about me having my education because that comes first. You can’t play basketball without that. They actually put more time into education than they really did talking about recruiting or anything because they’re worried about my education first.”
Still Sampson decided not to pull the trigger on a commitment, a move (or non-move) he readily admitted was premeditated. “That was something that before I came I said I wasn’t going to do. I just wanted to see how everything is and how the system works. So it was definitely a situation where I thought about not committing before I went there.”
Down to six finalists (California, LSU, Oklahoma State, St. John’s, Texas A&M and UCLA), Sampson still considers himself “open” in the recruiting process. He confirmed he’ll take an official visit this coming weekend to California and plans to travel to St. John’s for the team’s Midnight Madness event in October. No other visits are currently planned.
Lot of Louisiana talent joined Sampson
Things may have went poorly on the field Saturday night for LSU football, losing 34-29 to Mississippi State, but the basketball program enjoyed a successful evening in the stands.
Joining Sampson on campus before and during the game were three unofficial visitors from the Boot – 2016 guard Malik Crowfield (Riverside Academy), 2017 guard Cedric Russell (Peabody) and 2018 guard Javonte Smart (Scotlandville).
According to Sampson, who knew all three coming in, they had fun catching up and seeing what LSU had to offer.
“Cedric played on my AAU team this summer, so that’s like a little brother to me. We spent a lot of time together,” Sampson continued. “And Javonte, we spent some time together, too. We ended up seeing each other a lot this summer. Malik and I played this summer as well, and he’s a good guy. So I knew pretty much all of them. It was a good time.”
The experience was good enough for Russell that he committed before leaving campus, making his Louisiana Elite teammate happy, even if he didn’t expect it.
“I was excited for him. He just liked it,” said Sampson. “From the first minute he liked the way everything was set up, how they treated him and the way they told him he would fit into the system. He kinda surprised me that he did it that night, but I don’t blame him.”