For LSU faithful a dream that once seemed lost is now a reality.
After five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney announced his commitment to the Tigers Friday afternoon, so too is the LSU basketball dream class of 2015.
Blakeney, 6-foot-4 and 175 pounds, has been heralded as one of the top scorers in the nation. He’s rated by Scout as the No. 22 player in America and the fifth-best shooting guard.
According to Steven Reece, who not only coaches Blakeney’s summer league EYBL team (Each 1 Teach 1) but is also an assistant on Blakeney’s Oak Ridge (Fla.) prep team, the player chose LSU over finalists Kentucky and Missouri because of his bond with the coaching staff, in particular head coach Johnny Jones.
“I think it was the relationship that he developed with the head coach and (assistant coach David) Patrick,” Reece said of the determining factor. “But I think that the relationship between he and Coach Jones weighed in big on his decision.”
That echoes what Blakeney told TSD on Nov. 6 in an interview previewing his official visit to Baton Rouge.
“My relationships with their coaches are great, especially the head coach. I have a really good relationship with the head coach,” explained Blakeney. “That’s what has really been keeping them in the loop. Also, they’re going to have a really good team this year. Ben Simmons, my teammate, is also going there.”
Simmons, Scout’s No. 2 overall player and an LSU signee, has laced ‘em up alongside Blakeney for Each 1 Teach 1. While the coaching staff for LSU was paramount in landing Blakeney, Simmons deserves an assist.
“Those two are real dynamic. They’re not just good ballplayers; they’re real close friends, too,” continued Reece. “I think that played a major part, being able to go to school with somebody that’s got the same dreams and aspirations as he does. They’ll be down there to push one another.”
And just what are those aspirations?
“I’ve been able to coach both of them. I know they want to try to win a national championship,” Reece leveled. “I mean Ben’s coming from a high school [Montverde Academy] that just lost its first game since he arrived (more than two years ago). We had a lot of success, too. Those guys are winners. I know the first thing they’re going to want to do is get there and get better and try to win a national championship.”
The connection between blue-chippers Blakeney and Simmons, who this season is forging a role as a point-forward for Montverde, will do wonders on the court for LSU. But, as Reece reminds, it won’t just be when the lights are on and fans are in the stands.
“Those two are real competitive. I mean real competitive, especially in practice,” Reece said. “Our practices were real, real intense because of the type of kids we’ve had, and all of them have the drive.
“They’re not satisfied with just getting to college. LSU’s getting two really good, strong players that have crazy work ethics.”
As for Blakeney, who was a Louisville commitment for all of 11 days in the fall before backing out and delaying his signature until the regular period in April, there’s still plenty to prove.
“He’s got a passion to be great,” explained Reece. “He’s a kid that pushes himself, sometimes even too hard. He wants to be great. He wants to be the best player in the country.”
With Blakeney and Simmons in the fold, and the distinct possibility of more to come in the class, LSU can now more realistically set its sights on trying to become the best team in the country.
Adding Blakeney makes LSU a contender
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