PITTSBURGH – The sting is still very much being felt by everyone inside the LSU basketball program following the Tigers’ collapse Thursday night that resulted in a 66-65 loss to NC State in both teams’ opening game of the NCAA Tournament.
But, in a postgame locker room setting where positive thinking was being preached if not always followed, some began to cast an eye on the future.
“We’ll be a lot better next year,” sophomore Tim Quarterman stated emphatically.
Hard to disagree with Quarterman, particularly as seldom-used center John Odo is the only graduating senior and the incoming recruiting class, not yet completed, already reads like a who’s who of blue-chip high school talent.
The only question that remains, the purple-and-gold elephant in the room that’s about to grow a lot bigger with the season over, is will Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, LSU’s two All-SEC sophomore forwards, return to the fold?
“I haven’t decided yet. I’m still debating,” Martin told TSD. “At some time I’ll sit down with my parents and Coach (Johnny) Jones and come up with a conclusion on what I’ll be doing.
“I’m not sure (on a timeframe). It’s a hard decision, so I don’t think it’ll be too soon.”
Martin, a Baton Rouge native, finished his sophomore season averaging 16.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and shot a healthy 50.9% from the field.
His counterpart Mickey, from Dallas, posted 15.4 points a game to go along with 9.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks, the final figure being the highest in the nation. Like Martin, Mickey either hasn’t made up his mind or isn’t ready to go public with his next move.
“When the time comes that’s something I’ll discuss with my family and Coach Jones and make the best decision possible for myself,” said Mickey in an interview Wednesday. “I’m not really sure when that time will come.”
Quarterman, who’s been a roommate of both Martin and Mickey for the last two seasons, would love to see both join him on a potentially loaded 2015-16 squad. He knows, however, there are business decisions at hand, not necessarily emotional ones.
“Yeah, I definitely envision it [next season] with them, but if they happen to leave I know the other side of that,” he leveled. “If that happens, I’ll be very supportive of them. They’re like brothers to me. We’ve been together for the last two years, all day around each other. They’d be very missed if they decided to take that jump, but I’m so supportive. And I know they’re going to do well because they’re warriors.”
After such a painful loss in the NCAA Tournament, bowing out on a shot that went through the net with 0.1 seconds remaining, the question was also posed to Martin and Mickey as to whether a defeat that leaves such a sour taste could affect their decisions.
“Most definitely,” responded Martin. “Losing in this first round, I wanted to come in and for our team and our program to make a big impact in this tournament. So it’s definitely a milestone I want to come back and definitely move forward.
“We definitely can use this as motivation if we get here for next year. We can use this to make key plays and realize the emotions and feelings that we had when we lost and use that for our advantage.”
And Mickey: “Definitely. That’s what the offseason’s for. You’ve got to go out there and assess what you did last season, see where you stand and just prepare and get better for next year.”
It’s been no secret in recent weeks that Martin is the more coveted of the two in NBA circles. Even with the improved draft stock, Martin sees positives either way he chooses to go.
“With this program, with the guys that are coming in and from us losing tonight, I definitely want to come in and make the program better and build this tradition up,” said Martin on one hand.
On the other?
“And then the NBA, that’s everyone’s dream,” he continued. “Every kid, every college basketball player dreams of going to the NBA. So they are both pros. I don’t see any cons really.”
LSU will know before long how many bouts of star-power attrition it will endure as the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2015 NBA Draft is April 10.
Will Martin, Mickey be back at LSU?
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