LSU in running for Ray Kasongo

Canadian-born big man Ray Kasongo is nearing a decision on his second run through the recruiting cycle. According to Kasongo's mentor, LSU is among three SEC schools on the player's short list.

The balance of power in college basketball has clearly shifted from the post to the perimeter, with guards ruling the roost in terms of sheer numbers and many times game-planning, but it still takes talented big men to survive in March.

For that reason many have wondered what recourse LSU has in the frontcourt in the event both Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey leave to chase professional hoops dreams.

One of the final possibilities remaining on the recruiting trail for the Tigers is power forward Ray Kasongo.

The 6-foot-9, 235-pounder from Toronto, who prepped at a number of places including Oak Hill Academy (Va.), is a familiar name as LSU attempted to recruit Kasongo in the 2014 cycle. He signed with Oregon but was ultimately denied admission by the school, eventually enrolling at the College of Southern Idaho.

“He had a great year,” remarked Brandon Bender of Kasongo’s 2014-15 run. “The team, they played all 14 or 15 guys, but I thought he did very well for Southern Idaho.”

Bender, who coached Kasongo’s AAU team and serves as a mentor for the player, reminded that Kasongo, who does have an LSU offer for this year's class, is eligible right away upon transfer and has four years to play three.

“He’s not considered a JuCo player. A JuCo player is a two-year guy. He’s a one-year guy,” explained Bender. “With a year in college already I think he’s gotten more mature and will be more mature than a lot of the incoming freshmen. The good thing about him is he still has three years to go because he’s a full qualifier.”

Although he’s received a lot of attention, Kasongo is more or less down to three programs – LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Bender shared some perspective on why each holds attraction for the player.

On LSU: “Coach (Johnny) Jones and (assistant) coach (David) Patrick, they do a good job with their players at LSU. I know he’s excited about getting down there for a visit because he knows those coaches can help him get better . . . But also, what kid wouldn’t want to go in there and play with a guy like Ben Simmons?”

The Tigers have another connection aiding Kasongo’s recruitment.

“Then there’s Elbert Robinson, who is definitely going to get better. Ray and Elbert actually played AAU against each other when Elbert played with the Dallas Seawolves and Ray played for Grassroots Canada. I was actually in Vegas when they played against each other. It was on. I’ll tell you, a lot of times it takes seven-foot guys a little while to come on, but that kid will come on. He’s very talented and skilled, just has to put it all together.”

On the Mississippi schools: “Well, there’s a lot of minutes available. Anytime you lose a lot of your top guys (in the post), like LSU did too, there are minutes available. And at Mississippi State there’s a new coach [Ben Howland] with a track record. He’s a guy that went to three straight Final Fours and helped put guys in the NBA, maximizing their potential.”

As for timing Bender reported Kasongo is likely to take only three visits, and he’ll pull the trigger in short order once those trips to SEC country are in his rearview.

“He’s not going to wait (until the summer). He’s got to know where he’s going,” Bender continued. “He’ll make a decision in April for sure. All he really has to do now is take a couple of visits, put it all together and see where he wants to go out of the group.”

As there are chances at legitimate playing time in all three places, Bender said “it’ll be all about the relationships with the staff.”

The type of player the winner down South will get?

“He’s got an inside-out game. He’s not a center at all,” clarified Bender. “He’s like an NBA power forward, really like 6-foot-9. His athleticism for a big man is off the charts. One of the best things about Ray is he’s a kid who works, he’s a gym rat.”

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