Already we’ve taken a stab at projecting the starters.
Now we’re running out a five-part installment that will hone in on the biggest talking points surrounding the Tigers, posing important questions and then providing insight in answering them.
From Monday: Who will run the point?
From Tuesday: Is there enough inside?
From Wednesday: How will team chemistry form?
TODAY’S TOPIC: LAST SHOT
This one ties into yesterday’s discussion on team chemistry and actually takes it a step farther, as it relates to alpha-dog status, clutch players and matters of that nature.
The premise is simple: This coming season, when LSU has a last-second shot to win or tie a ballgame, who’s taking it?
A season ago the answer to that question, more often than not, was Keith Hornsby. He took a highly contested three at the end of the Kentucky game in Baton Rouge that didn’t go in as well as one in Fayetteville that did to beat the Razorbacks.
It stands to reason, given his experience and aptitude in that type of high-pressure spot, he’ll be a candidate in late-game or late-shot clock situations again as a senior.
But there are a few others entering the fray that are quite used to taking that shot to this point in their careers.
Signees Antonio Blakeney and Ben Simmons each come to Baton Rouge as five-star, blue-chip prospects, each having played in the McDonald’s All American Game and consensus top 25 players in their class. They also both have an edge to them when it comes to winning and leading their teams.
Simmons, in particular, figures to be a prime candidate to handle the ball in such a late-game situation, With his passing skills and vision, though, it’s possible he distributes to the open man, depending on if it’s the right basketball play, for the game-winning shot.
In that sense having Simmons could open up others for that needed bucket with time expiring.
According to a former (and future) teammate of Simmons, LSU’s Jalyn Patterson, it’s easy to buy in to playing off Simmons because the work that goes into his game and decision-making is so evident.
“He competes. He just competes and works hard every day. When I was down at Montverde, you could see it,” Patterson told TSD this past season. “He’s always in the gym working, whatever part of his game he wants to improve. So when you see him play, for me, it’s kinda like ‘Yeah, I’ve been seeing this.’ It’s fun to play with a guy like that.”
As for Blakeney, he might just be the best flat-out scorer on the roster next season despite being a freshman. A number of national recruiting analysts have pegged him as a top-two wing scorer across the country in the Class of 2015.
So where does Blakeney, who likely could get into the lane and draw a foul as easily as anyone in purple and gold, fit into the equation?
Two others would merit consideration in this realm, too. They are Patterson and Tim Quarterman, two players who ended the 2014-15 season as entrenched starters for the Tigers.
Of that grouping I’d imagine Patterson is a better option because of his more consistent shooting from beyond the arc. He’s right there with Hornsby as the team’s most reliable outside shooters, at least from the returning crop of players.
Ultimately there is no one right answer to this question. If I had to pick only one, it would be either Hornsby or Simmons, the former for a three and the latter for a drive or to operate from the high post.
But, in accordance with developing overall team chemistry on and off the floor, there’s the important issue of knowing who to turn to when the chips are down or the game is on the line.
It will be fascinating to watch these players new and old collectively learn who they can rely on . . . and if ego gets in the way of this process and causes any growing pains along the way.