It’s rare in the history of LSU hoops for two All-SEC players to depart and expectations still rise within and outside of the program.
That’s exactly what’s transpiring, though, for the 2015-16 squad, which has added three blue-chip signees to offset the losses of Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, both selected in the first 33 picks of the NBA Draft this summer.
And while Ben Simmons, Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson are giving plenty of reasons for optimism, one returning veteran is flying somewhat under the radar.
He is junior guard Tim Quarterman, and the Savannah native may just hold the Tigers’ fate this campaign in his hands.
The first order of business in the offseason for Quarterman, who was one of college basketball’s most improved players as a sophomore, was to tack more weight on to his lanky 6-foot-6 frame.
“I’m at 190 pounds now,” Quarterman told TSD in July, before the team embarked on its current Australian exhibition tour. “That’s a huge jump from when I first got to college. I was 160-something then.”
Just about everything Quarterman-related seemed to grow a season ago, with his Midas touch extending to every statistical category.
But, even Quarterman knows the formula will be different this time around sans Martin and Mickey in the post.
“Our team has a different look from last year. We had two guys in the paint that were dominant. It would’ve been crazy not to go to those two guys,” acknowledged Quarterman. “This year we have a lot of dominant perimeter players, and I look at Ben as a perimeter player also because he can dribble it up the court.
“We have a very different look from last year, and people will really, really have to scout us differently. We’ve got a lot of weapons.”
While Simmons, who many view as the top overall pick in the next NBA Draft, will be the pied piper, it’s Quarterman who remains the swiss-army knife on the team, at once capable of leading the Tigers in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals . . . and doing it all with a collected demeanor that two years’ experience in the SEC has forged.
Part of the reason Quarterman is thriving in Australia is a move to more of a pick-and-roll-heavy offense LSU is cultivating with such a wealth of perimeter options.
“It can help our team a lot just because of spacing the floor. We can space a lot of people out and people are improving on their shot. We’ve got good shooters,” said Quarterman. “When you’ve got people that pass the ball like me and Ben, it opens up the floor a lot for our team.”
At the end of the day Quarterman, a legitimate candidate to turn pro following the season, wants to leave his mark not only as a well-rounded player but as a team leader that helped bring together a young, changing cast.
“I went back home a couple of times this summer and worked out a lot, but I mostly worked out here. I wanted to be here this summer to work out with the guys, get close with them and get our chemistry right,” he explained. “That’s something we need on and especially off the court. I feel like it’s important in basketball, and it’s transferring over to the court. We’re really talking to each other a lot out there and communicating.”
From a four-star signee that almost lost his way as a freshman to a junior leader and playmaker, Quarterman will have a big say – possibly as big as Simmons – on how far the Tigers can go between now and early April.
So, if you’re sleeping on him, it’s time to hit the alarm.