The LSU basketball team continues its trek through Australia this week, with the Tigers now two up and one down through three high-scoring contests down under.
Freshman forward Ben Simmons has scored at least 18 points in all three ballgames, leading LSU in scoring in two of the three tilts.
His brilliance was expected by just about anyone that’s had access to the internet over the last two or three years.
It’s the consistent production from LSU’s two newcomers in the backcourt – Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson – that should have purple-and-gold-clad fans excited.
Adding Blakeney and Sampson to an already talented group on the perimeter is making the 2015-16 edition of the Tigers a bear offensively, according to junior guard Tim Quarterman.
“You have to play within the system,” Quarterman assessed. “I think Brandon does that really well and he can shoot the ball really well. Tone, he’s a great shooter and a great scorer. I just think our team is going to be special this year.”
Spacing the floor on offense is one thing – and the rookie duo of guards has done that, combining for 12 made threes in Australia so far – but playing active on the other end of the floor is an even surer way to guarantee playing time for the newbies.
“I told them that,” started Quarterman. “To stay on the court you have to be able to defend somebody because you’re not going to score the ball every time in the SEC, even in non-conference games. You’ve got to be able to do something else, so you’ve got to stay in and stick defense. They’re buying in so far. That’s good.”
That extra effort on defense has made local Baton Rouge product Sampson a threat to crack the starting lineup, which he did in LSU’s last exhibition game (a 91-88 win over the Queensland All-Stars), taking the place of Blakeney, a former five-star prospect from Florida.
“I see Brandon making strides on defense, just staying in tune, staying into his guy,” Quarterman elaborated. “I think a lot of the freshmen coming in from high school, you really don’t stick a lot of defense in high school as a star on your team. It’s your job to score the ball and stuff like that. But I think them coming in and buying into the system early is exactly what we need.”
At times Blakeney and Sampson are competitors, fighting for minutes in a crowded backcourt, but this tour is proving the duo can play effectively together as well, with both filling wings and filling it up from deep.
Oh by the way, if you’re wondering how Blakeney responded to coming off the bench: He led LSU in scoring with 22 points in 29 minutes on the floor.
Competition, and building defensive muscles they never knew they had on the prep level, are fueling a fast rise this summer for the Tigers’ other two signees in the 2015 class.
Blakeney, Sampson buying in early for LSU
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