The LSU basketball team’s roster got thinner Tuesday.
The program announced that guards Anthony Hickey and Malik Morgan and forward Shane Hammink will not return next season as the Tigers tried to get under the NCAA’s scholarship limit. All three have been granted full releases as they try to find their next landing spots, an LSU spokesman said.
The losses of rising juniors Hammink and Morgan are not entirely surprising, but the departure of Hickey — a three-year starter — raised eyebrows.
Anthony Hickey Sr., the guard’s father, told The Advocate that his son was informed last week that the program does not intend to renew his scholarship. The rising senior had his run-ins with coach Johnny Jones in the past two seasons, largely over missed classes and study hall periods.
But on the floor, Hickey remained a stable presence running the Tigers offense, averaging 9.4 points and 3.8 assists in his career along with leading the SEC in steals during his junior season in Baton Rouge.
“He just got in last night,” Anthony Hickey Sr. said of his son. “We’re just going to take the next couple days to weigh our options and talk to some places.”
LSU wrapped up its spring semester Friday, but a source with knowledge of the situation said academics likely weren’t a root cause of the moves.
Still, the normally measured Jones issued a blunt assessment April 1 — the day junior forward Johnny O’Bryant III declared for the NBA draft — about whether Hickey would assume a leadership role next season.
“Not sure,” Jones said. “We’ll have to see. You know, that’s possible, hopefully. Maybe another year. He’s a senior, and it may be something that could possibly happen. But it’s been tough for three years for him to assume that role. So it’s tough to assume it will happen that way.”
Nothing under SEC bylaws prevents Hickey, the former Mr. Basketball from Kentucky, from seeking to join another program in the conference. The NCAA’s transfer rules provide a potential path to playing right away under a little-known “run-off” waiver created two years ago.
Hickey would need to provide documentation that he didn’t have the option to return to LSU, while his new school would need to sign off that he is in good academic standing. The linchpin is whether LSU would provide its own statement saying it supports the request.
Hickey’s steal numbers were down last season, a product of taking fewer risks in passing lanes, but the junior’s 2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio during SEC play led the conference.
“There’s nothing else really left to say,” Hickey Sr. said. “I love LSU, but three years of my son’s life he was 10 hours away and we supported their decisions, and then this happens.”
The move leaves the Tigers potentially relying heavily on newcomers next season, particularly Odessa (Texas) College transfer Josh Gray, a Lake Charles native who started his career at Texas Tech but averaged 33.8 points per game last season.
UNC-Asheville transfer Keith Hornsby also will be eligible, and the Tigers get the services of three-star point guard Jalyn Patterson from Florida’s Montverde Academy. Rising sophomore guard Tim Quarterman is also slated to return, but multiple sources told The Advocate recently that he was convinced to stay in the fold after meetings with Jones.
Morgan’s choice to leave isn’t surprising, given he mulled transferring to Tulane last season, sources told The Advocate, but was coaxed into staying. A torn patellar tendon Feb. 8 against Auburn sidelined him for the rest of the season; Jones said last month the rising junior wasn’t expected to be healthy until December.
Mike Krajcer, Morgan’s coach in high school at John Curtis, said the potential to transfer and obtain a medical redshirt — leaving the guard two years of eligibility — was a way for the former all-state product to get a fresh start.
“I don’t think it was a surprise considering the way Malik was used this year,” Krajcer said. “I don’t think he got a fair shake in allowing his ability to shine.”
Morgan, who averaged 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds in his career, saw his minutes dip slightly during his sophomore season after starting 14 games as a freshman on a threadbare roster with only 11 scholarship players. This season, he was used in spot duty; he was LSU’s best rebounding guard off the bench and added athleticism to its press.
Krajcer said there was frustration because Morgan, whose on-ball defense as a freshman was a sore spot, wasn’t allowed to play through rough patches.
“He’s going to do what’s best for the team,” Krjacer said. “But there were times where he was not allowed to perform and play, while kids weren’t pulled for the same mistakes.”
As far as interest, Krajcer said he thinks “four or five” programs may reach out, adding he was “sure Tulane will be interested.” The Green Wave women’s program signed Kolby Morgan, the guard’s younger sister, in November.
Hammink averaged 1.6 points and 1.4 rebounds. For the past couple of weeks, the swingman’s name percolated as one of the chief candidates who might try to find a home elsewhere.
Geert Hammink, the swingman’s father and a former forward at LSU, did not respond to requests seeking comment about his son’s intentions.
The departures leave LSU two under the NCAA-mandated limit of 13 scholarships, which they can fill during the signing period that runs until May 21.