LSU’s heralded basketball freshmen Ben Simmons, Antonio Blakeney, Brandon Sampson raising expectations, and one's talking national championship _lowres

Advocate file photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND -- Ben Simmons, the Gatorade national player of the year, begins his freshman season with LSU this fall.

The nonconference portion of the LSU men’s basketball schedule continues to take shape with the Tigers set to face Kennesaw State, South Alabama and Houston to go with seven other games previously announced.

While dates and tipoff times are being finalized for most of the nonconference matchups, LSU knows it will host Kennesaw State on Nov. 16 and South Alabama on Nov. 19 and play at Houston on Dec. 13.

The games with Kennesaw State and South Alabama are part of the regional round of the Legends Classic that LSU will participate in on Nov. 23 and 24 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The Tigers will face two of the other three teams that will take part in the Legends Classic: North Carolina State, Arizona State and Marquette. The championship round bracket will be announced by ESPN in August.

LSU will also begin a home-and-home series on Dec. 13 against Houston, a member of the American Athletic Conference, in Hofheinz Pavilion on the UH campus. Tipoff for the game has not been announced.

The two schools played a home-and-home in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons with LSU winning both games — the latter in Houston.

LSU will also have nonconference home games against Wake Forest, Gardner-Webb and McNeese State and go to Charleston, South Carolina, for a matchup with the College of Charleston although playing dates haven’t been announced.

The Tigers will also take on Oklahoma in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Jan. 30 as part of the third Southeastern Conference/Big 12 Challenge.

LSU played at Texas Tech and West Virginia in the first two SEC/Big 12 Challenges, winning both.

Simmons heads to L.A.

LSU freshman Ben Simmons will travel to Los Angeles this weekend for the 13th annual Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year ceremony, which will be held prior to the ESPY Awards.

As the Gatorade boys national basketball player of the year, Simmons is a candidate for the 2014-15 Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year Award.

Simmons, who enrolled at LSU last month, will be joined by athletes in six sports with the male and female athlete of the year winners being announced at a dinner on Tuesday night in Hollywood to cap the 13th annual ceremony.

As part of the honor of being nominated for this year’s award, Simmons and his fellow nominees will walk the Red Carpet prior to the ESPY Awards, which will be presented Wednesday night,

In addition to athletic performance, Gatorade Players of the Year are judged for excellence in the classroom and they must demonstrate strong character.

Winners are selected by a panel of nationwide sports writers and commentators.

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.