The LSU men’s basketball team’s already-impressive recruiting class for the 2015-16 season got some extra help Friday with the addition of Craig Victor, a transfer from Arizona.
Victor, a 6-foot-9, 205-pound power forward from New Orleans, will enroll at LSU for the spring semester and will be eligible to play for the Tigers in mid-December, after the fall semester comes to an end.
A former St. Augustine High School standout who played his senior season at Findlay College Prep in Las Vegas, Victor will have 2½ seasons of eligibility remaining when he suits up for the Tigers.
“The key thing for me was staying home and being close to my family,” said Victor, who chose LSU over Oklahoma State. “I’ve been gone two years. … There’s nothing like (New Orleans).”
At LSU, Victor is in line to join forward Ben Simmons, the top-ranked player in the country this season out of Montverde Academy in Florida, and Antonio Blakeney, a five-star shooting guard from Oak Ridge High in Orlando, Florida.
Simmons signed on the first day of the early signing period in November. Blakeney committed Jan. 2 after considering top-ranked Kentucky; he’s expected to make it official in the spring signing period that begins April 15.
“He has been an excellent power forward and did a great job in the paint,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “I thought he would have been the top player in the state last year had he stayed and not gone on to Findlay Prep. He’s a guy we certainly need. I think it would be very difficult to go out and find a high school player that could play the post position and be as productive as he could possibly be for us in a year.”
Victor could fill a void for the Tigers if Jarell Martin or Jordan Mickey — or both — declares for the NBA draft after this season.
Victor was a four-star prospect and the No. 37 player on the ESPN 100 list for the Class of 2014. He was rated the ninth-best power forward in the country when he chose Arizona over LSU, Oklahoma State and Kansas.
He appeared in eight of Arizona’s first 14 games and averaged just 3.1 points, 1.1 rebounds and 7.1 minutes for the No. 7 Wildcats before deciding earlier this week to leave the school.
On Friday, Victor and his AAU coach from New Orleans, Greg Holmes, sent in the necessary paperwork to LSU to make it official. Victor has played summer ball for Holmes since he was 10 years old and was a teammate of Martin’s for two years on Holmes’ New Orleans Elite team.
“He’s a smart kid. … He’s patient, he’s tough, he knows the game,” Holmes said. “Craig is very versatile at his position and has a great mid-range game. He passes the ball well out of the post and he has the skills that can really help LSU win a lor of games once he’s given that chance.
“He’s going to present mismatch problems for a lot of guys. He likes Coach Jones because Johnny lets them play to their ability, and that’s a good thing. With the class they got coming in, it’s going to be unbelievable.”
While Holmes said the desire to play closer to home played a big role in Victor’s decision, being caught up in the numbers game for a star-studded Arizona team that’s 14-1 didn’t hurt.
At Findlay, Victor averaged 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds, leading his team to a 31-5 record and a No. 6 national ranking last season.
Holmes said about 25 or 30 schools contacted Victor when he announced he was leaving Arizona. Among them were defending national champion Connecticut, UCLA, Oregon and Seton Hall. But they were too far away.
“I’m happy to be able to start this chapter of my life and basketball career at LSU,” Victor said. “I’m happy to be home. I look forward to being able to further develop my skills with Coach Jones and the LSU coaching staff.”
When asked what he’ll bring to Jones’ team, Victor said, “Toughness and leadership and working hard and getting the job done. … A lot of action and less talking. I’m a man of few words; I’m more about doing than talking.”