In the end, LSU forward Jarell Martin didn’t feel like he needed to get an NBA evaluation to decide whether he should give up his final two years of eligibility and turn professional.
After two seasons of college basketball, the 6-foot-10 Martin figured he was ready — mentally and physically — to take his game to the next level. He informed Tigers coach Johnny Jones on Monday that he wouldn’t be returning for his junior year.
On Wednesday, with family members looking on and Jones by his side while teammates lined the wall of the interview room at the LSU practice facility, the Baton Rouge native made it official: He’ll enter the NBA draft to be held June 25.
News broke late Tuesday of his decision, which wasn’t totally unexpected after the former Madison Prep star, a McDonald’s All-America selection as a high school senior, was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference pick.
While he produced solid numbers most of the season to rank third in the league with 16.9 points and 9.2 rebounds a game, his numbers jumped dramatically in the final eight games.
He averaged 20.1 points and 10.6 rebounds in that stretch, which ended with a 66-65 loss to North Carolina State in the NCAA tournament Thursday.
That night, he already knew he was going after watching the number of scouts who showed up game after game to see him and fellow forward Jordan Mickey, a first-team All-SEC pick as well, play.
“Toward the end of the season, I started being real aggressive and making plays for my team,” Martin said of when he knew. “I was just doing a good job being aggressive. I felt like I was physically and mentally prepared for the next level.
“I’ve been getting a lot of good reports. … It sounds pretty good,” he said. “Everything has been going good. I’ve just been getting good feedback from people up at the next level. I definitely feel like I’m in a good situation.”
Mickey and his father said Tuesday they’ll wait on an evaluation from the NBA before deciding whether to return to school or make the jump. Jones said Mickey is still enrolled in school.
Martin made the decision early, much as he did a year ago when he announced he’d return to school shortly after the end of an injury-filled freshman season in which he averaged 10.6 points and 4.6 rebounds.
“Last year, I felt I wasn’t ready,” he said. “I needed to get better physically and mentally. This year, I’ve gotten better. I put in a lot of work during the offseason to get me to this stage, and it showed during the season.
“I played my heart out, and I became more mature and responsible on the mental part. I feel I’m physically and mentally prepared.”
So does Jones, who noted that Martin, who’s projected to go late in the first round or early second, never sought an NBA evaluation a year ago, proving he knew he wasn’t ready.
“Jarell, through his hard work and attention to detail, is not only prepared physically but mentally as well,” Jones said. “We were glad he decided to come back last year and continue to improve on his skills.
“He’s certainly one of the vital reasons we have had the success we’ve had in this program over the last couple of years. It’s because of his services. We are certainly going to miss him, but we understand the position he has chosen.”
Martin said financial reasons also played a part in the decision.
In starting 56 of 64 games at LSU, he averaged 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds a game while shooting 49.5 percent —51.0 percent this season — from the field.
He had 46 double-digit scoring games and 16 double-doubles, 15 this season.
While the physical talent is there, Jones said the pros will like his demeanor.
“I think they can see he’s very coachable. Jarell is one of those guys that’s a self-starter, and he works extremely hard,” he said. “The two seasons I’ve had him here, I’ve never had to prod him or tell him to work harder.”