Sizing up the news from LSU basketball on Wednesday …
Jarell Martin’s early departure for the NBA draft was hardly unexpected. The 6-foot-10 Martin looked like a pro to end the season, averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds in LSU’s last eight games.
His controversial through-the-legs slammer a month ago against Florida may not have demonstrated the best decision-making skills, but showed his basketball skills may be worthy of the NBA’s dunk contest his rookie season.
Certainly it’s not a plus for the Tigers from an on-the-court perspective that Martin is going. But other than arguing that he may improve from a late first-rounder to a lottery pick were he to return for his junior campaign, there’s not a lot of reason for him to stay.
As for Jordan Mickey, the other “M” in LSU’s M & M duo, his absence from Martin’s news conference was conspicuous considering the rest of the Tigers were there.
Mickey likely didn’t want to be pressed on when he would decide whether to jump into the draft pool with Martin or return for his junior season.
Mickey even went to the surprising length of issuing a statement through LSU on Tuesday that he hadn’t yet made up his mind, an answer to media reports that he was leaning toward leaving.
Apparently Mickey is torn about what to do, but common sense says he should stay. NBA mock drafts don’t have him going even in the second (and last) round, meaning he would have to either latch on as a free-agent contract, play in the NBA Developmental League, or play overseas.
Though the nation’s top shot blocker with 3.7 per contest, at 6-foot-8, Mickey’s game doesn’t translate well to the NBA. He won’t be able to play inside in the pros like he does in college. And his ball-handling skills mean his talents don’t transition well to the perimeter.
That said, would another year at LSU change Mickey’s skill set appreciably? Probably not. Hence his dilemma.
Martin wasn’t the only departure Wednesday, as Nevada announced it hired LSU assistant Eric Musselman as its new head coach.
Musselman spent just one year in Tigertown, but his quick exit shouldn’t be seen as a knock on the program. As a former NBA head coach with Golden State and Sacramento, Musselman made no secret of the fact that he wanted to be a head coach again. That it came with a program out west (once base of operations for former LSU coach Trent Johnson) had to make it that much more attractive for him.
Who will be his replacement? Coach Johnny Jones cell phone was blowing up with calls from coaches and agents during his and Martin’s news conference, candidates eager for the chance to work with a program that nationally appears to be rising.
The name of just-fired Mississippi State coach Rick Ray is almost sure to come up, as is that of former LSU point guard Randy Livingston (who amazingly turns 40 next week, where does the time go?), now scouting and consulting in Australia.
Does Jones go for a technician like Musselman or a top recruiter like current assistant David Patrick? He should be able to have his pick.
Women’s basketball also took the spotlight Wednesday as Nikki Caldwell wrapped up her fourth season.
Many LSU fans are down on Caldwell, who is 83-50 here after going 17-14 in a star-crossed 2014-15, questioning whether she is earning her $750,000 a year salary.
Caldwell is an excellent bench coach, but needs to pull in some better talent and knows it. Just one player can help LSU rejoin the women’s elite, but that player needs to be a future Olympian and/or NBA first-rounder.
Unfortunately for her, LSU hasn’t produced many Semione Augustuses or Temeka Johnsons in recent years, so the Lady Tigers will likely have to fight for players of their caliber on out-of-state (or foreign) soil.
Like the LSU men with the addition of at least Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney, the prospects for the Lady Tigers are for a better 2015-16. But returning to the Women’s Final Four is predicated on improving the talent level, something Caldwell with her background at Tennessee knows all about.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.