As he prepared to leave Walk-Ons late Thursday night, the smile on LSU guard Tim Quarterman’s face was a little bigger than usual.
After all, there was reason to be happy following a couple of rounds of cheers, hugs and handshakes for an LSU basketball program that came so close to making school history in the NBA draft.
The Tigers came within three picks of having two players selected in the first round of the same draft when Jarell Martin was taken in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies and Jordan Mickey went to the Boston Celtics in the second.
Martin, a 6-foot-10 forward, became the 14th LSU player to go in the first round of the NBA draft when the Grizzlies chose him 25th overall, while Mickey, a 6-8 forward, was the third pick of the second round — 33rd overall.
In less than an hour, Quarterman, a junior-to-be, saw both his roommates and fellow members of the Tigers’ recruiting class of 2013 take the next step in their basketball careers.
Quarterman was among the family, friends, coaches and teammates who joined Martin to watch the draft unfold from a private dining room, then celebrated some more when Mickey’s name was announced just eight picks later.
“It was a lot of fun just to be here and experience it with Jarell,” Quarterman said. “Then, to see Jordan’s name go up on the bottom of the (TV) screen made it even better. It was a great experience for my roommates.
“Everybody here is happy for a reason,” he said. “Jarell is excited and Jordan is, too. Both those guys worked hard for this, and I know they’ll continue to work hard. They have a bright future ahead of them.”
Martin and Mickey, who were both first-team All-Southeastern Conference picks this past season when they led LSU to a 22-11 record and first NCAA tournament berth since 2009, hope to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Johnny O’Bryant.
O’Bryant, the 36th overall pick of the 2014 draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, earned a roster spot last fall and played in 34 games with 15 starts after overcoming a knee injury in the preseason.
They’re the first three Tigers to play for coach Johnny Jones at LSU to be drafted. Jones inherited O’Bryant from Trent Johnson, but Martin, a Baton Rouge native, and Mickey were the building blocks for Jones’ first full recruiting class in his second season at the school.
As a result, it was also an exciting time for assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator David Patrick. He said he remembers sitting in the homes of Martin and Mickey two years ago trying to get them to be the foundation, along with Quarterman, for their new team.
“First and foremost, I’m so happy for Jarell and Jordan and their families,” Patrick said. “We recruited them as high school players, and to see how far they’ve come in a short amount of time is wonderful.
“Now, they’ll be able to take care of themselves and their families as well.”
Patrick admitted it’s not such a bad thing for the program, either, even though LSU is losing the two most productive players from its frontcourt.
“I think Johnny O’Bryant leaving a year early and sticking with an NBA team, and then us making the NCAA tournament and having these two guys picked is huge,” Patrick said. “It says a lot for this program.
“A big part of that was Jarell and Jordan laying it on the line when we were recruiting them,” he noted. “There was a big unknown for them when they signed, but they had faith and saw the vision we had and committed to us. They’re a big part of the kids we have now.”
That means Thursday night’s draft celebration could become a common occurrence for LSU.
Three players on the roster for the upcoming season — top recruits Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney and Quarterman — are projected as first-round picks in the 2016 draft, according to NBADraft.net.
In its early 2016 mock draft, the website has Simmons, a 6-foot-10 forward, going first, with Blakeney at No. 14 and Quarterman 28th.
“It shows that this program is on the upswing,” Patrick said.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.