As he had expected for almost two weeks, LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones had a second player declare for the NBA draft when junior guard Tim Quarterman officially announced his plans to turn pro.
Jones confirmed Monday to The Advocate that Quarterman, a 6-foot-6 point guard from Savannah, Georgia, was leaving the program to enter the draft and would sign with an agent. Yahoo Sports, citing league sources, first reported the news late Sunday night.
On Monday afternoon, Quarterman posted this message on Instagram: “After consulting with my mom, family and my coaches I have decided to forego my senior season at LSU and enter the NBA draft I want (to) thank my teammates, coaches and my academic advisors for being there for me while at LSU. I really want to give a shout to the fans for supporting me at LSU and the relationships I made with (people) in Baton Rouge will last me a lifetime!”
Quarterman follows freshman forward Ben Simmons, who announced a week ago he was turning pro and three days later hired an agent. Simmons likely will be the first or second player chosen in the June 23 draft.
Like Simmons’ announcement early last week, Quarterman’s move wasn’t a shock to Jones. The fourth-year coach said in his postseason news conference March 15 that Quarterman was likely going to give professional ball a shot.
Players who declare for the draft by April 24 are allowed to test the waters and get feedback from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee about their chances of being drafted. If they don’t sign with an agent by May 25, they can remove their name and regain their college eligibility.
“We talked and we knew it was a possibility at the press conference that it was a route he was going to go,” Jones said. “I think just recently he decided to go ahead and obtain an agent. Now he can go ahead and invest his time and energy fully in his workouts, and prepare and get himself ready.”
Jones said Quarterman withdrew from school and left his Georgia home Sunday for Cleveland, where he’s expected to prepare for the NBA scouting combine, which will be held May 11-15 in Chicago.
After last year’s draft, NBADraft.net listed Quarterman on its early mock draft as a first-round pick, the 21st overall selection. After a dazzling sophomore season in which he averaged 11.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and a team-leading 4.0 assists per game, Quarterman averaged 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists in starting 27 of 33 games this season.
But he struggled at times while trying to make the adjustment to having the 6-10 Simmons handle the ball much of the time — especially on the fast break. In addition to leading the team at 19.2 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, Simmons finished with a team-best 4.8 assists as LSU posted a 19-14 record. The Tigers didn’t make the NCAA tournament, then declined to be considered for any other postseason event.
Jones said Monday he wouldn’t be surprised if freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, like Simmons a McDonald’s All-American, puts his name in the draft as well.
Blakeney also was listed as a potential first-round pick last summer by NBADraft.net after coming to LSU as a five-star prospect. He was ranked as high as the No. 14 recruit in the nation.
Jones said the new rule allowing underclassmen to put their name in the draft and gauge interest from teams, while retaining their eligibility as long as they don’t sign with an agent, could be beneficial to Blakeney.
But Jones said there was nothing new to report on Blakeney, who was on campus Monday when classes resumed following spring break. Jones said Blakeney hasn’t requested an opinion from the NBA advisory committee.
“I talked to him, visited with him, and we’ll continue to talk,” Jones said. “With the new rules that are out there, I think it’s good and it’s easy for all of these kids because obviously give them a bit more flexibility. They can get information. … If that’s what your ultimate goal is, to have an opportunity to play at that level, you want to obtain as much information as you possibly can. So that wouldn’t surprise me if that happened.”
Blakeney, a 6-4 shooting guard, averaged 12.6 points after scoring in double digits in 14 of the Tigers’ final 18 games — including 20 or more points in six of those contests.
“I’m hopeful,” Jones said when asked whether he was counting on having Blakeney next season. “I want him to do, at the end of the day, what’s best for him and his family. If that’s him coming back to school and continuing to develop into a situation and continues to improve like he did, building on how he finished the year, I don’t think there’s a ceiling of what can happen for him.”
NOTE: Simmons was named to the first team on the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division I All-America team. The team is selected and voted on by member coaches of the NABC in Division I and is made up of three teams of five players each. Simmons was the only freshman named to the three teams.