You would think that someone who showed nerves of steel in knocking down a buzzer-beating 3-point shot to lift his team to the national high school championship wouldn’t be lacking in confidence.
But LSU freshman guard Jalyn Patterson isn’t ashamed to admit he wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence when he stepped on campus last June.
Partly because of a clean-up procedure on his knee that kept him from participating in summer workouts, Patterson had to slowly build his confidence up to blend in on a team loaded with scoring threats.
In doing so, LSU coach Johnny Jones said Patterson earned the trust of his teammates, who started looking to get him the ball more and more.
“I just tried to go out there and play,” Patterson said, noting that he had to make some adjustments to his game. “I had to get to know them better and when they got the ball to me, I couldn’t be passive with it and things like that.”
He did, at their urging.
All-Southeastern Conference forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey and fellow guard Tim Quarterman were among those who not-so-gently nudged Patterson in the right direction.
“Some of my teammates started getting on me to be more confident on the floor,” he said. “It started in practice, but they just wanted me to step up and make shots. They had confidence in me, and that was big coming from them. It helped me out.”
In turn, it helped the team. When the Tigers were struggling on the perimeter on offense and defense in early February, Jones made the decision to put Quarterman and Patterson in the starting lineup.
The Tigers went 6-3 with those two and earned the No. 4 seed in the SEC tournament. With a double-bye, LSU (22-9, 11-7 SEC) will play Friday in the quarterfinals around 2:30 p.m. in Nashville, Tennessee, and Patterson could play a key role in its bid to nail down an NCAA tournament berth.
Patterson is no stranger to big tournament games. He helped Montverde (Florida) Academy to two consecutive national titles, calmly burying a 3-point shot at the buzzer last spring for a 67-65 win over St. Benedict’s Prep in the ESPN National Invitational title game.
“He’s won national championships, so it’s not uncommon for him to want to have the ball in his hands late,” Jones said when asked about Patterson’s calm demeanor. “I don’t think he ever worries or fears having to take tough shots.”
But it took him a while to blend in at LSU after having his knee surgery in April.
He said he was a little rusty and didn’t know what to expect when he was finally able to do basketball drills in the fall — long after his teammates had been playing together.
“Coach Jones and (associate head coach) coach (David) Patrick told me anything I got I was going to have to earn,” Patterson said. “That was my mindset coming in, and I just had to go to work.”
The results have certainly been positive. Patterson averaged 5.4 points in his first 20 games, but increased that to 9.0 points per game — to go with 3.2 assists a game — since joining the starting lineup.
He had career-bests of 16 points and seven assists in an 84-61 drubbing of Auburn on Feb. 24, and last Saturday had another career-high with 20 points with six 3-pointers in a huge 81-78 victory at Arkansas.
Coupled with his ability to take care of the ball and his hard work on the defensive end, Patterson quickly became a valuable asset.
Patterson, who missed two games with a concussion at midseason, has just 24 turnovers in 29 games — with 14 in 16 SEC games — a stat that amazes guard Keith Hornsby.
“He just doesn’t force much very much … he doesn’t drive in all wild,” Hornsby said. “He’s very stable, and that’s pretty rare for a freshman. You don’t see that a lot, so that bodes well for his future here.”
“Jalyn gives great effort out on the floor,” Jones said, “and he does not turn the ball over. That’s a big positive for us.”
Pep rally set
The Nashville Chapter of the LSU Alumni Association and Tiger Athletic Foundation will host a pep rally on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Omni Hotel, 250 5th Avenue South in downtown Nashville.
There will be complimentary snacks as well as a cash bar.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter: @MicklesAdvocate.