After making a lot of noise on the first day of the early signing period in November, when LSU officially landed the No. 1 basketball recruit in the nation, the rest of the week-long signing window was rather quiet.
It remained that way until Friday afternoon when the No. 14 prospect on the ESPN 100 recruits list, five-star guard Antonio Blakeney of Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, Florida, committed to Johnny Jones’ program.
The 6-foot-4, 170-pound Blakeney, attired in a white shirt and black suit coat with a black bowtie, calmly announced on ESPNU that he will join 6-10 forward Ben Simmons in a Tigers’ uniform next season.
Simmons, a native of Australia, played the past two seasons for national power Montverde Academy in Clermont, Florida, and is ranked as the top senior in the country by most recruiting services.
A teammate of Simmons last summer in AAU ball, Blakeney chose LSU over Kentucky, which is currently ranked No. 1, and Missouri. He also reportedly considered North Carolina and North Carolina State in recent weeks.
When asked on the telecast why he picked LSU, Blakeney said, “Really because of the coach (Jones) and the plan he has for the program. They’ve only been there a few years; it’s up and coming.
“It’s really a football school right now, but they’re trying to change the culture there,” he said. “I just really want to be a part of that. That’s something I would love to be a part of.”
Shortly after committing, Blakeney tweeted: “Man It Feels Good. Wanna Thank All The Schools Who Recruited Me!! LSU Tigers Here I Come!!”
“WE DID IT congrats to my Brother @Blakeney96,” Simmons tweeted in a post that was accompanied by three tiger face emoticons.
Simmons hoped to get his friend, ranked as the No. 2 shooting guard in the nation, to join him since they visited LSU together the weekend of the school’s huge football game with Alabama in early November.
The potential pairing of Blakeney, a dynamic perimeter player who can score from anywhere on the court, with the multi-talented Simmons sent a ripple through the college basketball world.
LSU, which was ranked 22nd in the Class of 2015 recruiting by ESPN prior to the announcement, jumped all the way to sixth.
“LSU hoops scores BIG with verbal (from) Antonio Blakeney - a DYNAMIC DUO he will form with Ben Simmons,” tweeted ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale.
Paul Biancardi, the national recruiting director for ESPN.com and former head coach at Wright State, said Blakeney is a “multi-dimensional scoring guard who finds a way to score the basketball.”
“He’s capable of putting up big numbers in any game,” Biancardi said. “Misses do not faze this young man as he has a short memory and plays with great offensive confidence. I love his 3-point shot … it’s deep, it’s accurate.”
Blakeney is averaging more than 30 points a game this season for Oak Ridge.
He originally committed to Louisville in September, but decommitted just 11 days later. His commitment to LSU is nonbinding until the spring signing period begins April 15.
In the end, he said the signing of Simmons greatly influenced his decision.
“It factored in a lot just because I know how good he is,” Blakeney said of Simmons, who’s rated as a solid scorer and rebounder as well as an unselfish passer of the ball.
“I know how good he is and how good he can make a team. We can take a lot of stress off each other off the court, so that had a lot to do with it.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.