Monday could be a huge day for the LSU men’s basketball program.
The following nine days will be just as big for Will Wade and the Tigers, who are awaiting the decision of three key contributors from last season’s team that put their names in the NBA draft last month.
With the return of combo guard Javonte Smart, who announced Saturday night via Twitter that he'll be back for his sophomore season, it was a good start for LSU.
But adding a big piece to the puzzle on Monday could be another important step for Wade and his team for the upcoming season.
It looks like Javonte Smart is staying in Baton Rouge for another season.
After failing to land two big targets in the late signing period, LSU will try to reel in McDonald’s All-American Trendon Watford, who'll announce his college choice Monday afternoon.
Watford, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound power forward, could help fill the void left by Naz Reid if he chooses the Tigers.
A native of Mountain Brook, Alabama, Watford last month narrowed his list of schools to LSU, Memphis, Alabama and Indiana.
He’s expected to announce his choice at 2:30 p.m. Monday in the Mountain Brook High gym, where he helped the Spartans to three consecutive Class 7A state titles.
That would be another bit of good news for LSU after Smart, who averaged 11.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists during his freshman, announced his return.
Watford is ranked 17th on the 247 Sports composite list of the nation's best players and 19th on the ESPN 100 listing for the 2019 recruiting class.
He’s also rated the No. 4 power forward in the country by 247 Sports, which has Watford as a heavy lean to LSU over Memphis.
As had been expected since announcing he was putting his name in the NBA draft on April 4, point guard Tremont Waters has played his last game…
After completing his high school career, Watford won all five all-star games he played in — the biggest being the McDonald’s All-American game and Jordan Brand Classic.
He had 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the McDonald’s game and followed that with 18 points and seven rebounds in the Jordan Brand game.
The five-star prospect would be the third signee and the crown jewel of Wade’s 2019 class.
In November, the program received the signatures of combo guard James Bishop of Mount Saint Joseph’s High in Baltimore and Charles Manning, a junior-college shooting guard from Florida SouthWestern State College.
But two other targets got away earlier this month when shooting guard Lester Quinones signed with Memphis and junior-college power forward Khadim Sy, who started 28 games for Virginia Tech in 2017, chose Ole Miss.
Losing out on Sy was big because former assistant coach Tony Benford, who served as interim coach when Wade was suspended for five weeks, said their goal was to bring in two bigs and a wing player.
Even if they sign Watford, Wade and his coaching staff will have some work to do even with the return of Smart.
They would likely fill out the roster with graduate transfers, junior-college players or high school players who reclassify and enter college a year early, like guard Aundre Hyatt did a year ago.
LSU basketball's Naz Reid chose to come to Baton Rouge for everything but money.
The Tigers have been successful with junior-college signees under Wade.
Guard Daryl Edwards was a big help two years ago before a series of injuries sidelined him last season and Wade brought in guard Marlon Taylor and forward Courtese Cooper last summer.
Taylor wound up starting 24 games and the 6-8 Cooper, who redshirted last season, is expected to be a big contributor this season.
Complicating matters, however, are the six players who put their names in the NBA draft.
While point guard Tremont Waters has said he will remain in the draft and Reid will likely do the same, guards Skylar Mays and Taylor and forward Emmitt Williams have until May 29 to withdraw.
Waters dipped his toes in the NBA draft waters last spring, but waited until the day before the deadline to withdraw and tell Wade he was coming back.
If Mays, Taylor and Williams return and the Tigers get Watford, Wade would still have three scholarships to give to players who could help this season, or get a transfer or two who would redshirt this season and be eligible for the 2020-21 campaign.
No matter what happens, it'll be an important 10-day stretch for Wade and his staff.