LSU basketball assistant Korey McCray leaving the program _lowres

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU assistant coaches Korey McCray, left, and David Patrick yell during the game against Missouri in January.

Already facing two roster holes, the LSU men’s basketball team’s coaching staff now has a vacancy to fill.

Tigers assistant Korey McCray is leaving after a lone season in Baton Rouge to “pursue other opportunities,” the school announced Thursday afternoon.

“We want to thank coach McCray for his time, energy and efforts that he put into our program last season,” coach Johnny Jones said in a statement. “We wish him well as he embarks on a new journey.”

McCray’s exit had been whispered about for weeks.

A year ago, he arrived to replace Robert Kirby, who left for Memphis, with the reputation as a recruiting guru under Ben Howland at UCLA.

McCray, who spent two seasons on the Bruins’ staff, was the former director of the Atlanta Celtics, an elite AAU program. He had been a skills development trainer for NBA clients such as Dwight Howard and John Wall.

“It was a privilege to be at LSU,” McCray said in a statement. “I know the program is moving in the right direction. I wish them nothing but great success in the future.”

McCray had not been a major figure in landing top-flight prospects since Jones tapped him as Kirby’s replacement.

Instead, assistant coach David Patrick has been the lead recruiter, landing top talent such as swingman Ben Simmons, currently rated by ESPN as the No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2015.

McCray did have a tie to rising sophomore point guard Tim Quarterman, an alum of the Celtics program. But Quarterman committed and signed long before McCray showed up at LSU.

Meanwhile, McCray’s duties expanded beyond the occasional scouting report and assisting Patrick and fellow assistant Charlie Leonard during practice instruction.

In the early days after he was hired, McCray said he came to LSU under the notion that he wouldn’t be pigeon-holed as a recruiter, but that may not have unfolded in the way he thought.

In April, Jones said staff changes were possible.

“You just never know,” Jones said at the time. “Things are always up for change. So that’s something that may play itself out as well. ... We feel that we have a capable staff assembled.”

The Tigers have tried to land players to fill two spots that opened when swingman Shane Hammink and guards Anthony Hickey and Malik Morgan departed last month.

Patrick tried to get Houston transfer Danuel House to make a campus visit after the NCAA-mandated dead period ended May 30. Instead, House committed to Texas A&M.

The Tigers also reportedly tried to gauge the interest of Niagara’s Antoine Mason, whose 25.6 points per game ranked second nationally. But Mason, who would be eligible immediately, is apparently looking to stay in the northeast, taking visits to Providence and Boston College along with Auburn.

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