They had to wait a while, but it was worth it.
The LSU basketball team picked up its first recruit of the spring Monday afternoon when five-star power forward Trendon Watford announced he was joining Will Wade’s program.
Watford, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound McDonald’s All-American from Mountain Brook High in Birmingham, Alabama, is ranked 15th by Rivals.com, 17th on the 247 Sports composite and 19th on the ESPN 100 listing.
Watford, who is rated the No. 4 power forward in the country by 247 Sports, picked LSU over Memphis, Alabama and Indiana.
Surrounded by his parents, Ernest and Belinda, and siblings Christian and Elise, Watford made the announcement by pulling a white cap with the letters “LSU” emblazoned on it from beneath a table they were sitting behind.
“It feels good,” Watford told reporters of finally getting the decision out of the way. “I’m 100 percent confident in my decision and just ready to get on campus. Boot up!”
He was expected to make his college choice at the Jordan Brand Classic all-star game on April 20, but those plans changed because the game wasn’t televised.
When asked why he chose LSU, Watford said it was the relationship and trust he had in Wade and assistant coach Bill Armstrong — a longtime friend of the Watford family.
Monday could be a huge day for the LSU men’s basketball program.
“It was the trust, you know, the trust I have in those coaches to get me better on and off the court,” he said. “They're going to help me reach my potential.”
Watford, who averaged 23.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.1 steals as a senior, fills a need for a versatile big man after the loss of 6-10 power forward Naz Reid to the NBA draft.
“He’s a versatile forward who has a unique ability to make plays for the team and himself,” Wade said in a news release. “He’s proven that his game translates to winning at every level. We look forward to playing a role in his continued development.”
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 the Jordan Brand Classic.
He had 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the McDonald’s game and followed with 18 points and seven rebounds in the Jordan Brand Classic.
The solid showings against top-notch competition capped a successful career for Watford as he led Mountain Brook to three consecutive Alabama 7A state titles. The Spartans were 96-12 in that three-year stretch with records of 31-5, 34-3 and 31-3.
Watford scored 3,567 career points, which puts him in the top 10 in Alabama High School Athletic Association histor, and set a state record with 1,909 career rebounds.
He wore his three championship rings on his left hand Monday while signing papers to attend LSU, where he will check onto campus June 5 for the summer semester.
Wade now has three signees in its 2019 class after getting the signatures last fall of 6-2 combo guard James Bishop of Mount Saint Joseph’s in Baltimore and Charles Manning, a 6-5 junior-college shooting guard from Florida SouthWestern State College.
LSU basketball's Naz Reid chose to come to Baton Rouge for everything but money.
Watford said he expects to fit in rather easily with an LSU team that won 28 games last season.
“I feel like I can fit in great,” he said. “Naz Reid, he’s not there any more and I feel like I can replace him and just pick up from where he left off last year.”
The signing of Watford, a two-time Alabama Mr. Basketball, was a boost for LSU after the Tigers lost out on two targets earlier this month — 6-5 shooting guard Lester Quinones and 6-10 power forward Khadim Sy.
The addition of Watford gave LSU its second bit of good news in three days.
On Saturday night, guard Javonte Smart announced he was returning for his sophomore year after putting his name in the NBA draft.
He’ll be the favorite to win the starting point guard job after Tremont Waters said last week that he will remain in the NBA draft.
Wade is still waiting on word from three other early NBA entrants: combo guard Skylar Mays, shooting guard Marlon Taylor and forward Emmitt Williams.
They have until May 29 to withdraw and return to school.
If all return, Wade would have three scholarships to fill out his roster with late junior-college signees, graduate transfers who could be eligible immediately, or transfers who would have to redshirt this season.