Brandon Sampson said he took St. John’s decision to part ways with coach Steve Lavin last month as a sign. Ultimately, that sign led Louisiana’s reigning Mr. Basketball to sign with LSU on Monday morning.
“Not everybody gets a second chance to get recruited,” Sampson said after signing a letter-of-intent with the Tigers. “It was pretty overwhelming at times if you let it get to you. It’s a lot of stress off my shoulders.
“I prayed long and hard about it and talked it over with my mom. I just really wanted to follow my heart. I’ll get all the recognition I can and put myself on that stage.”
The signing of the 6-foot-5 Madison Prep star guard gives LSU three players ranked in the top 40 nationally by ESPN. The Tigers signed the nation’s top player, Ben Simmons of Montverde Academy, during the early signing period in the fall.
LSU also has a commitment from another top guard and Florida-based recruit, Oak Ridge High’s Antonio Blakeney, who is rated 14th. Sampson is listed as the No. 39 recruit by ESPN. LSU had ESPN’s No. 7 recruiting class before Sampson’s signing. Another service, 24-7, now lists LSU as No. 1 in its basketball rankings.
Sampson is the second Mr. Basketball from Madison Prep to sign with the Tigers. Former teammate Jarell Martin was Mr. Basketball in 2013 and played two seasons at LSU before recently opting to turn pro.
The abruptly called press conference held in front of the Madison Prep student body came approximately three weeks after Sampson reopened his recruiting after St. John’s fired Lavin.
New St. John’s coach Chris Mullin visited Baton Rouge over the weekend in an attempt to lure Sampson back toward the Red Storm. Sampson listed St. John’s and Oklahoma State as his other finalists.
Sampson was visibly nervous as he addressed the crowd and media on hand.
“I’d like to thank everybody who supported me through it all,” Sampson said. “I’d like to thank all you all. I’d like to further my education and my basketball career at Louisiana State University.”
Sampson then donned an LSU baseball cap and signed the scholarship papers as his parents, Maude Sampson and Brian Landry, looked on. Sampson led MPA to the Class 1A state title last month with averages of 15.9 points, 2.9 assists and 2.2 rebounds.
“I talked to them (Simmons and Blakeney) a lot over time,” Sampson noted later. “We had a lot of talks — me, Antonio and Ben. They felt like it was a good fit with us coming in. We can be a top class coming in, and we can do big things.”
Sampson said the recruiting push from LSU did escalate some after his decision to decommit from St. John’s. He credited LSU coach Johnny Jones for taking a consistent approach during the recruiting process over the past couple of years.
“I think coach Jones did a good job of showing Brandon how and where he would fit in,” Madison Prep coach Jeff Jones said. “He used Kentucky as an example. Kentucky plays 10 guys, and there’s a chance for everybody. It’ll be like that for LSU.
“It’s like watching a son grow up. I saw him come in as a skinny little ninth-grader, and I was always riding him hard. He had Jarell in front of him who really showed him the way. I’m proud to see him mature and make a good decision.”