CHARLOTTE, N.C. — LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones said he doesn’t believe freshman guard Antonio Blakeney’s eligibility will be an issue in the wake of an alleged sex scandal involving the Louisville program.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon at Southeastern Conference media day, Jones confirmed Blakeney met with NCAA investigators in Baton Rouge several weeks ago about the scandal that was reported by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on Tuesday.
According to the report, Blakeney and other recruits allegedly had sexual encounters with women paid for by a former Louisville graduate assistant coach during official visits to the school.
Blakeney, who was one of the nation’s top recruits last season, originally committed to Louisville in September 2014 before he changed his mind and decided to join Jones’ program in January.
ESPN reported Blakeney and his guardian, as well as former LSU player Jordan Mickey, were among those who had sex with women in the school’s basketball dormitory.
Mickey’s official visit would have come two years before Blakeney’s. He eventually signed with LSU and played two seasons before entering the NBA draft this summer and was a second-round pick of the Boston Celtics.
When asked if there was any concern about Blakeney’s eligibility for the upcoming season, Jones said there was none.
“Not at all,” he said. “We haven’t been given any reason to be alarmed about anything in terms of him moving forward, or in terms of his eligibility status because of an official visit he may have taken to another school.
“Everything we understand, we have no reason to believe there’s any reason for us to worry about Antonio’s eligibility … or to believe it would have anything to do with whether or not he’ll be playing next year.”
Jones said he didn’t know much more than that because he wasn’t privy to the conversation between Blakeney, a shooting guard from Orlando, Florida, who was part of LSU’s third-ranked recruiting class, and the NCAA.
“I’m not able to really speak on it because it’s obviously an ongoing investigation,” Jones said. “I never asked him what happened. Obviously I’ve just seen about as much as you have on TV.
“The only thing I’ve shared with him was in terms of staying the course, staying focused. I understand the little that we know about the situation is probably more between him and his God than it is him and the NCAA.”
In her book entitled “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen” and in a conversation with “Outside the Lines,” escort Katina Powell named Blakeney as one of the recruits who had sex with a stripper she brought to the dorm at the request of former Louisville assistant Andre McGee.
Powell alleged she and her daughter met with Blakeney and his guardian during a recruiting visit to the school.
Jones said he believes the scandal won’t become a distraction for his team, which is preparing for its regular-season opener on Nov. 13 against McNeese State.
“I’ve addressed it with the players to make sure they support him and make sure that they rally around him,” he said. “This, too, shall pass and it will move on. It’s in the moment now, and it’s something he’ll grow from.”
Jones later said it could be a distraction for Blakeney, who is contending for a starting berth in what is expected to be a three-guard lineup.
“I think so … any time you take a kid that young and something is thrown at him like that, the national media or local media you have to deal with, I think it can be (a problem),” Jones noted. “We’re fortunate he’s surrounded by some great teammates and a family unit there that he’ll get through this.
“Hopefully, he can continue to focus on his academics and the things he needs to do there in basketball.”
Blakeney, who was the No. 16 composite prospect in the nation this winter, was expected to join Jones and consensus No. 1 recruit Ben Simmons at media day on Wednesday, but Jones left Blakeney in Baton Rouge and brought senior Keith Hornsby instead.
“I left (Blakeney) back because it would have been a distraction for him,” Jones said.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.