Like teammate Jarell Martin, LSU forward Jordan Mickey didn’t need a lot of time to decide that he’s ready to take his game to the next level.
Mickey, an All-Southeastern Conference first-team pick this season, is giving up his final two years of college eligibility to enter the NBA draft, he and his father confirmed Tuesday.
The 6-foot-8 Mickey, a native of Dallas, joins his frontcourt mate of the past two seasons, Martin, in leaving LSU early for the professional ranks.
Martin, who was also a first-team All-SEC pick this season by the league’s coaches and media, announced last Wednesday that he was leaving school to pursue a pro basketball career after two years with the Tigers.
Mickey and Martin teamed up this season to give LSU, which finished 22-11 and earned an NCAA tournament bid for the first time since 2009, one of the best forward combinations in the country.
James Wright Sr. said his son made a final decision over the weekend after weighing his options and consulting with family members and people close to him following LSU’s season-ending loss to North Carolina State on March 19.
“I had a few people tell me and I talked to a few people,” Mickey said by phone from Dallas. “With the type of player that I am and the ability I have, especially with my defense and rebounding, it translates well to the NBA.
“A lot of NBA players can score; they need guys that can come in and play defense and rebound.”
Mickey has flashed that ability in two seasons at LSU, averaging 14.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots in starting all 65 games he played in. He led the SEC in blocks both years and this season had 113 to lead the nation with an average of 3.6 per game.
When he recorded 106 blocks as a freshman, Mickey became the second player in school history to reach triple digits in blocks in a single season — joining Shaquille O’Neal in that exclusive club.
Mickey, who was in Dallas to get treatment for an ankle injury he played with most of the season, said he informed LSU coach Johnny Jones of his decision “a day or two ago” and released a text announcing his intentions Tuesday.
“This was a tough decision because I hate to leave my teammates and LSU family,” Mickey said in the text. “We have been through a lot in the past two years as we have grown as a team. This is just the beginning for LSU, I’m confident great things are coming in the near future for this team as they continue to grow.
“I wanted things to end on a better note, but due to injuries I was limited in what I could do for my team,” he said. “Trust that I gave it my all.”
Mickey struggled in the final month of the season with ankle and shoulder injuries that limited his effectiveness when trying to defend bigger, stronger players in the paint. He also battled an iron deficiency that sapped his energy.
Wright said an unofficial decision to turn pro was made at midseason after getting feedback from various sources about his son’s future.
“We kind of felt at midseason that his body of work was good enough to enter the draft,” he said. “It was really tough on Jordan the way the end of the season unfolded, but he’s confident in his ability — especially his defense, rebounding and shot-blocking.
“Those are his strongest assets, and they translate to the NBA far easier than offense,” he said. “He finished in the top five in most defensive categories in the SEC, and that led him to believe he had done all he could as far as college opportunities go. So now we’ll see what’s at the next level.”
Mickey, who averaged 15.4 points and 9.9 rebounds in 31 games this season, considered leaving for the pros a year ago. But he decided just before the deadline to enter the draft to return for his sophomore season.
Mickey is ranked 57th on CBSSports.com’s draft board, but most mock drafts have he and Martin, who is ranked 31st, as early second round picks.
The loss of Mickey and Martin means Jones will have at least two new starters next year to go with the three-guard lineup of Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby and Jalyn Patterson who played the final 1½ months of the season.
The good news is 6-10 forward Benny Simmons, the nation’s top-rated recruit who signed in November, will get one spot up front with Arizona transfer Craig Victor, a 6-9 power forward, likely filling the other when he becomes eligible in early December.
LSU also has a commitment from five-star guard Antonio Blakeney of Orlando, Florida, and is in the running for five-star guard Malik Newman of Callaway High School in Jackson, Mississippi, as well as 6-7 forward Melvin Frazier, a four-star prospect from L.W. Higgins High School in Marrero.
“I want to thank Jordan Mickey for the impact he made on the LSU basketball program over the last two years,” Jones said in a university news release. “Jordan’s growth, hard work and competitive spirit allowed us to compete at a higher level. We want to wish Jordan and his family all the best as he continues to pursue the next chapter of his basketball career.”
Mickey on Driesell list
Earlier Tuesday, Mickey was named to the Lefty Driesell All-America team, which automatically makes him a candidate for the Driesell defensive player of the year award that will be presented Friday in Indianapolis.
Also making the Driesell list was former LSU guard Anthony Hickey, who played this season at Oklahoma State, and Louisiana-Lafayette guard Jay Wright.