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LSU freshman Ben Simmons tabbed preseason All-American

LSU freshman Ben Simmons is featured on the cover of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook as one of five preseason All-America picks for the upcoming season.

The yearbook, which is celebrating its 35th season, has two Southeastern Conference players on the All-America team for the first time as Simmons is joined by Kentucky freshman Skal Labissiere.

The other players named to the preseason All-America team, which earned them a spot on the cover of the Blue Ribbon yearbook as well, are Virginia senior Malcolm Brogdon, Iowa State senior Georges Niang, and Providence junior Kris Dunn.

LSU to face Oklahoma in SEC/Big 12 Challenge on ESPN

The Southeastern Conference and Big 12 Conference jointly announced Wednesday tip times for seven of the 10 games to be played in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge set for Saturday, Jan. 30.

The LSU-Oklahoma game, which will be played in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, is one of the three that don’t have an exact start time. The others are the Kentucky-Kansas and Iowa State-Texas A&M matchups.

All three of those games will be televised by ESPN. The conferences announced they will start no earlier than 1 p.m. and no later than 6 p.m. CST, although it’s likely Kentucky and Kansas will meet in the primetime slot.

Here is the entire lineup (All Times CST):

Vanderbilt at Texas, 11a.m. (ESPN/ESPN2)

West Virginia at Florida, 11a.m. (ESPN/ESPN2)

Tennessee at TCU, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)

Ole Miss at Kansas State, 1 p.m. (ESPNU)

Texas Tech at Arkansas, 3 p.m. (ESPNU)

Georgia at Baylor, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)

Oklahoma State at Auburn, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Kentucky at Kansas, TBA* (ESPN)

Oklahoma at LSU, TBA* (ESPN)

Iowa State at Texas A&M, TBA* (ESPN)

* No earlier than 1 p.m., no later than 6 p.m.

LSU forward Simmons heads’s list of impact freshmen

It should come as no surprise, but LSU forward Ben Simmons is the headliner on the top 10 list of high-impact freshmen for the upcoming season by’s David Gardner.

The 6-foot-10 Simmons, whom Gardner identified as the most college-ready player in this year’s crop of first-year players, claimed the top spot over Kentucky center Skal Labissiere.

Gardner noted that Labissiere, a 7-footer, is pushing Simmons as the top pick in the 2016 NBA draft. But Simmons apparently got the nod for No. 1 on Gardner’s list because of he played at Montverde (Fla.) and is the son of former Australian professional basketball star Dave Simmons.

While the Tigers lost All-Southeastern Conference forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey to the NBA draft, Gardner expects Simmons to form another strong 1-2 duo with freshman guard Antonio Blakeney.

“He’ll produce eye-popping numbers,” Gardner wrote, “but (Simmons’) biggest challenge will be guiding LSU deep into the NCAA tournament.”

Labissiere ranked second on Gardner’s list, which had a total of four SEC players among the top six.

Mississippi State guard Malik Newman, who was heavily-recruited by LSU, took the third spot with Kentucky guard Jamal Murray coming in sixth.

LSU coach Johnny Jones says Josh Gray will miss one game

Back from his team’s 13-day exhibition tour of Australia, LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones said Tuesday that guard Josh Gray will likely miss only one game for playing in an unsanctioned basketball game.

Speaking on 104.5 ESPN Baton Rouge, Jones, who returned to campus with his team late Sunday night, said Gray will probably miss the regular-season opener against McNeese State on Nov. 13.

Jones announced on Aug. 10, the day before the Tigers departed for Australia, Gray would not be allowed to accompany the team after participating in an unsanctioned game before checking with LSU compliance.

At the time, Jones said LSU compliance was continuing its investigation and he would know more when he returned from the trip.

“As far as the NCAA is concerned, our compliance people did a good job jumping on top of it right away,” Jones said Tuesday. “What Josh is going to have to miss is one regular-season game … possibly our first game against McNeese State. That’s a strong possibility for us.

“Then, he would have to deal with the other consequences later on in terms of his team and teammates and the discipline we’ll put forward toward him. But we’re hopeful (it’s) lesson learned for and from Josh, and he’ll continue to grow as a person and make better decisions down the line.”

Jones is scheduled to meet with media on Wednesday to wrap up the Australia trip on which the Tigers won three of five games against professional teams.

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.

LSU to play in ESPN Tipoff Marathon for third straight year

Via Twitter @LSUBasketball, the Tigers will play in the ESPN Tipoff Marathon, which is set for Nov. 16-17, for the third year in a row.

LSU will host Kennesaw State on Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. CST, according to an announcement by ESPN. The Tigers played at UMass in the 2013 Marathon and hosted Texas Tech last November.

LSU will receive more scheduling news Wednesday at 6 p.m. when the Southeastern Conference slate for all 14 men’s teams are revealed on the SEC Network.

LSU to learn 2015-16 SEC schedule on Wednesday night

The Southeastern Conference will release the league’s 2015-16 basketball schedule for all 14 men’s teams at 6 p.m. Wednesday on the SEC Network.

LSU has yet to announce its entire nonconference schedule, but 10 of the Tigers’ 12 games they will play out of conference have been revealed through various sources.

Here is the schedule that’s known so far:

Friday, Nov. 13            McNeese State

Monday, Nov. 16         Kennesaw State

Thursday, Nov. 19       South Alabama

Monday, Nov. 23          Marquette*

Tuesday, Nov. 24          N.C. State/Arizona State*

Monday, Nov. 30           at College of Charleston

Sunday, Dec. 13             at Houston

Wednesday, Dec. 16  Gardner-Webb

Tuesday, Dec. 29          Wake Forest

Saturday, Jan. 30         Oklahoma**

* Legends Classic (at Barclays Center, Brooklyn)

** SEC/Big 12 Challenge


LSU wins Australia opener behind Simmons 22 points, 10 rebounds

The LSU men’s basketball team kicked off its Australian exhibition tour Saturday night (Saturday morning Baton Rouge time) with an 89-75 victory over the Newcastle All-Stars in Newcastle.

Aussie native Ben Simmons, returning to the town he began playing the sport in as a youngster, scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his first game in an LSU uniform. He added four assists, three blocks and two steals.

Simmons started and played 37 minutes in his debut. He was joined in the starting lineup by guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby and Antonio Blakeney, another highly-regarded freshman, and center Darcy Malone.

Hornsby had 17 points and Blakeney had 16, while Quarterman contributed 13 points and six assists. Malone, a native of Canberra, had six points and five rebounds in his homecoming.

Hornsby and Blakeney had hot hands from the field as the Tigers, playing their first game in a five-game tour of the country, shot just under 50 percent from the field in making 33 of 68 field goals.

Hornsby was 6 of 8 from the field, including 3 of 5 from beyond the 3-point arc, while Blakeney was 6 of 10.

Games played under international rules consist of four 10-minute quarters.

LSU led 42-36 at halftime and 64-59 after three quarters before pulling away in the final period.

LSU will play the Sydney Kings of the Australian National Basketball League at 7 p.m. Sunday (4 a.m. Baton Rouge time). The game will be broadcast by the Kings radio network and streamed on LSU’s Website at

More to come on the LSU-Newcastle game later.

Sheldon Mickles

LSU football coach Les Miles eyeing basketball star Ben Simmons

Like a lot of other people, LSU football coach Les Miles can’t wait to see heralded freshman basketball player Ben Simmons in a purple and gold uniform for the first time.

In a football uniform, that is, down on the goal line in Tiger Stadium.

“I can tell you that we look forward to watching him and supporting him fully … what a magnificent player,” Miles said of the 6-foot-10 Simmons, who was the nation’s top recruit this winter. “If he’s interested in taking some snaps for us, he could come over — very honestly — and I can give him a goal-line position where I would throw it to him.

“All he’s got to prove to me is one thing: That he can catch,” he said. “If he can catch, which certainly we would all predict in this room that he could, he would set the NCAA record for touchdowns.”

He said he would line Simmons up in the red zone and if the opponents put three defenders on him, they would run the ball. With only two defenders on Simmons, they would throw it to him.

Miles said he was serious, adding, “I am dead serious. … All you have to do is get me anywhere 6-9 and above, very athletic with ball skills, I guarantee it. Why would we run the ball? We could just throw it over there to him.”

Asked if LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones would be OK with his plan, Miles chuckled and said, “I think Johnny would have a fit.”

LSU guard Josh Gray not on Australia trip despite tweet

LSU point guard Josh Gray caused a stir Wednesday evening when he posted via Twitter a message of support for his teammates upon their arrival for a 13-day Australian exhibition tour.

Gray, who was left behind when the Tigers departed from campus Tuesday afternoon because he participated in an unsanctioned game over the weekend, tweeted the following message @ThatsJoshGray:

Safe landing, now let’s get to work LSU Basketball! Im locked in all 5 games! .

 Some took that to mean he had been cleared to play and was with the team even though coach Johnny Jones had announced Monday afternoon that the senior from Lake Charles wouldn’t be along on the trip while LSU Compliance looked into the issue.

LSU Athletic Department officials Wednesday night confirmed that Gray did not accompany the team on the trip and that he apparently posted the tweet in support of his teammates.

LSU guard Josh Gray won’t accompany team to Australia

When the LSU basketball team departs campus Tuesday afternoon for its much-anticipated exhibition tour of Australia, senior point guard Josh Gray won’t be traveling with the Tigers.

LSU coach Johnny Jones announced Monday afternoon that Gray, a Lake Charles native, won’t be making the trip because he played in a basketball game that wasn’t sanctioned beforehand by LSU Compliance.

“Over the last 48 hours, we had a little bit of a setback with Josh Gray playing in some type of game that wasn’t sanctioned prior to checking with our compliance people,” Jones said. “Until compliance goes through whatever issues that they have to and filter things out, I won’t have any further comment on it.”

When asked if the situation could affect Gray’s status with the basketball team for the upcoming season, Jones said he didn’t yet have an answer on that.

“Again, we won’t know any of that until we visit with compliance,” he said, “and they’re in the middle of dealing with that now. Until compliance finishes its findings, he will not be a part of our team.”

In his first season at LSU last year, Gray, a transfer from Odessa (Texas) Junior College, played in 31 games last season with 20 starts. He averaged 7.1 points, 3.8 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game.

With Gray out of the picture for the five-game exhibition tour against Australian pro teams, which begins with a game on Saturday against the Newcastle All-Stars, Jones said sophomore Jalyn Patterson will slide into the backup point guard spot behind starter Tim Quarterman.

Patterson played some point guard last season, but was primarily a backup to shooting guard Keith Hornsby.

“We moved Jalyn over to the point guard spot, which he’s done a great job of picking things up quickly,” Jones said. “We’ve had a couple of really good days of practice there.”