The night Ricardo Gathers committed to Baylor, Riverside Academy coach Tim Byrd received a voicemail from one of the men who’d recruited Gathers the longest and hardest.
LSU coach Trent Johnson told Byrd he appreciated his time and for allowing him to recruit the Riverside star.
“He was very gracious,” Byrd said.
The commitment to Baylor on Monday marked the second time in seven months Gathers announced he would leave Louisiana to continue his career. The heralded power forward from LaPlace heavily considered LSU before committing to St. John’s last summer, then again in November when he re-opened his recruitment and targeted an April signing date.
Tuesday, Gathers told The Advocate one reason he chose Baylor is because he didn’t feel that Johnson put forth the same kind of effort to sign him.
The comments had LSU fans abuzz on talk radio and message boards.
“It’s a shame because when Ricardo was a sophomore and junior, Trent spent a lot of time here,” Byrd said. “This is not a two-month process. It’s been going on since he’s been a sophomore. It’s not like he didn’t lift a finger. He’d put so much time in (prior to this season), I’m sure he had to feel good about their position. I think it’s just he was trying to focus on his (LSU) team. ”
Byrd said he only recalled Johnson attending one Riverside game this season, but said the LSU coach was much more of a regular in seasons past. In recent months, Byrd said LSU assistant Brent Scott — who’d built a close relationship with Gathers through the years — handled most of the recruiting.
Johnson watched Riverside beat Scotlandville last month.
“I don’t like the way it’s coming out,” Byrd said. “I certainly don’t want him to be looked at in a negative light.”
Gathers earned Louisiana’s Mr. Basketball award last season after averaging 20.7 points, 16.2 rebounds and 3.9 blocks. He has been one of the state’s most sought-after prospects since leading now-defunct Reserve Christian to a state championship his freshman year.
He never took an “official” visit to LSU, but he was often around campus for football and basketball games.
In October, he received an in-home visit by Johnson.
Greg Gathers, Ricardo’s older brother, said the decision to attend Baylor was based more on what the Bears could offer than what LSU could not.
“I don’t know what was said exactly,” Greg Gathers said of his brother’s comments, “but it came off wrong. All he was doing was just speaking his mind. He’s not a bad kid. He has a 3.5 grade-point average. He’s never been in trouble or anything.”
Greg Gathers said he sees his brother as the missing piece for Baylor and the next addition to a team that can compete for championships.
Baylor is ranked sixth in the nation two years after reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. Coach Scott Drew’s latest recruiting class is ranked fourth nationally by ESPN and includes three players ranked among the nation’s top 75.
Quincy Acy, a 6-7 forward, is the only senior starter.
“They have some big guys that like to face up,” Greg Gathers said. “Ricardo is a prototypical back-to-the-basket type player.”