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LSU gets 2016 commitment from U-High’s Wayde Sims

By ROBIN FAMBROUGH

rfambrough@theadvocate.com

LSU picked up a 2016 men’s basketball commitment Sunday from a player who knows the program pretty well: University High forward Wayde Sims.

The 6-foot-6, 205-pound Sims has helped the Cubs of LSU’s lab school win two straight Class 3A state titles.

“I didn’t know for sure, but I thought it was heading that way,” U-High coach Joe Spencer said. “I got a text from Wayde saying he committed. This is very exciting for Wayde and our program.”

Sims averaged 17.6 points and 9.5 rebounds as a junior. He was the Class 3A MVP and Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior and also is the son of former LSU player Wayne Sims, who played for the Tigers from 1987-91.

Over the past two seasons Sims has played his best in some of U-High’s biggest games. He was voted MVP of the 3A title game during both seasons. He scored 27 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in a 77-60 win over John Curtis in the 2015 title game.

Louisiana Basketball Report lists Sims as the state’s No. 7 senior prospect for 2016.

Lady Tigers land Williams

Southern Lab sophomore-to-be Cailain Williams committed to the LSU women’s basketball program during the Lady Tigers team camp this weekend.

“They offered me right before the team camp, and I took it,” Williams said. “LSU was one of the top schools on my list, and I like the idea of being able to play in my home state.”

The 6-2 Williams averaged 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists for the Class 1A Kittens. She already had received offers from Alabama, Louisiana Tech, Grambling and McNeese State. Kansas, Kansas State and Georgia also had contacted Williams, who is a 2018 recruit.

“I’d like to thank God and my coaches — coach (Henry) Combs and my AAU coaches,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t be the player I am without them.”

LSU freshmen Simmons, Blakeney attending Nike academy

LSU freshmen basketball players Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney, who enrolled in school earlier this month, are in Santa Monica, California, this week to take part in the inaugural Nike Basketball Academy.

LSU is one of only three schools to have more than one player at the invitation-only event, which has 27 players attending. Simmons and Blakeney are the only players who have yet to play a Division I college game at the academy.

The week-long event allows the top players in the country to compete against the best competition while receiving guidance from Nike Basketball’s biggest stars — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis.

As part of the experience, participants will go through a professional basketball combine, off-court workouts, drills, film sessions and 5-on-5 competition.

Former Vandy player and B.R. native Parker drowns

Former Vanderbilt basketball player and Baton Rouge native Dai-Jon Parker died of an apparent drowning Thursday night in the Morse Reservoir in Indiana.

Parker, who attended high school in Georgia, played three seasons at Vanderbilt before transferring to the University of Indianapolis this past year. The school confirmed Friday that Parker, who averaged 9.4 points a game last season, had drowned.

The Indianapolis Star reported a body was found at the bottom of the Morse Reservoir on Thursday night. Witnesses saw a man thrown from an inter-tube after he hit a wave while being pulled behind a boat. The man was not wearing a life jacket, according to the report.

A 6-foot-3 guard, Parker played in 92 games at VU. He started 26 games as a junior in 2013-14 and averaged 8.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, scoring a career-high 25 points in a victory over Ole Miss.

“We are extremely saddened with the news of Dai-Jon’s death,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said in a statement released by the school. “Everyone who watched him play basketball knew what kind of athlete he was. But, to those of us who knew him and loved him, he was as good and happy of a person as you would ever meet.

“He always had a smile on his face. and I will always remember him for that smile and the positive spirit he had. We send our deepest condolences and prayers to his family, friends, and others who were lucky enough to have met him. The Vanderbilt basketball family will miss him.”

LSU A.D. Joe Alleva says Ben Simmons’ family supportive of ad campaign

DESTIN, Fla. — LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said Ben Simmons and his family had full knowledge and were supportive of a promotion campaign to sell men’s basketball season tickets featuring the highly-rated recruit, a campaign that has sparked nationwide debate.

“Ben and his family know about it, totally signed off on it and are excited and thrilled,” Alleva said Wednesday during the SEC Spring Meeting.

“We’re trying to put fans in the stands. We’re going to have a good team and have some good recruits coming in. We want them to play in front of a full house.”

A likeness of Simmons, the nation’s consensus No. 1 incoming freshman, has been featured on posters, ads and electronic billboards promoting season tickets. Alleva said he’s unaware of what impact if any the campaign has had so far.

Asked to comment on whether the campaign shows some student-athletes have a value beyond their scholarship, Alleva reiterated: “We are trying to fill the arena and make our fans aware we have an exciting basketball team, period. We just want them to know what we have in store.”

LSU’s campaign to attract new season ticket holders for the 2015-16 men’s basketball team attracted some national criticism as well just one day after being launched.

The LSU Athletic Department kicked off its summer season ticket sales campaign this past Wednesday featuring the nation’s top incoming freshman — power forward Benny Simmons, the cornerstone of coach Johnny Jones’ third-ranked recruiting class.


Simmons is the headliner of a recruiting class that includes three of the top 39 players in the nation: Simmons, shooting guard Antonio Blakeney and Madison Prep guard Brandon Sampson, who was named Louisiana Mr. Basketball.

LSU, which went 22-11 last season and earned an NCAA tournament bid for the first time in six seasons, will add its heralded class to a group of returnees that includes Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Jalyn Patterson and Josh Gray and Arizona transfer Craig Victor.

— Scott Rabalais

LSU season ticket campaign draws some criticism

LSU’s campaign to attract new season ticket holders for the 2015-16 men’s basketball team attracted some national criticism as well just one day after being launched.

The LSU Athletic Department kicked off its summer season ticket sales campaign Wednesday featuring the nation’s top incoming freshman — power forward Benny Simmons, the cornerstone of coach Johnny Jones’ third-ranked recruiting class.

The pitch is being made throughout Baton Rouge via print, billboard, online and social media advertising, starting with a three-column color ad in The Advocate on Wednesday that featured the message “He’s Coming.”

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The ad asks potential ticket buyers to “lock in season tickets.”

“This year’s campaign will focus on the arrival of the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Ben Simmons, and his chosen jersey number ‘25,’ ” according to a story that appeared on the LSU Athletic Department’s website. “Through this ‘25’ campaign, fans wishing to become season ticket holders will have the opportunity to lock in their season tickets for the 2015-16 men’s basketball season in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.”

ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas was among those who weighed in on the campaign Thursday.

“LSU designs entire campaign around high school player: NCAA says HS players have no value without NCAA. Yeah, right,” Bilas tweeted.

Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo!Sports wrote a blog that included the headline “LSU’s new ad campaign shamelessly promotes top recruit Ben Simmons.”

In the story, Eisenberg wonders if the ad campaign “was appropriate at the height of a nationwide debate over whether college athletes are being exploited.”

He referenced the case of former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who won a lawsuit against the NCAA last year challenging its commercial use of names, images and likenesses of athletes.

LSU officials declined comment, but ESPN basketball analyst Seth Greenberg, a former college coach, didn’t have a problem with it.

“Marketing Ben Simmons helps both LSU and ben Simmons! This will only help his future marketing by building his brand!” Greenberg tweeted.

Simmons is the headliner of a recruiting class that includes three of the top 39 players in the nation: Simmons, shooting guard Antonio Blakeney and Madison Prep guard Brandon Sampson, who was named Louisiana Mr. Basketball.

LSU, which went 22-11 last season and earned an NCAA tournament bid for the first time in six seasons, will add its heralded class to a group of returnees that includes Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Jalyn Patterson and Josh Gray and Arizona transfer Craig Victor.

LSU men’s basketball schedule for 2015-16 coming into focus

It’s May and the LSU men’s basketball schedule for the 2015-16 season is beginning to come into better focus — sort of.

A handful of games have already been confirmed — including the school’s participation in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn — but the nonconference part of the schedule is weeks away from being completed, LSU associate athletic director Eddie Nunez said Thursday.

“We still have some openings that we’re trying to finalize at this point,” said Nunez, who handles scheduling for men’s basketball. “We hope to have the entire nonconference schedule finished in the next three weeks. That’s our goal, so we can send it off to the SEC office.”

Nunez acknowledged a series with the University of Houston is one that’s in the talking stages although it was reported online Thursday that a four-year home-and-home with Houston has already been set.

Citing a source, Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com tweeted that LSU and Houston agreed on a four-year series with the first meeting to take place on Dec. 13, 2015 in Houston.

But Nunez told The Advocate the school isn’t interested in a four-year deal.

“We have had conversations, and are having active conversations, with the University of Houston,” Nunez said. “But we’re not looking at a four-year agreement at this time.”

It’s more likely the schools would enter into a two-year home-and-home agreement and then possibly sign off on another two-year deal.

LSU, which went 22-11 last season and earned a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, will be in the spotlight a lot this year with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes — including five-star prospects Benny Simmons and Antonio Blakeney — joining a solid group of returnees.

One of the highlights of LSU’s schedule is a date in the four-team Legends Classic to be played Nov. 23-24 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The games will be played the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.

The Tigers’ first opponent hasn’t been announced, but Marquette, Arizona State and North Carolina State, which eliminated LSU from the NCAA tournament in March, will also be in the tournament.

Also, two games that are technically part of the Legends Classic will be played earlier in November in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against teams to be determined.

LSU will also play Wake Forest in the PMAC this season. It will be the first game of a two-year home-and-home with the Demon Deacons, with the Tigers traveling to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in the fall of 2016.

Considering its high profile, LSU is also expected to participate in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge for the third year in a row. If selected, the Tigers could be slotted for a home game this season after traveling to West Virginia last December and Texas Tech in 2013.

Nunez said LSU will also have home games against Gardner-Webb and McNeese State — both for the second year in a row.

The Tigers will travel to Charleston, South Carolina, to meet the College of Charleston in the second game of a two-for-one that began last December in the PMAC. The teams will complete the series in the fall of 2016 in Baton Rouge.

LSU target Malik Newman likely won’t take any official visits

Five-star guard Malik Newman, who lists LSU among his six college choices with just two days to go before the spring signing period begins, likely will not take any officials visits before making his decision, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported Monday.

The paper reported that Newman’s father, former Mississippi State basketball star Horatio Webster, said there isn’t time to take visits to consider his landing spot — considering he’s been pretty busy.

He played in the McDonald’s All-American game on April 1, participated in the Nike Hoop Summit on Saturday night and this Friday will take part in the Jordan Brand Classic all-star contest.

In addition to LSU, Newman’s list includes Kentucky, Kansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and North Carolina State. He is being recruited heavily by Benny Simmons, the nation’s top prospect who signed with LSU in November, and Antonio Blakeney, who committed to Johnny Jones’ program in January.

Newman, who is rated as the nation’s top combo guard and No. 4 overall prospect on the ESPN 100 list, has made unofficial visits to LSU, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Mississippi State during his senior year at Callaway High School.

“Now that basketball season is over with, I don’t think he’ll take visits,” Webster told the Clarion-Ledger. “If he does, fine. If not, that’s fine too.”

LSU signee Simmons leads World Team to win in Nike Hoop Summit

LSU signee Ben Simmons helped the World Team beat the USA for the third time in four years Saturday in the annual Nike Hoop Summit in Portland.

The World Select Team won 103-101 over the USA Men’s Junior National Select Team as Simmons, a native of Australia, flirted with a triple double with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

The Summit continued a busy month of April for Simmons, who played in the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago, the National High School Championships in New York and the Nike Hoops Summit.

On Friday, Simmons will play in the Jordan Brand Classic at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York.

LSU already showing up in early 2016 polls

With the men’s college basketball season in the books with Duke’s win over Wisconsin in the national championship game on Monday night, it didn’t take long for the 2015-16 season to come to the forefront — sort of.

Early online predictions for next season have LSU among the teams that will likely be in the top 25 in several polls.

LSU, which was 22-11 and in the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years, is listed in several polls despite the loss of would-be junior forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey to the NBA draft.

The return of guards Keith Hornsby, Tim Quarterman and Jalyn Patterson, coupled with the arrival of forward Benny Simmons, who is already signed, and guard Antonio Blakeney, a commit who should sign next week, make the Tigers one of the teams to watch.

CBSSports.com’s Jon Rothstein has LSU at No. 15, while colleague Gary Parrish had the Tigers 24th on his Top 25 and One poll.

ESPN.com has LSU at No. 18 and USA Today pegs Johnny Jones’ team at No. 28.

Also, ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi has as a No. 7 seed for next year’s tournament.

LSU signee Benny Simmons adds USA Today POY award to list of honors

LSU basketball signee Benny Simmons, who is in Chicago preparing for the McDonald’s All-American game to be played Wednesday night, has earned another national honor.

Simmons, a 6-foot-10 forward from Montverde Academy in Clermont, Florida, was named Tuesday as the USA Today Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

The player of the year honor is the fourth for Simmons, who signed with LSU in the early signing period in November after committing to coach Johnny Jones’ program 13 months earlier.

Simmons has already been honored as the Gatorade national player of the year and has won the Naismith Trophy and Wootten Award for high school players.

Simmons, who averaged 28.0 points, 11.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game this year, will play for the East squad in Wednesday night’s McDonald’s game at the United Center. The game, which is set for 8 p.m., will be televised by ESPN.

Simmons will be joined on the East squad by guard Antonio Blakeney, who also plans to be a college teammate of his good friend after committing to LSU on Jan. 2.

They will face a West squad that includes guard Malik Newman, a five-star prospect from Jackson, Mississippi. He lists LSU among the six finalists for his college choice.

Simmons will be the 16th player who has spent at least one season at LSU to play in the McDonald’s All-Star Game.

After the McDonald’s game, Simmons will rejoin his Montverde teammates for the Dick’s Sporting Goods National High School Tournament in New York.

 Montverde, the two-time defending champion and the No. 2 seed for this year’s event, opens play Thursday with a 3 p.m. quarterfinal matchup against Greensboro Day of North Carolina.

Semifinals will be played Friday and the championship game is on Saturday. All games will be televised on the ESPN family of networks.