With an important season on the horizon for LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones, he and his revamped staff have stayed busy on the recruiting trail.
On Wednesday those efforts yielded a big-time result when athletic four-star swingman Brandon Rachal committed to the Tigers.
The 6-foot-5½ Rachal has starred at in-state Natchitoches Central the last few seasons, leading the Chiefs to the 2016 Class 5A state championship.
“It’s all about the best decision,” Rachal said in an announcement at the school broadcast by several TV stations in the Shreveport area. “I’m proud to announce I’ll be attending Louisiana State University.”
Landing Rachal gives Jones and his recruiting staff – SEC veteran Robert Kirby and former LSU great and New Orleans prep legend Randy Livingston – two major additions to a roster that won’t turn over much after this season. Notably, both newcomers are from the Tigers’ back yard.
Galen Alexander, a 6-6 swingman, pledged to LSU in August. The Lafayette Christian Academy star is rated the No. 21 player in the country by Scout.com, while Rachal is pegged at No. 22. 247sports.com ranks Alexander 93rd and Rachal 119th, while Rivals puts them at No. 99 and 121, respectively.
In an interview with Scout.com’s national basketball recruiting analyst Evan Daniels, Rachal noted that playing with teammates he has already gotten familiar with was a key component in his decision. Texas A&M was the other primary suitor, along with Texas and several programs in the SEC and ACC.
“It’s a great home feeling,” Rachal said in Daniels’ story.
“It just feels home, like I’m in Louisiana with Louisiana guys and we’ve all got confidence. Our past experiences, we can talk about because we’re from Louisiana.
“That’s my home school. They’re a good program and doing some good things with recruiting momentum. I love Johnny Jones. I’m a big Johnny Jones fan. I’m close with the staff and comfortable with the staff.”
This makes sense, because Rachal is the exactly the kind of player who fits Jones’s up-tempo system.
Since Jones’s third season (this will be his fifth), the Tigers have evolved away from the traditional 1-5 positions and now lean toward a style in which players are able to contribute in a number of different ways and from different spots on the floor. Ben Simmons was the obvious impetus to move in that direction, but the 2016-’17 team has several players who will fit as the Tigers continue to travel down that path.
As with Alexander, though, Rachal brings something different in his tool box compared to many recent LSU recruits.
Last season, Rachal averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds a game for a loaded team that barreled to a 32-3 record and a state crown. He claimed the MVP award in the state championship game and was voted all-state. Those accolades were based on more than offensive contributions, though. Rachal also recorded 3 steals a game and carved out a reputation as an aggressive and effective defender on the summer circuit.
Rachal intends to bring those skills with him to the SEC, where he could contend for playing time quickly. Blakeney is expected to head to pro ball after this season.
“Enthusiasm, versatility, killer instincts and leadership,” Rachal said to Daniels when asked how he might be able to help LSU. “I think leadership is one thing they value the most with me.
“I’m going to be good on defense and offensively I’m so versatile. I think I can play and defend any position on the court, so I think being able to do that and surrounding me with other players that are versatile can open up a lot of what we do as a team and cause problems for different schools.”