Antonio Blakeney is going to play second fiddle to Ben Simmons in the freshmen order at LSU this season, but that doesn’t mean Blakeney will be any less successful than his counterpart.
Simmons is in the discussion to be easily the top player in the country and a guy who could be a top-2 selection in the 2016 NBA Draft since he can play any position on the floor at his 6’10” frame. Blakeney on the other hand, is a pure scoring guard, who put up ridiculous numbers as the star at Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, Fla.
In a state that is on the rise in terms of prep basketball talent, Blakeney was crowned the Class 8A Player of the Year and named Mr. Basketball in Florida. Ranked the No. 14 overall prospect and this best shooting guard by ESPN, the McDonald’s All-American is in for a big role in Year One next to Simmons and another talented freshman Brandon Sampson.
As a senior this past season, Blakeney averaged 29 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He dropped a career-high 63 points along with 11 rebounds in Oak Ridge’s season opener last November. The kid can shoot, and at 6’4″, 190, he’s a powerful athlete who has plenty of up-the-court-speed and ability to shoot on the run or off a pass.
Formerly a Louisville commit, Blakeney made the decision to join the Tigers largely due to the fact that his AAU teammate, Simmons was heading there. Adding Sampson as well, the 39th best recruit in this year’s class per ESPN surely benefited his decision.
Blakeney along with Simmons participated in the inaugural NIKE Academy in California. They were the only true freshman among college players invited to the event. He also played alongside Simmons and junior guard Tim Quarterman at the Addidas Global Nations event in July in Long Beach. It’s a great sign for his early season progress that he’s been active with his teammates, especially Simmons, who he’ll play alongside often.
SI.com’s Chris Johnson ranks Blakeney No. 15 overall in his top freshman list while Simmons is a top the preseason list at No. 1 overall.
Even though LSU went 22-11 and lost in the Round of 64 to NC State, the expectations are at an all-time high in Baton Rouge and rightfully so.
Last year’s NCAA Tournament appearance was the team’s first since 2009 and third-year coach Johnny Jones should be able to put together a winning product with so much talent in place. Alongside Simmons, Blakeney is going to be one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the SEC and could very well pan out to be one of the best pure scorers in the country.
For what it’s worth, Blakeney says he believes that LSU will win the national champioship. If so, that would be the school’s first-ever national title. That’s certainly some big talk from a player who hasn’t even suited up in the college ranks just yet. He’s backed it up before and now is his time to do that again on an even bigger stage.
This is a team that will continue to be talked about all throughout the season. Blakeney is going to be a huge asset for the Tigers and next to Simmons and Co. it could be all LSU needs to finally obtain their ultimate goal, a championship.