Jordan Mickey admitted Wednesday that when he arrived at LSU last summer he never thought he would have to make a decision about the NBA less than 12 months later.
But, a freshman season in which he blocked more than 100 shots - Shaquille O'Neal territory - and earned All-Southeastern Conference honors put him in that situation.
Mickey realized that he is not ready for the NBA and, as a result, will return to LSU for his sophomore season. Therefore, the Tigers will retain their two outstanding freshmen - Mickey and Jarell Martin. The lone LSU underclassman departing for the NBA will be Johnny O'Bryant.
"I just wanted to come in here and be a good player and help the team win," said Mickey at his press conference Wednesday afternoon. "By the end of the season, I began to think I had a decision to make. The NBA told me I needed to get bigger, stronger and faster. I had to get better in my skill set."
Mickey, a highly-regarded recruit, entered as the No. 2 freshman behind Martin. However, Mickey was the most consistent player on the LSU team the entire season. He started all 34 games and averaged 33 minutes. Mickey contributed 13 points and eight rebounds per game.
Mickey, who had nine double-doubles - the third highest total for a SEC player, shot 53 percent from the field and 70 percent at the foul line. He had his greatest influence on the defensive end with 106 blocked shots. The only other LSU player with 100 blocks in a season is O'Neal.
"You realize the impact that Jordan made on the team as a freshman, especially on the defensive end," LSU coach Johnny Jones said. "The interest from the pro level shows who he is and what he has done.
"Jordan was not in the McDonald's (All-Star) game last year, but he overshadowed a lot of the guys who played in that game with the way he impacted his team this year. I knew his decision could go either way. I am glad he came to the conclusion he did." [rl]
A year ago, Jones received similar good news from O'Bryant, who elected to return for his junior season. O'Bryant responded with an All-SEC year in which he averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game. O'Bryant's work at improving his overall game led to a better 2013-14 campaign.
"The biggest thing for Jordan now is the offseason," Jones said. "That's when you can get ready (for next season). One think about Jordan is that you don't have to worry about his work ethic. The guys who put the time in do get better."
Jones now has a solid foundation in the post with Mickey and Martin, who played mostly on the wing in his freshman year. The Tigers lose three of the six players who averaged 20 minutes per game this past season - O'Bryant, Andre Stringer and Shavon Coleman.
So, Mickey and Martin are two of the three most experienced players on the team - along with Anthony Hickey. Jones is expecting Mickey and Martin to be leaders on the upcoming season's squad.
"Having Jordan and Jarell is a tremendous starting point," Jones said. "We are losing one of the most powerful players in the conference in Johnny. But, Jarell and Jordan played big roles on high school state championship teams. They will now slip out of the shadows of the upperclassmen to be leaders."
One year ago, O'Bryant expressed the goal of leading LSU back to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers came up short as they had to settle for a NIT bid. Mickey repeated that desire for LSU on Wednesday.
"I feel we can be a NCAA tournament qualifying team," Mickey said. "We can be that type of team with the guys coming back and the guys coming in."
With Mickey returning, LSU now has 14 scholarship players on the 2014-15 roster - one over the NCAA-mandated limit. Jones indicated that an individual or two who is on the team now will leave the program.
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