Brian Bridgewater had a secret.
The Scotlandville High School basketball standout said he committed to LSU a few weeks ago and opted to keep things quiet until Wednesday.
That’s when the 6-foot-5 Bridgewater signed with the Tigers, trumpeting what turned out to be a good recruiting day for Baton Rouge and its teams.
Two of Bridgewater’s teammates, 6-1 guard Tre’Lun Banks and 6-8 Jared Sam, both signed with Southern University during a signee ceremony held in the Scotlandville library.
“It was a little nerve-wracking the last few days, because coaches were calling and I had to act like I wasn’t committed when I was,” Bridgewater said. “I’m glad that’s over.”
The signings give Scotlandville four Division I signees from its team won the Class 5A boys title in March. The Hornets’ 6-10 Damian Jones signed with Vanderbilt in November.
Two Scotlandville girls basketball players, Kenya Dixon (Florida A&M) and Lanae Bickham (Baton Rouge Community College) also signed during the noon ceremony attended by students, parents and a score of media.
The signing day had its share of mystery and drama. Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample let the players’ parents handle the setup for the signing ceremony and said he didn’t know for sure which schools they had chosen until he saw the tablecloths in the color of each player’s future college.
Bridgewater said his other finalists were TCU and Wichita State.
The 6-6, 220-pound prospect rounds out a six-player class for LSU coach Johnny Jones, a group recruiting analysts ranked between No. 7 and No. 10 nationally.
LSU was also still awaiting to receive a letter of intent from Australian 7-foot center Darcy Malone, who committed to the Tigers in January.
Because Australia is 15 hours ahead of Baton Rouge, that created a logistical quirk in terms of arranging a time to fax and verify Malone’s signing document.
Regardless, Bridgewater joins fellow Baton Rouge native and Madison Prep product Jarell Martin, who is a McDonald’s All-American, in a class loaded with five long and rangy frontcourt players to bolster a Tigers roster that featured just two players taller than 6-9 this season.
“I’m sure we’re more versatile and have the ability to go inside and out,” Jones said of the class Tuesday. “Those guys have the combination to go inside and out, along with Johnny (O’Bryant III). That’s really going to help us.”
Tre’Lun Banks, the son of Southern coach Roman Banks, also made the process a bit of mystery. He said he committed to the Jaguars last week, and the family agreed to wait until signing day to make the announcement.
“(Southern basketball) is rich in our family tradition,” the younger Banks said. “My grandpa (Cleophus Banks) played at Southern, and so did my uncle (Sample). I just felt like it was the right decision for me.”
Roman Banks sat next to his son as he signed his papers and donned an SU cap. Afterward, the Jaguars coach was beaming.
“From a guard perspective, we’re getting one of the best players in the state,” Roman Banks said. “That’s regardless of whether he’s my son or not. A lot of people started calling him. I didn’t want him to feel obligated to come to Southern. So he talked about it more with his mom and grandparents.”
Sam, a key reserve for the Hornets, said Southern was an obvious choice for him.
“They had a good year last year,” Sam said. “I wanted to stay close to home and play with Tre’Lun. I feel like I can develop my skills each and every day at Southern.”
Ultimately, there were plenty of smiles to go around on a day when the players saw part of their college basketball dream come true.
Bridgewater’s brother, Sean, was at Scotlandville to watch the signing.
“I’m proud of him and happy because I won’t have to hop a plane to go see him play,” Sean Bridgewater said of his brother’s decision. “I really think he made the right decision.”
Bridgewater, an all-state player who was voted the MVP of the 5A title game, kept the LSU hat he donned out of sight until he got ready to sign. He said he had no idea what to expect on signing day.
A photo his Bridgewater’s father brought to him recently proved to be prophetic.
The picture showed Bridgewater and his other brother Brad, the day Brad Bridgewater signed with LSU in the late 1990s.
“I don’t remember it at all,” Bridgewater said. “But I was sitting in his (Brad’s) lap when he signed.”
Advocate sportswriter Matthew Harris contributed to this report.
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