LSU's Johnny O'Bryant III to enter NBA draft

Johnny O’Bryant III is gone.

LSU’s junior forward announced Tuesday his decision to enter the NBA draft, leaving Baton Rouge with a season of eligibility remaining and exiting a roster that could be in flux over the next six weeks.

“I just felt that I was ready,” he said. “I had a great individual season, and so I felt like I put the time and all the hard work in.”

Unlike last season, the former McDonald’s All-American waited only a week after LSU’s season ended to make his intentions known. He made the decision after a weekend spent at home in Mississippi consulting with his inner circle.

The departure of O’Bryant, who averaged 15.4 points and 7.7 rebounds, strips LSU of its main offensive cog, a two-time All-SEC pick who handled 28.7 percent of the Tigers’ possessions.

“(O’Bryant returning is) certainly one of those things we would love to have,” coach Johnny Jones said. “But we’re excited for him and know that he has a bright future playing on the professional level. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do here.”

LSU prepared itself for O’Bryant’s possible exit when it signed center Elbert Robinson, a 7-footer rated by Rivals.com as the No. 51 recruit nationally, during November’s early signing period.

And if he opts to come back, forward Jordan Mickey seems a natural option to inherit O’Bryant’s go-to guy role after averaging 12.7 points and 7.9 rebounds as a freshman.

O’Bryant’s decision to move on was expected and, over the past month, he reiterated several times that he felt he was ready for professional game. Last year, his deliberations lasted three weeks after the season ended, a wait that dragged out as O’Bryant waited for an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.

“Everything was positive in a sense last year, but it was going to be beneficial for him to come back,” Jones said. “He’s been able to do that and improved at a great rate. The interest that had been shown, just from teams that have shown up at our practices and at games, speaks to the interest level.”

This go-round, O’Bryant, whose 25 career double-doubles are tied for the most among active players in the SEC, passed on getting a report from the NBA.

“My numbers went up,” he said. “I look better out there on the court playing basketball. A lot of things went into it.”

Pegging O’Bryant’s stock is the next task. NBA Draft Express rated him the No. 65 prospect overall and No. 8 junior in this year’s draft class, slotting him in the middle of the second round. But O’Bryant said he “heard some positive things, so I felt like I was ready.”

The effective cutoff date to declare is April 15, a deadline set by the NCAA for players to withdraw from the draft pool. Even then, there are more than two months of individual workouts and the NBA draft combine from May 14-18 left to sort out where O’Bryant may land.

On Tuesday, he said he has yet to select an agent or map out where he’ll train.

Now attention turns to whether Mickey and fellow freshman Jarell Martin decide to remain in the fold. After O’Bryant’s announcement, Martin didn’t back off his statement from several weeks ago that he doesn’t plan to test the NBA waters after averaging 10.3 points and 4.6 rebounds.

“That was all my decision,” he said. “I wasn’t going to look at it. Just humble myself, not look at the NBA or anything else.”

Mickey said he’s still taking time to weigh his future, a process that may include sitting down with his parents and Jones next week — which is when NBA evaluations tend to come back.

“I’m just waiting to see what me and my family decide,” he said, “and see where everything ends up.”