Johnny Jones, Nikki Caldwell add basketball signees

Advocate staff photo by Catherine ThrelkeldLSU coach Johnny Jones and the Tigers are playing for tournament seeding position in the last two games of the Southeastern Conference regular season. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by Catherine ThrelkeldLSU coach Johnny Jones and the Tigers are playing for tournament seeding position in the last two games of the Southeastern Conference regular season.

Johnny Jones has the LSU men’s basketball team off to a 2-0 start in his first year as coach, but maybe more impressive is the work Jones has done on the recruiting trail.

Four of the new coach’s five early commitments made official their plans to jump aboard as Wednesday marked the first day of the early signing period.

Jones signed Madison Prep forward Jarell Martin; guard Tim Quarterman of Johnson High in Savannah, Ga.; forward Jordan Mickey from Dallas Prime Prep; and John Odo, a 6-foot-10 center from Nigeria who played last season at Hill Junior College in Texas.

Odo is expected to enroll at LSU in January after completing his degree requirements at Hill. But he will not join the basketball team until the 2013-14 season.

Another junior-college prospect, Deng Deng of Lee Junior College in the Houston area, committed to LSU earlier this year. He did not sign on the early signing period’s first day.

“This class consists of four young men of exceptional talent that will allow us to continue to compete in the highest level in the near future,” Jones said in a university news release. “The versatility of this class is what we were looking for from the beginning. We are excited about the future of LSU Basketball.”

LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Caldwell also had a nice day as the Lady Tigers signed Florida guard Raigyne Moncrief, a 5-10 senior at American Heritage in the
Miami area.

Moncrief is listed by ESPN as the nation’s No. 18 prospect.

She attends the high-school alma mater of current LSU senior Bianca Lutley, and she joins LaSondra Barrett (2008) and Krystal Forthan (2011) as recent top-20 recruits to sign with the Lady Tigers.

Caldwell also signed Jasmine Rhodes, a 5-10 wing from Faith Academy in Mobile, Ala.

“We are extremely excited about the signing of Raigyne Moncrief and Jasmine Rhodes,” Caldwell said.

“The two of them are not only exceptional athletes but more importantly, they are exceptional people. They will bring a lot of leadership qualities, hard work and a lot of intensity to our team.”

Moncrief picked LSU after making a recruiting visit for the Alabama football game earlier this month.

Caldwell also has received a letter of intent from
LaQuinta Jefferson, a versatile 6-footer who signed with
LSU in the summer after playing two seasons at Jefferson (Mo.) Community College.

Jefferson is expected to enroll in January and begin practicing with the team, but she will not become eligible
to compete until next season.

Martin gives the LSU men their most coveted Louisiana addition since former Capitol star Brandon Bass stayed home in 2003. He is ranked as high as No. 12 nationally by the recruiting services.

“Jarell Martin is an exceptional talent who has the ability to play both outside and inside,” Jones said. “With his ball handling, passing and ability to score, he will be able to create opportunities for other players on his team. He could be a difficult matchup for our opponent.”

As of Wednesday night, ESPN had Jones’ first full recruiting class ranked seventh nationally. Scout had the Tigers ranked sixth.

Mickey, who projects as a power forward, and Quarterman combine with Martin to give LSU a trio of top-100 prospects.

“It’s been a little while since LSU has had recruiting success like this,” Jerry Meyer of 247Sports.com said.

“They’re bringing in really big strong, athletic guys who are really good basketball players.”

Rivals ranks Mickey as the nation’s No. 20 prospect, and ESPN has Quarterman, athletic enough to play point guard but likely to join LSU as a wing, ranked 67th.

Jones signs with Vandy

Scotlandville big man Damian Jones, who committed to Vanderbilt earlier this year, signed a letter of intent Wednesday with the Commodores.

A consensus top-100 prospect, Jones averaged eight points, eight rebounds and four blocks for Scotlandville last season, helping the Hornets to the Class 5A state title.

He chose Vandy over LSU, Oklahoma, Florida, Stanford and Georgia. He is expected to study engineering.

“We are extremely excited about Damian Jones, a guy that we targeted his junior year and made every effort to pursue and to sign,” Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said. “He’s a skilled player, but his greatest strength is his athleticism and his ability to block shots and to rebound.”

Beard to ULM

St. Michael guard Journee Beard chose to stay in-state Wednesday when she signed with Louisiana-Monroe. Beard, 5-6, was a first-team all-district selection for the Warriors last year after averaging 12.1 points and 3.3 assists.