DALLAS — When the final horn sounded on LSU’s 80-67 loss at top-seeded SMU on Monday night in the second round of the NIT, it marked the end of the Tigers’ season.
The question now is whether that horn also marked the end of the LSU careers of three talented underclassmen.
At the top of the list is 6-foot-9 forward Johnny O’Bryant III, a McDonald’s All-American as a high schooler and the Tigers’ leading scorer. After considering the NBA draft after last season, the junior this month declared himself ready for pro competition, calling himself “a better player overall” as he prepares to make a decision once more on whether to stay in college or move on.
In the aftermath of Monday’s loss, O’Bryant said it was too soon to think about next season and added that he hadn’t even really figured out what criteria he’ll be considering when making his decision.
“I haven’t really taken them all in,” he said after leading the Tigers with 16 points and adding seven rebounds. “I’ve been so focused on the season, I really haven’t had a chance to sit down and weigh all the factors yet.
“I just want to recuperate from the season. Then I’ll address what I’m going to do, whatever decision I make. I probably won’t have any kind of timetable. It will just be something I do.”
O’Bryant isn’t alone in weighing his options. Freshmen Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin are also pondering the possibilities of trying to start a pro career right away, although Martin said last week he’ll be sticking around.
Like O’Bryant, both freshmen were noncommittal about their options after Monday’s game, saying they had not begun to think about what’s ahead, though Mickey, a 6-8, 240-pound power forward, said the potentially bright future for the Tigers after this season’s 20-14 finish will weigh into his choice.
“Of course, I love playing with the guys we have on the team,” he said. “It’s just something I’ll have to sit down with coach about and talk to my family to make my decision. I’ve just known it’s a decision my family and I will have to make when everything’s over with. I’ll let my dad handle that — see what he thinks about everything and I’ll take it from there.”
None of the players gave any time frame for an announcement, but the entry deadline for the NBA draft is April 28.
All of them are expected to ask the league’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee about where they might be drafted and what they need to work on. But O’Bryant, last year considered a likely second-round choice, is now rated as a late first-rounder — which would give him a guaranteed contract — according to NBADraftExpress.com.
Coach Johnny Jones said he also will provide input, planning to meet with all of the potential early pros “in the near future.”
“I think it’s really important to do that,” he said. “I think they understand there are decisions that certainly need to be made. We’ll meet with Johnny O’Bryant very early on, trying to find out about his future because that’s important for those guys moving forward. We want them to make the best decisions for them.”