Oklahoma State confirms former LSU guard Anthony Hickey’s transfer

“He could be a game-changer defensively with his quickness and is one of the top steal guys in the country. We really expect him to enhance our defense.” TRAVIS FORD, Oklahoma State coach

The secret wasn’t well kept, but now it’s official.

Former LSU point guard Anthony Hickey’s transfer to Oklahoma State was finalized Monday after the rising senior received a little-used waiver from the NCAA that grants him immediate eligibility next season, the school confirmed.

“Anthony brings us great experience and a lot of versatility at the guard position,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said in a statement. “He will bring great energy on the court and is a fierce competitor.”

Hickey, a former Mr. Basketball in Kentucky, also confirmed the move with a post on his Instagram account.

“It’s always going to be a 50-50 chance that it could go your way, but you know it’s totally out of your control,” said Anthony Hickey Sr., the guard’s father. “It really could have gone the other way.”

The three-year starter spent the past month in limbo after LSU passed on bringing him back next season and effectively sent him shopping for a new home.

Since last week, the Cowboys have been the clear-cut favorites to land the services of Hickey, who averaged 9.4 points and 3.7 rebounds during his career in Baton Rouge.

He visited Stillwater, Oklahoma, last week, and reportedly enrolled in summer classes Friday. The final piece necessary was obtaining a “run-off” waiver from the NCAA.

Under the guidelines for the waiver, which was created two years ago, Hickey needed to be informed he would not be retained by LSU, prove he was in good academic standing, and have LSU sign off on Oklahoma State’s request for the guard.

All of that took place, allowing the Cowboys to formally announce Hickey had come aboard.

While Hickey morphed into more a distributor this season, averaging 3.7 assists per game and leading the Southeastern Conference is assist-to-turnover ratio, Ford said the guard’s arrival may be keenly felt defensively.

Hickey led the SEC during his sophomore season with 2.9 steals per game, using an uncanny knack to drop and dart into passing lanes.

“He could be a game-changer defensively with his quickness and is one of the top steal guys in the country,” Ford said. “We really expect him to enhance our defense.”

There’s an immediate need for Hickey’s services, too.

Oklahoma State saw sophomore Marcus Smart, a consensus lottery pick, make the jump to the NBA draft. Meanwhile, senior Markel Brown ran out of eligibility. In February, the program’s heir apparent in freshman Stevie Clark — a top-80 prospect out of high school — was booted from the roster.

But the oft-mentioned key of how Hickey fit also emerged.

Ford made a late bid to woo the guard out of Christian County High, but he’d already visited LSU and committed shortly after.

Still, Hickey has ties to the Cowboys.

Ford, a former Kentucky point guard, played against Hickey’s father in high school. Anthony Hickey Sr. later coached an eighth-grade team that was a part of a AAU program overseen by Eddie Ford, who is Travis Ford’s father.

“These places have had some sort of familiarity for our family,” Anthony Hickey Sr. said.

There’s also the fact Hickey has already played alongside rising senior swingman LeBryan Nash, who returns as the Cowboys’ best scoring option after averaging 13.9 points per game last season.

The pair were teammates during the 2011 Derby Classic Showcase. Now they’ll try to steer Oklahoma State, which underwhelmed to an extent this season, to a deep run in March.

“It’s just worked out the way you’d hope,” Anthony Hickey Sr. said.

Follow Matthew Harris on Twitter: @MHarrisAdvocate.