HOTARD: Recruits try to fill pieces of puzzle

Show caption
James Crisp /
Christian County's Anthony Hickey, right, shoots under pressure from Lexington Catholic's Jack Whitman, left, during the third quarter of a quarterfinal KHSAA Sweet 16 high school basketball game in Lexington, Ky., on Friday, March 18, 2011. Hickey is one of three incoming freshmen at LSU.

One of them burst onto the scene during the Kentucky state basketball tournament, led his high-school team to a championship, and made his college choice with some help from above. The second gave his pledge to LSU way back in 2009, blew out his knee the following summer and, after being reassured by his future coach, felt so good last year that he played on the Pickering High football team.

The last one is embracing the hype he knew would follow when he became the first McDonald’s All-American to sign with LSU in six years.

They are Anthony Hickey, John Isaac and Johnny O’Bryant, the newest members of the LSU men’s basketball team.

Since arriving in Baton Rouge last month, the three freshmen have stayed busy matching up with teammates in open-gym workouts, hitting the weights in LSU’s off-season conditioning program, and navigating campus to reach summer-school classes.

Monday afternoon, they met with members of the local media for the first time.

Hickey, Isaac and O’Bryant may have taken different routes to get here, but all three said they came to LSU for the same reason: a chance to make the Tigers a contender again.

“There were little pieces that were missing in the puzzle,” Hickey said. “We’re here trying to fill them.”

Opponents have gotten more than a piece of LSU the past two seasons, sending the Tigers to consecutive last-place finishes in the SEC. But optimism abounds, springing from the floor where the newcomers scrimmage.

Isaac can’t wait to put on an LSU uniform more than two years after he made his commitment.

Johnson stood by him after the 6-4, 210-pound wing underwent ACL surgery in the summer of 2009, even agreeing to let Isaac play football at Pickering his senior year.

Asked what he will contribute in his first college season, Isaac skipped the parts about his outside jumper and to-the-hoop athleticism.

“Just another player that’s going to do whatever it takes to win,” he said.

Hickey, 5-10, 172, should compete with Andre Stringer to run the offense after earning Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball award as a Christian County senior. He said he chose LSU over Tennessee and South Carolina because he could play early.

But he said he had help.

“I told God, ᅯI’m going to set all the schools down, and I’m going to let you pick,’” Hickey said.

Going inside to O’Bryant, the most decorated recruit of the Johnson era, might be his next move.

O’Bryant, 6-9, 260, wants to play in the NBA - the sooner, the better.

“I know if I come out and play hard and let the NBA decide, hopefully I won’t be here too long,” O’Bryant said. “But as long as I’m here, I plan to do everything I can to help my team win.”

All three freshmen know they’ll have the chance.