LSU coach Will Wade says Tigers 'one big body' away from having elite team for 2020-21

LSU coach Will Wade talks to his team as they play Arkansas during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
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(The Advocate) - The LSU men’s basketball team may be almost completely made over for the 2020-21 season with five signees, two transfers and the uncertain prospect of two Tiger starters testing the NBA waters.

But if it all works out in their favor, the Tigers are poised to have a big season, according to LSU coach Will Wade.

“We’re one big body away from being an elite team with talented newcomers and veterans with experience,” Wade said Monday on LSU’s “LSU Sixty” in-house radio program. “Typically, that combination gives you a chance to have a really, really special team. That’s what we’re close to doing and our goal as we go through recruiting the next 3-4 weeks.”

The Tigers have at least seven newcomers for next season, led by five-star shooting guard Cam Thomas and UCLA transfer forward Shareef O’Neal, son of LSU great Shaquille O’Neal.

Thomas will fill the role of departing LSU senior Skylar Mays, Wade said. O’Neal redshirted his freshman season at UCLA in 2018-19 because of a heart issue, but Wade said O’Neal told him recently that he “feels back to being 100%.”

Wade said LSU needed three point guards for next season and has that with rising junior Javonte Smart and incoming freshmen Jalen Cook of Walker High School and Eric Gaines from Georgia. LSU’s other signees include forwards Mwani Wilkinson and Bradley Ezewiro and former Madison Prep forward Josh LeBlanc, a transfer from Georgetown.

The Tigers also have a commitment from a big man Wade craves, 6-foot-11 Josh Gray from Putnam, Connecticut, though Wade was unable to talk about him because of recruiting regulations.

Two LSU starters, forwards Trendon Watford and Darius Days, put their names in the NBA draft but retained the right to return for this season. Watford did not sign with an agent, while Days picked an NCAA-approved agent who could work with him in an advisory role.

Wade said “we have a pretty good idea” of what Watford and Days will do and said his staff is in constant communication with their families. The trickiest part, Wade said, may be how late the NBA draft could be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The draft will probably be pushed back to mid-August or early September, so we don’t know what the evaluation period will look like,” Wade said. “They (the NBA) are worried about getting the season going again. There are a lot of things up in the air.”

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