Recruiting is the lifeblood of any successful college basketball program but some recruits are more important than others.
For Will Wade, from the moment he was introduced as LSU’s new head coach, and perhaps even earlier, Javonte Smart became priority 1A.
Smart isn’t just a top ranked national point guard and the type of guy who can make an immediate impact as a freshman, but he’s also a homegrown talent from Baton Rouge’s own Scotlandville High School and so his decision would set the tone for other highly regarded local products to come after him.
Even when Wade landed a commitment from another point guard, Tremont Waters, late in the 2017 class, Smart was still no less of a priority. The reality is that his impact will go far beyond what he does on the court next year. He’s actually already making an impact because his commitment has given Wade just the immediate cache he needed on the recruiting trail as he attempts to re-brand this new generation of LSU basketball.
Now that he has made just the big splash he hoped, Wade will look to take advantage of that momentum. The goal of any program that hopes to compete nationally is to have the prowess to pick which local products they want to stay home (not the other way around), and then be able to get involved with top national prospects from various areas in the country.
Next up on Wade’s hit list is Nazreon Reid, a 6-foot-10 forward from New Jersey who is currently the 7th ranked prospect in the national class of 2018 according to ESPN. LSU has already had Reid on campus and quietly emerged as a favorite for his services.
One thing LSU fans know all too well though is that landing highly rated recruits doesn’t necessarily equate to winning college basketball games. Talent is a requisite of course but only when those pieces fit together and buy into a common cause does the program become successful.
In there lies the next phase of Smart’s role in the revitalization of LSU basketball. He may not officially arrive on campus for another year, but when he does Waters will already have a year under his belt, and the two point guards will not only need to find a way to co-exist but also make each other better. They’ll both still be underclassmen, but they’re also Wade’s two biggest early recruits, and so they’ll collectively set the tone for the rest of the team.
While both Waters and Smart are used to playing with the ball in their hands, they should otherwise be compatible. In other words, if they have a willingness to share the ball (a topic which you can bet Wade has already broached with both of them) then the rest of the transition should not be counter-intuitive for either.
With both of them on the floor LSU will be almost impossible to pressure and that much more dangerous when they are on the attack. More specifically, they’ll be able to break that much easier with outlet options on both sides of the floor. They’ll be able to expose any team that has a weak-link on the perimeter defensively, and utilize actions with multiple ball-screens, thus wearing down opposing defenses.
Defensively though is where teams can run into trouble with line-ups like these, especially if both guards are undersized as Waters is. Yet again though, this is why Smart is the ideal piece. At 6-foot-4 he has potentially elite versatility on the defensive end. He’ll start most nights on the opposing team’s two-guard, enabling Waters to guard the smallest man on the floor, and even be able to slide over to bigger wings if need be.
That size will also be a factor offensively as it allows him to see over opposing defenders and facilitate that much easier. And while Waters may be the more prototypical point guard in terms of his size, he may also be the more aggressive of the two individually. Consequently, you may very well see Smart initiating the offense more often than not, Waters sliding off the ball to take advantage of his scoring prowess, and then the two flip-flopping on the other end with Waters guarding the opposing team’s point guard and Smart there bigger guard.
It may end up to be a nearly perfect fit…and in more ways than one.