It’s a different coach and a different player, but for the second time in four seasons, LSU is set to welcome a one-and-done talent to campus.
Then, it was Johnny Jones and Ben Simmons for the 2015-16 campaign, which began promisingly and ended painfully.
Now, it’s Will Wade and Naz Reid, the latest 6-foot-11 five-star set to star for the Tigers. He won’t arrive in Baton Rouge until June, when summer school begins, but LSU has already begun laying the groundwork for Reid to hit the ground running this summer.
Wade told reporters Monday he’s already looked at other programs and met with LSU athletic department officials to go over concerns and iron out plans for the arrival of Reid and the rest of the highly-touted 2018 class.
“We’ve studied some other people’s processes that they have in place,” Wade said Monday. “I met with our administration this morning on some things that maybe concerned me, and they were very good. They agreed on some things.”
“Limit the Distractions”
Wade didn’t go into specifics, but it’s clear he’ll continue to be intimately involved with the support structures around the program – academics, marketing, facilities, and what he called “player welfare” – to ensure Reid’s time at LSU fully benefits both parties: wins for LSU, and a ticket to the NBA for Reid.
“[The administration is] going to make sure we have the support in place that we need to make sure these guys are moving forward and in a good place,” Wade said, “and we’re able to limit the distractions.”
The “distractions” may have been an issue under Simmons, but the individual play of Simmons himself wasn’t. Despite LSU’s absence from postseason play, Simmons parlayed a dominant year in Baton Rouge into a No. 1 selection in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Reid, meanwhile, is a different player than Simmons. At No. 18 in the country per 247Sports, he’s not as highly-touted as the top-ranked Simmons was out of Monteverde. There’s also little chance he’s followed by a documentary crew in the time he spends in town, and it’d be surprising to see him as the sole focal point of a ticket-selling campaign.
“Coach ’em All the Same”
Wade is also sure he won’t coach Reid any differently from fellow five-star incoming freshman Emmitt Williams, four-stars Darius Days and Javonte Smart, or returning players like Tremont Waters, Skylar Mays, Brandon Sampson, or walk-on Marshall Graves.
“I think if you coach ‘em different, you’re going to lose ‘em,” Wade said. “You gotta coach ‘em all the same way.”
Of the four signees that make up LSU’s fourth-ranked recruiting class, only Reid is at this week’s McDonald’s All-American game, where he talked with 247Sports about picking LSU. He cited a comfort level with Wade and assistant Greg Heiar, plus his future teammates, as keys to picking the Tigers.
“It took a lot of thought,” he said. “I’m not really a person who feels safe out of New Jersey really, so for them to make me feel like I was home was a great feeling. Coach Wade, Coach Heiar are great coaches. I’ve going to have Javonte, Emmitt, Darius, Tremont, a lot of other guys. I feel like we’re going to be a great team next year.”
He told 247 Tiger fans can expect “a lot of hard work, dedication, and a lot of intensity” out of him when he shows up this summer.
“This is America”
If not for the NBA’s one-and-done policy, Reid might not be at LSU at all. His talent is pro-worthy already, as he’s reportedly impressed NBA scouts in McDonald’s practices this week.
— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) March 27, 2018
Ironically, Wade’s no fan of the one-and-done rule, though it might be to his benefit next season.
“I don’t think we should be restricting anybody,” Wade said. “I think if they’re good enough to go immediately, they should go immediately. That’s not an NCAA thing. That’s an NBA deal. They should be able to go when they want.
“This is America. If you earn the right to get a higher wage than your scholarship, you should be able to go. I’m probably the vast minority of coaches on that. I think they should be able to open everything up.”
For now, Wade will look to reap the benefits of a system that pushes players like Reid into college for at least a season. After an 18-15 debut in Baton Rouge, he has higher hopes for next season. Reid, Williams, Smart, and Days bring needed talents and traits to a veteran core.
“They all bring certain personality to our team, which is good,” Wade said. “We didn’t have a lot of personality this year. They’re a little bit more maybe defensive-minded than we’ve had. I think they can help us on the defensive end of the court. They’ve got good basketball IQ, winning instincts. Three of the four won a state championship, which is important. Winning breeds winning. You gotta know how to win close games and make plays to close games. Hopefully, those are some of the characteristics they can bring to our team.”