By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
Heading into a bye week at 5-2, LSU football has no questions at quarterback any longer. With a 4-1 record as a starter and four straight games at home of better than 60 percent completion and 200 yards passing, junior Danny Etling has solidified his role as the Tigers’ QB1.
Across campus at the LSU basketball practice facility, however, a good ol’ fashioned quarterback controversy is brewing.
Okay, so it’s not quite a controversy — more like a quarterback competition — that junior Jalyn Patterson and freshman Skylar Mays are in the midst of in the weeks leading up to LSU’s 2016-17 hoops season. Both players are battling to fill the void left by Tim Quarterman, now with the Portland Trailblazers, who ran Johnny Jones’ offense for the last two seasons. And both players bring different strengths to the position.
After two years playing off the ball, Patterson has been recently working with the 1s at point guard, fending off Mays, a four-star prep product ranked as the No. 95 overall prospect in the 2016 signing class. It’s a position Patterson feels comfortable in, having started at point guard for a national championship-winning high school squad at Monteverde.
It’s definitely a transition,” Patterson said of the move back to the 1. “You have to lead the team now. You’re up and seeing the whole floor. That’s what practice is for me, trying to get my experience back.
“Anytime I can get back to my natural position, it’s good for me. It’s been fun so far.”
Patterson has been highly efficient in two years for the Tigers. The key number: 26. That’s how many games Patterson’s played at least 26 minutes, and LSU is 19-7 (.731) in those contests. In the 33 games he’s played fewer than 26 minutes, LSU is just 17-16 (.515).
[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#461d7c” class=”” size=”18″]
19-7: LSU’s record when Jalyn Patterson plays 26 minutes or more
17-16: LSU’s record when Jalyn Patterson plays 25 minutes or fewer
In total, he’s shot 36 percent from 3 and produced 110 points per 100 possessions, a well above average figure, while handing out 112 assists to just 47 turnovers.
“Jalyn Patterson, as we know, can really stretch the defense,” Jones said at LSU hoops media day. “He can knock down shots. But he’s a crafty ball handler as well. He can get inside the defense and make plays, and really a good passer. His numbers are very low in terms of turnovers … He can certainly get the ball and create opportunities for others on the floor.”
He’s also a long-armed defender, making up for his 6-foot even frame with a 6-foot-6 wing span that allows him, in his own words, to “get my hands on the ball, deflect passes, just try to create havoc.”
Where he’s focusing his efforts on this preseason is being a vocal leader. Patterson, by nature, is quiet as a mouse, but teammates say he’s been more talkative in practice this fall.
“He’s working on speaking up more, talking,” said Antonio Blakeney. “But he’s doing real well at it, getting his team involved.”
Jones didn’t have to worry about his point guard talking last year — Quarterman provided plenty of chatter. Patterson, though, he’s had to push to speak up.
That’s required of our point guard, to lead us,” Jones said. “They’ve got to be vocal and make sure they’re directing everybody on the floor. They’re the quarterback of the team, and that’s something he’s working on. He’s a work in progress in that area.”
Mays, meanwhile, is adjusting as all freshmen do when they arrive to the SEC. He’s got a bit of a head start, though, thanks to a year at Findlay Prep, where he played against some of the nation’s top prospects night in and night out as a senior.
“At Findlay, you have 11 other D-1 caliber players on your team,” he said. “That really helped me, and playing against other high level guys and guarding other high level guys.”
That’s where Mays is working to catch up to speed the most: the defensive end of the floor. At 6-foot-4 and weighing in over 200 pounds, he has plenty of size to match up with any perimeter player in the SEC. It’s now about refining his technique, on and off the ball. That’s something Blakeney, another guard who Jones asked to play early as a freshman, is passing on to Mays.[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#461d7c” class=”firstClass” size=””]“I know my game,” says Mays. “I’m a facilitator, and I know that’s what I do best.[/perfectpullquote]
“I told him the biggest thing is defense,” Blakeney said. “That was the biggest thing for me to adjust to, the thing that took the longest. Especially for someone like him. He’s not someone who’s trying to score a ton, he wants to get teammates involved. That translates easy. Defense is the main thing.”
Offensively, Mays is already a step ahead, thanks to his innate ability to create offense for others. He tallied nearly 1,000 assists as a prep player, first at University High in Baton Rouge and then at Findlay, and that aspect of his game is carrying over quickly.
“I know my game,” he said. “I’m a facilitator, and I know that’s what I do best. We have a lot of talent, a lot of guys who can run and jump. Getting guys in spots where they can make plays.”
Mays has also worked on his shot in the offseason. Jones has lauded him as one of the hardest workers during the summer, and it’s shown in practice, as he’s hitting jumpers at a high clip. If that carries over into the season, that will give Jones the option of both/and — rather than either/or — when it comes to his two point guards.
Call it a two quarterback system.
“I think it’s underestimated whether I can play off the ball or not,” said Mays. “I’ve been putting time in to become a better shooter, so I think I can play off the ball a little bit and let him run the point. I’m more than fine with that. I feel like the more versatile you are, the more spots you can play, the longer you’ll be on the floor.”