By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
LSU’s 2017 recruiting class got a massive boost with the late addition of Tremont Waters last week.
Waters was the highest-ranked unsigned player in the country, and the Tigers beat Georgetown and UConn to the punch for a prospect with Duke and Kentucky offers.
Waters, at 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, doesn’t possess incredible size, but he does possess incredible skill, and he may already be the best guard on LSU’s roster.
For evidence of Waters’ ability, look no further than his performance at the NBPA Top 100 Camp last year, which brought together the best talent in the country for several days of basketball. When the event wrapped, Waters took home Co-MVP honors with Zion Williamson, who may be the best player in the entire 2018 class.
A big part of that was Waters’ ability to create for others. His 38.7 assist rate was far and away the best in the event, according to Open Look Analytics, and a sign of development in the game of a player who emerged early in his high school career as more of a scoring guard.
Waters “ran his team like a five-star quarterback recruit in the backfield,” HoopSeen Editor Justin Young wrote. “A one time, score first type at the lead guard spot, Waters has bettered his decision making abilities along with setting down and comprehending the time and place to run his team’s half court offense. Make no mistakes about it though, as Waters can still score it in bunches.”
He’s equally dangerous as a passer in the half court as he is on the break. He can split pick and rolls to get feet into the paint and force rotations before dishing to the open man, or he can find runners in traffic in transition with similar ease.
His scoring came with incredible efficiency at the Top 100 camp: 59.0 effective FG%, 63.1 True Shooting%, and 63.2% shooting from inside the arc, all top-10 figures. In fact, Waters was the only player shorter than 6-foot-6 to rank in the top 10 in two-point shooting, showing a knack for finishing among the trees despite his relatively small stature. He elevates well and hangs, creating spinning finishes on his way down to evade shot-blockers.
His three-point shooting is good – he knocked down just at 35 percent at the camp, and 33 percent in 20 EYBL games last year for Expressions Elite – but has room for improvement. His stroke is smooth, and he creates space well with his footwork and handle, which is second to none. With an 85 percent mark from the free throw line both at the NBPA camp and on the EYBL circuit, he’s excellent at the stripe and possesses a stroke that can be refined into a 40 percent shooter from deep with some work.
The thing Waters brings to the table that is most SEC-ready is his on-ball pressure. LSU was atrocious defensively a year ago, giving up more than 90 points per game in league-play with a 119.8 defensive rating, according to KenPom – extrapolated over an entire season, that would’ve ranked 335th nationally.
I said repeatedly that 50 percent of the Tigers’ defensive issues last year could’ve been prevented with pressure at the point of attack. The best way to thwart opposing offenses is to not let them get into their stuff, to deny passing lanes and get into ball handlers so they are forced to move from Option A to Options B, C, and D.
Waters is the perfect player to put atop a defense. He led the NBA Top 100 field with a 5.9% steal rate, forcing the best guards in the country into turnovers with his ability to get into their space.
“I just love his defense,” Wade told 10.37 The Game’s Ben Love. “He can get under the ball, pressure the ball. If you’re going to be a pressure oriented defensive team, you’ve got to be inspired by who’s guarding the ball. If you’ve got somebody who can sit down and guard the ball, that inspires those guys behind him to sit down, be up the line, stunting, and helping out. Tre does that.”
I look for Waters to start just about every game of his LSU career at the point. He can play with another point guard like Skylar Mays or Daryl Edwards to give LSU two ball-handlers and play-makers, or he can be the lead dog with bigger wings next to him like Brandon Sampson, Brandon Rachal, and Galen Alexander.
Defensively, he will spearhead Wade’s intense attack, pestering ball handlers the full length of the court. Offensively, he’ll be a creator who can get into the paint and kick out for others or get his own points. He’s got All-SEC potential the moment the steps on the court as a Tiger, and his frame should keep him around the program for a few years, as well.
Every coach needs a building block to start his tenure. Wade may just have his in Waters. And who knows? Perhaps he’ll land another in due time.