- After improving by eight wins in their first year under Will Wade, how high can the Tigers climb after bringing in a recruiting class headlined by Nazreon Reid and Emmitt Williams?
In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. Just look at the 2018 draft, where it took 10 picks before Mikal Bridges became the first non-freshman (or international) to be selected. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. We continue with the No. 18 and No. 26 overall recruits, LSU's Nazreon Reid and Emmitt Williams, respectively.
What they mean for the Tigers' recruiting class
A pair of five-star power forwards, Reid and Williams headline LSU’s No. 4 ranked 2018 recruiting class. The two top-tier recruits join four other freshmen, including two four-star recruits in point guard Ja’Vonte Smart (No. 33 in the RSCI rankings) and power forward Darius Days (No. 59), in a monster recruiting class packed with young potential. The additions mean the Tigers have three of the nation's top 14 incoming freshmen at the power forward position, all but guaranteeing points off the board for LSU. Reid is a 6’9” potential one-and-done who walked away from the McDonald’s All-America game with a double double to his name. Williams comes to the program fresh off of a senior year season in which he averaged over 17 points and 12 rebounds per game. For a 6’7” power forward, he’s incredibly physical. He doesn’t back down from anyone and knows how to hustle, which may account for his MVP honors in the Jordan Brand Classic All-Star Game in Brooklyn this spring. He poured in 44 points, several of which were slam-dunks, and broke a tournament record set by LeBron James. With Reid, Williams, and Days on deck, the Tigers will have a deep frontcourt. This recruiting class is a promising part of second-year coach Will Wade’s attempts to turnaround the Tiger program after taking over in 2017.
How they fit
The Tigers return a pair of double-figures scorers from last season’s team in guards Tremont Waters and Skylar Mays. Guard Darryl Edwards (6.8 ppg), forward Wayde Sims (5.6 ppg) and guard Brandon Rachal (4.4 ppg) are also returning to Baton Rouge. Despite the returning veteran talent, Wade’s recruits will bring big numbers to the floor for LSU. Williams is expected to team up with Reid on the Tigers' front line, giving Wade’s team some much-needed muscle under the basket after they ranked 287th out of 351 D-I teams last season with 33.3 rebounds per game. Both will help the team get as many buckets as they’ll get rebounds. Reid has a surprisingly soft shooting touch for a big man. His experience playing point guard in high school has made him an impressively adept playmaker who can help run the floor for Wade, even from the post. While his size allows him to play inside, his shot also enables him to create his own scoring opportunities outside. Expect Williams to do the same. With a nearly 7-foot wingspan, Williams is an efficient scorer and dominant on the boards, both offensive and defensively. The Tigers’ 2017 turnaround was due in large part to underclassmen coming into their own, something that should happen again for Wade with this freshman class.
Importance to LSU's success/team outlook
In Will Wade’s first season at the helm of LSU’s program, the Tigers finished the season 18–15, including 8–10 in SEC play in a tie for ninth place before losing in the second round of the SEC tournament to Mississippi State. The Tigers won an NIT game against UL Lafayette before losing at Utah. By adding these talented freshmen to the team, Wade hopes to bolster the Tigers standing in the SEC and challenge Kentucky’s dominance. SI's summer top 25 has LSU checking in at No. 19 behind fellow SEC members Kentucky (2), Tennessee (8) and Auburn (12). CBS Sports, ESPN and NBC have the Tigers in a similar standing. With Wade’s top-ranked recruits in the lineup, the Tigers will continue the program’s turnaround this season.