Glenn Guilbeau / Gannett Louisiana
BATON ROUGE – LSU star freshman forward Jordan Mickey performed a dramatic pause during a stay-or-go-pro press conference Wednesday afternoon – not unlike when a player like him is at an apex just before a monster dunk.
“I want to start off by thanking everyone who helped me throughout this process,” Mickey said with LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones seated at his right. “I want to thank Coach Jones for supporting me in whatever I decided to do. I want to thank my parents for just guiding me and trying to help me make the best decision possible for myself. And just thank LSU for giving me this opportunity to come here and have a good season and be part of their school and their family.”
That last part about LSU had a taste of past tense to it, and the words, “I’ve decided to enter the NBA Draft,” seemed a logical progression.
But then Mickey, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Dallas who averaged 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocked shots a game last season for the Tigers, stopped. About 10 seconds passed as he looked to Jones twice, then back to an audience of reporters and teammates.
Finally, Jones turned to him and nodded as if to say, “Go on.” Finally, he did.
“As far as next year, I’ve decided that I will come back and play my sophomore year of basketball at LSU and try to help my team,” Mickey said as teammates first laughed, then applauded.
Jones, who lost star junior forward Johnny O’Bryant early this month when he decided to enter the NBA Draft on June 26, breathed a sigh of relief.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are with the news that Jordan will be a part of our basketball program next year,” Jones said. “I think all of you guys realize the impact he made on our basketball team this year as a freshman.”
Mickey averaged fewer points than O’Bryant, who scored 15.4 a game, but he was more consistent and did not get into foul trouble as much. Mickey did lead the team in rebounding (7.9) and in field goal percentage (53 percent) and was named All-Southeastern Conference second team by the Associated Press and league coaches and made the All-SEC freshman team and defensive team.
“He made an impact that we look forward to having next year as far as what he brings to our team,” Jones said.
Mickey was projected to be a mid-second round pick in the NBA Draft.
“I need to continue to get bigger, stronger and faster,” Mickey said. “I need to continue to improve on my skill set. That’s basically what they (NBA evaluations) told me. Basically, coming back was the best thing for me to continue to improve my game. I just want to be able to come back and try to help my team win some more games next year.”
LSU finished the 2013-14 season at 20-14 overall and 9-9 in the SEC. It split two games in the National Invitation Tournament. LSU returns starting freshman forward Jarell Martin (10.3 points) and starting junior point guard Anthony Hickey (8.4 points, 3.7 assists) in addition to Mickey. Six new players will join the squad next season, including the nation’s No. 51 overall prospect in 7-foot center Elbert Robinson of Garland, Texas, and transfer guards Keith Hornsby and Josh Gray.
“I feel we can be an extremely good team – an NCAA Tournament qualifying team,” Mickey said. “Definitely, with the pieces coming back and guys we have coming in, I’m confident in my team that we can go pretty far next year.”
Mickey said he did not make his final decision until Tuesday.
“Like right now,” Jones said.