On the morning of April 14, the state of LSU basketball was an unmitigated disaster. The program appeared to have a lame-duck head coach and every player on the roster was jumping ship as quickly as possible.
Will Wade remained suspended and under federal subpoena to testify in late April at Christian Dawkins’ bribery case into corruption in college basketball. Wade had been the focus of an explosive Yahoo story in early March, allegedly caught on FBI wiretaps discussing with Dawkins – among other things — “a strong-ass offer” he had made to a player.
When the story broke, Wade was obviously summoned by his athletic director and other LSU administrators to discuss the matter. However, acting on advice from his lawyers, Wade refused to speak to his employers.
This left the school with no choice. He was suspended indefinitely and seemingly destined to take a pink slip. Without Wade, LSU clinched the SEC regular-season championship in its regular-season finale. The Tigers would advance to the Sweet 16 before losing to Michigan State.
Quickly after that defeat, six players announced their intentions to turn pro early. This group included Naz Reid, Tremont Waters, Emmitt Williams, Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays and Marlon Taylor.
But before dark on the night of April 14, Wade was stunningly reinstated. Then on April 19, a judge ruled that Wade and Arizona head coach Sean Miller didn’t have to testify at Dawkins’ trial.
Smart was the player referenced when Wade allegedly discussed the “strong-ass offer.” Like Wade, he was initially suspended in early March, but Smart missed only the home win over Vanderbilt to close the regular season. He was reinstated for the SEC Tournament and played in the NCAA Tournament.
On May 18, Smart announced he was returning to LSU for his sophomore campaign. Two days later, five-star forward Trendon Watford from Birmingham announced his commitment to LSU, choosing the Tigers over Memphis, Indiana and Alabama.
Although Reid and Waters have decided to stay in the NBA Draft, Mays and Taylor told Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports on Monday (5/27) that they were returning to school. Both will be seniors in 2019-20.
Mays was a second-team All-SEC selection after averaging 13.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game. He finished second in the SEC in steals. Taylor started 24 games this past season, averaging 6.7 points and 3.6 RPG. He is a high riser and one of college basketball’s most explosive dunkers.
LSU was waiting on Williams’s decision until Tuesday night when he announced that he’s also coming back to Baton Rouge. His return makes the Tigers legit contenders to repeat as SEC champions. Furthermore, it completes one of the most incomprehensible roster rebuilds over a six-week stretch in recent memory.
In other SEC basketball news, Rothstein reported Monday that Alabama’s Tevin Mack will return to school. Then earlier today, 247Sports’ Evan Daniels reported that Mack will be a grad transfer to another school.
South Carolina received good news when A.J. Lawson announced he’ll come back to Columbia.
Florida is still waiting for a decision from Andrew Nembhart, who hit a game-winning 3-pointer with one second left to beat LSU in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.
There were conflicting reports about Georgia’s Nicolas Claxton today. Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported that a source told him Claxton was staying the draft. However, Claxton posted on Instagram that his decision would not come until tonight or tomorrow morning (5/29). UPDATE: Claxton elected to stay in the NBA Draft, which is a crushing blow to Tom Crean and UGA’s hopes to make the NCAA Tournament.