By Andrew Alexander
Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt is often praised for his insightful foreign policy slogan, “speak softly, and carry a big stick.” Soft-spoken LSU sophomore forward Jordan Mickey is not allowed a carry stick with him on the court, but his lengthy, shot-blocking arms are more than ample substitutes.
“Jordan is not very outspoken, but he’s an impactful player,” LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones said following the Tigers’ 76-67 over Sam Houston State. “A lot of times he speaks more with his actions than his words.”
Nearly a third of the way through its schedule, the LSU men’s basketball team is giving Tiger fans a reason to pack the PMAC. Sitting at 7-2, the Tigers are riding a four-game winning streak that includes impressive wins over UMass and at No. 16 West Virginia. Mickey is a big reason for the Tigers’ early season success.
“Jordan makes an impact on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively,” Jones said. “He’s a shot blocking presence in the paint. He can do a lot of things for us.”
Against the Bearkats last Saturday, Mickey turned in his best performance of the young season with 21 points and 15 of LSU’s 42 rebounds for his 14th double-double of his career.
“I was able to get to the basket,” Mickey explained. “[Coming off of a long break] There was a little bit if a rust factor tonight. We were able to execute our offense, I was able to get some lay ups and good shots.”
Mickey has been a force on both ends of the floors this season, averaging over 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks for LSU this season.
“He’s become a better overall player,” sophomore forward Jarell Martin said of his fellow second-year player. “His game is tremendous. He’s finishing down low, finishing shots, handling the ball and his overall game is better. It takes pressure off me when he can play his game.”
Entering his freshman year at LSU in 2013, Mickey was a consensus four-star recruit from Prime Prep Academy in Dallas, Texas. Standing at 6-foot-8, with long arms and a lean physique, Mickey was to become an integral building block for the LSU program in year two of the Johnny Jones era.
In his first season as a Tiger, Mickey recorded nine double-doubles, third best in the SEC in 2013-2014, and averaged over 12 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks per game.
He quickly became known as a shot blocking force in the paint, joining Shaquille O’Neal as the second player in LSU history to block 100 shots in a season. Mickey’s impressive freshmen campaign concluded with All-SEC Freshman and All-SEC Defensive team selections.
“Last year he had different role, he just played off Johnny [O’Bryant III],” sophomore guard Tim Quarterman recalled. “Johnny created a lot of easy shots for him because a lot of people double-teamed Johnny. This year a lot of people are focused on him, and I think he’s stepped up big time on the boards and with his shot.”
With the departure of O’Bryant III to the NBA Draft, Mickey’s role would inevitably change his sophomore season. Over the summer Mickey not only worked to improve his mid-range jump shot, but he also worked on his leadership skills to help guide a young Tigers team that includes only four upper-classmen this season.
“I took it upon myself to step up and become a bigger leader knowing that Johnny O’Bryant left,” Mickey said.
While benefitting from the double teams on O’Bryant last season, this year Mickey is attacking the rim with zeal and showing off a few of the moves he worked on tirelessly over the summer.
“I feel I’ve improved a lot. I worked on becoming a more consistent scorer this summer,” added Mickey. “Coming in as one of the leaders of the team, I wanted to be able to carry my team so I definitely worked on my offensive game. I can see it paying off, and I’m extremely excited.”
Jones has seen a noticeable improvement in Mickey’s offensive game in his sophomore season, pointing out that the sophomore is “able to show off his face-up game” and has added a much better “mid-range game this season.”
Mickey and the LSU men’s basketball team have shown flashes of excellence so far this season. How far the Tigers end up next March will largely land upon the shoulders of their soft-spoken leader.