By Trey Mongrue
A few weeks ago, fans in New Orleans got an up close and personal look at the future of LSU basketball.
Top high school basketball and LSU-signee Ben Simmons and the rest of his teammates from Florida’s Montverde Academy took part in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic at the Alario Center. And whether he was throwing down thunderous dunks or sinking buzzer-beating shots from half court, Simmons showed why he is considered the can’t-miss high school prospect.
Unfortunately for LSU freshman guard, and Montverde-alum, Jalyn Patterson, he wasn’t able to attend any of the games to see any of his former teammates that weekend.
“I tried to go down there on the Friday that they played, but we had practice here and I couldn’t get out,” Patterson recalled.
The practice was put to good use as the Tigers outlasted Georgia in a thrilling 87-84 double overtime win, thanks in large part to 15 points from Patterson.
“I haven’t really felt like freshman in a long time, but that’s what I’m classified as.”
– LSU freshman guard Jalyn Patterson
– LSU freshman guard Jalyn Patterson
Now victors in four of their last five games, the Tigers look to keep the winning formula going on Wednesday when they host South Carolina. To do that, they need Patterson to keep doing what he has been doing.
“As they say, he has ice water in his veins,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said of Patterson. “What he gives us defensively and the way he shoots the ball as a freshman, that’s big for us.”
The suggestion that LSU recruited Patterson only to create an inroad towards courting Simmons for the following season was not an unreasonable belief. After all, in addition to being teammates, the two were, and still are, close friends.
It’s something that Patterson has heard before, but it doesn’t bother him. As far as he’s concerned, if those people watch him on the court for one game, any doubt that he is at LSU for anything other than his skills on the court are quickly abolished.
“When I go out on the court I just try to be confident,” explained Patterson. “You have to be able to hold your own out there and just play to help out your teammates. I have to step up for the team.”
Through his stellar play, Patterson has seen his role increase to the point where he is Jones’ second most trusted weapon off the bench, behind only Tim Quarterman.
Since LSU started Southeastern Conference play against Missouri on Jan. 8, Patterson has played 20 or more minutes every game except for the Tigers’ 75-71 win over Ole Miss when he logged just 14 minutes. That quickly evened out, though, with a career-high 33-minute showing during last Saturday’s 79-75 overtime win at Vanderbilt.
In the Tigers’ six SEC games this season, Patterson is averaging over nine points per game off the bench and is shooting 46 percent from the field, which includes 11 three pointers in that span.
“It’s not hard,” Patterson said on continuing to help off the bench. “Whether it’s Jordan (Mickey), Jarell (Martin) or Tim, they’ve shown that they have confidence in me and that helps a lot.”
Although a freshman by designation, Patterson hasn’t felt like a young player for a long time now.
Staying true to his confidence motto, he came to LSU with the goal of contributing right away. After quickly getting used to the speed and physicality of the game, everything seemingly fell into place without much struggle.
“There was never a nervous factor for me,” Jalyn recalled of his first appearance for LSU, where he scored five points in 14 minutes against Gardner-Webb. “I kind of found myself over-thinking things, ‘Should I do this or should I do that,’ rather than just going out and playing.
“Since then, I haven’t really felt like freshman in a long time, but that’s what I’m classified as.”
Though having already made a name for himself as a freshman in his own right, Patterson is still excited to welcome his highly touted former high school teammate to LSU next season. Unlike the handful of people that saw Simmons for a few days at the Alario Center, Patterson has seen him play for years. Together, the two won multiple championships for Montverde, and Patterson’s plan is to do the same at LSU.
“We’re going to play hard each and every day,” Patterson said. “We could do it all, and I look forward to it.”