Antonio Blakeney made headlines when he committed to the LSU men’s basketball team. The Sarasota, Florida , native had committed to Louisville just ten days earlier, but spurned the Cardinals, along with several other schools in order to play collegiate basketball in Baton Rouge and this time, Blakeney didn’t look back.
The shooting guard garnered high expectations going into his freshman season. Blakeney and fellow LSU freshman Ben Simmons were the only true freshman among collegiate players to be invited to participate in the inaugural NIKE Academy in California, where they received instructions from NBA greats Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
While Blakeney has gone through some growing pains during his freshman season, he has shown steady improvement and displayed flashes of his immense potential at times this season. DIG Magazine caught up with the true freshman to talk about adjusting to college, the changing culture of the LSU basketball program and that time his AAU team survived eight technical fouls during a victory in this edition of Talkin’ Tigers.
DIG: What’s the transition from high school in Florida to college in Louisiana been like for you, both on and off the court?
Antonio Blakeney: It’s been good so far. It’s kind of the same in some ways. It’s hot over the summer, but dealing with this cold [weather] has been different for me. Other than that, it’s kind of the same.
DIG: Is there any player in the NBA right now whose game you think resembles yours?
AB: I try to have my own game and develop it myself, but the person that I like the most is Russell Westbrook. I’m not as explosive as him yet, but hopefully one day I can get there.
DIG: You had multiple offers from other schools, including Louisville and Kentucky. What was the deciding factor that made you choose LSU?
AB: I really liked the plan that coach [Johnny] Jones had for our program. This is a team that made the NCAA tournament last season and had some of those guys come back this year.
And we had Ben [Simmons] coming in, so I knew we’d have a really good team.
DIG: You were Mr. Basketball in Florida and really excelled playing for your high school. Now that you’ve made it to the next level, how is college basketball different from high school?
AB: It’s definitely a lot different. High school is a little looser, but now [in college] you really have to pay attention to detail. It’s also really fast and stuff like that, so yeah. It’s really different.
DIG: Do you have a favorite NBA team?
AB: I don’t really have a favorite NBA team. I mainly just keep up with the players. That’s pretty much it. I don’t really watch too many games.
DIG: Basketball related or not, what’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
AB: The best advice I’ve ever gotten is to just work hard. Another [piece of advice] I’ve gotten is to be responsible for your own destiny, and don’t let anybody tell you what you can and can’t do.
DIG: I heard you like to play basketball to ease your mind when you’re stressed. What’s the longest you’ve ever played by yourself?
AB: I don’t remember a certain time, but I would say five or six hours.
DIG: Pre or post LSU, is there a certain shot, game or moment that stands out to you at this point in your basketball career?
AB: In high school when I dunked on this dude during the Bob Giggins [AAU] tournament, that was a good moment. Everybody in the gym rushed the court in the middle of the game. We got like eight techs [technical fouls]. It was great, but we still won the game.
DIG: You said you came to LSU to help change the culture of the basketball program and make it more renowned, like football is here in Baton Rouge. Obviously, you guys would’ve liked to win a few more games up to this point, but do you see any signs of that culture changing?
AB: Definitely. We definitely feel the support of our fans when we’re at home. We just have to keep protecting our home court, like we’ve been doing. We need to find a way to be better away from home and start winning some games on the road.
DIG: Are any superstitions or rituals part of your pregame routine?
AB: Shooting. Just shooting.