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April 26, 2011

Great visit

The last piece of Anthony Hickey Jr.'s recruiting puzzle is now in place. Less than two weeks from now the reigning Mr. Kentucky Basketball plans to reveal exactly how they all fit.

Hickey, a three-star prospect from Christian County High in Hopkinsville, Ky., took his only official visit with a trip to LSU that he concluded Tuesday morning.

"It was great, I loved it," Hickey said before returning home. "The distance wasn't a factor at all. It was worth it."

The lone official visit for Hickey has placed LSU in thick of the race for the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder's signature. He plans to make a decision between the Tigers, South Carolina and Western Kentucky on May 6.

"I don't have any favorites," Hickey said. "Everyone's still even."

Hickey recently put the finishing touches on his Mr. Basketball-worthy season when he led Christian County to a state championship with a 65-63 double overtime victory over Rowan City.

Hickey, who scored 17 points and handed out 12 assists in the final, averaged 18.6 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0s steals over the course of his final season. During his team's run to the state championship Hickey raised both his game and those numbers to the tune of 22.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.5 steals and 4.6 assists.

"It went pretty good," Hickey's father, Anthony Hickey Sr. said of the visit. "It's a nice campus, a nice environment and they have some nice kids returning. They answered all of our questions. The biggest question is academics and they have a nice academic center that (former LSU All-American) Shaquille (O'Neal) has donated to and helped make it an even nicer facility.

"We're just waiting to see what he wants to do once we get back and talk about this trip as a group," Hickey Sr. said. "We were constantly going and meeting people. We're going to see what's on his mind because the ultimate decision will be up to him."

Hickey flew to Baton Rouge with his family Easter Sunday and spent the next two days meeting with LSU basketball coach Trent Johnson and his staff, touring both the campus and basketball program's facilities.

It didn't take long for Hickey, who was more than a 10-hour drive from home, to develop a level of comfort in his new surroundings thanks to the hospitable nature of the coaches and players with sophomores Andre Stringer and Jalen Courtney served as his host.

"I felt comfortable," Hickey said. "Just the environment and the way the coaches and players treated me. The campus was great and I felt at home. The surroundings were great."

For someone like Hickey, also a standout in the classroom, the visit to the Cox Communication Center for Student-Athletes was among the highlights of the visit.

"It stood out really big," said Hickey, who also had a big approval rating of the program's new practice facility and locker room. "It's a resource to help you and that's another great thing about LSU because you've got help all around you."

The trip was also a meaningful one for Hickey's father, who was a running back at Austin Peay when current LSU defensive line coach Brick Haley coached there as well and the two have remained friends ever since.

Hickey's father is also from the same hometown in Tennessee - Oak Ridge - as current LSU women's basketball coach Nikki Caldwell.

For the second straight year LSU's program, which played without a senior on its roster, struggled with an 11-21 overall record, including just a 3-13 showing in the Southeastern Conference.

Coming into the visit Hickey, who also quarterbacked Christian County to the state championship game, said he would welcome the type of challenge LSU presented from the standpoint of trying to build off the foundation Johnson had in place and return the Tigers to their winning ways.

Johnson and his staff reiterated to Hickey how close they believed the program was in terms of becoming a consistent winner again and were able to reference LSU returning four of five starters and at least eight players that started a game last season.

The Tigers also welcome 7-foot junior center Justin Hamilton (Iowa State transfer) and 6-11 forward Johnny O'Bryant, a 6-11 McDonald's All-American into the fold.

"I had met Coach Johnson at my school before and he's a good person who I get along with fine," Hickey said. "The staff is really great. They talked about the things I had to do to be successful and run the team if I went there. They're telling me they have a chance to be good and a chance to start winning but there are some pieces they need."

While Hickey acknowledged that early playing time certainly was appealing he wanted to return home to talk it over more with his parents before rendering a decision.

"I just want to come in and play," Hickey said. "I'll work, but I do want to play. I like LSU a whole bunch."


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