LSU’s Tremont Waters, the least talked about freshman guard in the nation, is making the case that he’s the most versatile point guard in the SEC.
The LSU Tigers’ official website lists Tremont Waters at 5-11. When looking at him on the court, that seems like it’s a stretch. He committed to the university as a four-star guard ranked 43rd overall in 247Sports’ composite rankings. The Connecticut native made his way through the hoop mixtape circuit and garnered some national attention, but that’s seemed to dwindle at the college ranks thanks to the standout play of other more highly-touted freshmen.
When Ben Simmons played his lone season at LSU, the team was in the spotlight regularly because of the transcendent star that Simmons was. Last year, however, the Tigers finished just 10-21 despite a standout season from Antonio Blakeney, who averaged 17.2 points but lacked the star power of someone like Simmons. This year, the school has started the campaign 11-4 and might make a return to the NCAA Tournament. Should that happen, Waters will be one of the key contributors.
After 15 games, he’s the Tigers leading scorer at 16.8 points a night. That includes a 39-point outburst against Marquette and 21-point performances against Michigan and Texas A&M. Waters, despite his size, is dropping in 47.4 percent of his shots overall and 41.8 percent of them from three. The latter clip is sixth-highest in the conference. He’s also the SEC’s fifth-leading scorer.
Guarding Tremont Waters is like asking an eight-year-old to recite the alphabet backward. There’s a slight chance, but, if you were to make a bet on it, the odds aren’t in your favor.
Waters, at his core, is a scorer — and a crafty one at that. Being a smaller player means that his moves are a bit unorthodox but more polished than his vertically-gifted contemporaries. The three-point shot is a weapon that Waters values the most. He’s ninth in the SEC with 91 total triples attempted, and 53.2 percent of his field goals come from downtown. He’s proficient at it, though, so more power to him. However, what makes Waters such an extraordinary player is his ability to convert inside of 15 feet; take away the diverse offense, and all you have a three-point specialist. That’s not a bad thing, but being dynamic is far better.
If we had to make a comparison, Tremont Waters is like the light version of Trae Young. Waters, like Young, isn’t the biggest guy on the court, so he’s able to deceive defenders with explosive change-of-pace moves that allow him to get the step.
There’s an array of dribble combos that Waters can pull out at will, and he’s got a bone-snapping hesitation that leaves defenders two steps behind if he decides to break it out.
Once into the teeth of the defense, Waters has a nice floater he can use if a help defender cuts him off. If not, he’ll maneuver around the paint and get as close to the rim as possible before tossing up a layup with enough English to make Rod Strickland happy. His awareness and body control also add to him being an elite finisher, and Hoop-Math.com estimates that he converts on 64.0 percent of his shots at the rim. For comparison, Young finishes at 50.9 percent, and Collin Sexton at 62.3 percent.
Taller and longer defenders have the best chance at sticking on Waters. They cover more ground and can recover easier when he starts to dance. He, of course, has a counter for them. The freshman employs a killer stepback move that creates a ton of space, and the elevation he gets on his jumper allows him to shoot over the arm of the defender who’s closing out.
Tremont Waters’ game goes way beyond scoring, though. His 6.1 assists are tops in the conference, and the freshman is adept at drawing defenders and finding the open man. At times, his vision is exceptional. Others, the decisions are suspect. It’s vital to remember that Waters is a young player and will make mistakes. The silver lining is that he’s shown he’s not afraid to attempt the homerun play, and sometimes point guards get knocked for playing too conservatively.
Since conference play has started, Waters has dished out 15 assists in three games. It’s a slight drop, but the competition is better equipped to deal with dynamic players. What he’s done in the wake of that decline is display more aggression on the glass, and Waters — remember, he’s just 5-11 — is hauling in 7.0 rebounds a night to begin conference play. That’s astounding for someone his size.
At the beginning of the year, it became quite apparent that Waters had remarkably quick hands and elite anticipation on defense. Being at a physical disadvantage, it’s necessary that there’s something he can do to avoid being a total liability on that end of the floor. He’s averaging 2.3 steals per game to begin the year, which leads the SEC.
The reason it’s acceptable to think that Tremont Waters is the most versatile guard in college basketball is the numbers back it up. He’s the only player in his conference to average more than 15 points and five assists. Now, let’s go a step further and look nationally. There are 24 players in the country eclipsing those averages — nine of them play in a Power Five conference. We can still go another step further and limit the field to Power Five freshman, where Young and McKinley Wright IV are the only two guys to accompany Waters.
Waters may be a small player, but his ability to impact the game is right in line with the NCAA’s most prominent stars; there have been multiple instances this season where the freshman has made a game-saving or game-winning play. He can score from anywhere on the floor and is a serviceable passer who also pesters opposing guards, which creates easy points for the offense.
As exciting as Tremont Waters is, he’s someone who could benefit from a couple of more years at LSU. If he were to enter this year’s draft, you’re looking at someone who goes in the mid-to-late second round or gets signed as an undrafted free agent. He does, however, have a slew of positives that will get him on NBA draft radar sooner or later.
Statistics are from games played prior to January 12.
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