LSU assistant basketball coach David Patrick had more than an offer waiting for San Bernardino (Calif.) Valley College guard Gerry Blakes when they spoke earlier this month.
Patrick also tried to appeal to Blakes' competitive side.
"They don't need me to come in and fill in a spot or replace someone, they need someone to come in and make an impact in the SEC," Blakes said. "They need someone fearless to come in and play against Kentucky or Florida. That was exciting to hear. The opportunity is big to me and who wouldn't want to play against those teams and beat them."
Whether the pitch from Patrick was inspirational or not it was enough, combined with the offer, to get the 6-foot-4, 185-pounder to take an official visit to LSU on Wednesday.
Blakes only other scheduled official visit will be to Arizona State. He also reports offers from Colorado, St. Mary's (Calif.), Texas A&M and Iowa.
Blakes said he plans to sign during the early signing period in November.
"I liked the situation," Blakes said. "I liked the conference. I like the history at the school and that it's a big-time school in general. Shaq (O'Neal) and Big Baby (Glenn Davis) went to school so I know the opportunities are there for someone who goes there and works hard."
Blakes, like so many junior college players before him, has had to take a long and winding road in order to maintain his hoop dreams.
Blakes wound up attending three different high schools before playing his senior year at Morningside in Inglewood, Calif. where he led the Monarchs in scoring with a 22.4 average. He recorded 12 double-doubles and scored in double figures 18 times with a high game of 34 points.
With only an offer from Hawaii out of high school Blakes signed with the Rainbows but wasn't academically eligible to enroll in school.
"I had to figure out what I was going to do," said Blakes, who was a McDonald's All-American nominee. "Hawaii was trying to send me to a junior college out of state but I was never a big fan of that because my mom needed me close by.
"I didn't get much high school exposure," Blakes said. "I didn't get a lot of varsity minutes as a sophomore and junior. I got offered by Hawaii because of the AAU circuit and since it was the only offered I had, I signed."
Initially, Blakes attended Citrus College in Glendora but never played basketball.
Blakes wound up at San Bernardino after striking up a relationship with the school's basketball coach Quincy Brewer because who was familiar with Blakes' AAU background and convinced him to join his program.
"Coach Brewer set up a plan for me to be in the position I'm in now which is to get highly recruited and preparing to make my dreams come true," Blakes said.
Despite a nagging sprained ankle that forced him to miss some time, by all accounts Blakes' first season with Brewer was a rousing success.
Blakes earned first team All-Foothill Conference and first team All-California honors after helping San Bernardino to a 22-9 record, a second place conference finish and semifinals of the Southern California regionals.
Blakes, who played point guard, was rewarded on the league's postseason team for leading the Foothill Conference in scoring with a 16.5 average to go along with 4.0 rebounds. He reached double-digits 17 times with a career high of 29 points in a 72-68 loss to Ventura College.
Blakes shot 41 percent from the floor, 33.3 from 3-point land and 75 percent from the free throw line.
"I can play both guard positions," Blakes said. "I can score the ball well and facilitate as well. Whatever coach needs me to do at the time to win is what I do. There's still some finishing touches and polishing on my junior college game that will advance me at the Division I level."
LSU became interested in Blakes earlier this month after Patrick scouted the Las Vegas Junior College All-American Showcase featuring that division's top 100 players.
Patrick extended an offer and since then has worked on building a relationship with Blakes, who has also talked with LSU Head Coach Johnny Jones in recent weeks.
"We're really cool," Blakes said of his relationship with Patrick. "He was at St Mary's (assistant coach) for five years so I know he knows how to relate to California guys. He's pretty cool. He keeps it real with me.
"I've put in hard work all my life," Blakes said. "It's a humbling experience that I never get too high or low. I just stay even keel. It's more of a blessing. I expected to get some love sooner or later. I've been under the radar for so long. I just waited my turn."
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