Lamont Butler, Keshad Johnson, and Jaedon LeDee declare for the NBA Draft while maintaining college eligibility
At SDSU’s celebration at Snapdragon Stadium, Head Coach Brian Dutcher encouraged his players to test the professional waters.
“I think they should; you get to do it for free; there is no penalty in doing it,” Dutcher said. “So you come off a Final Four run, why not put your name in there, see what they have to say, try to get a workout, and who knows, maybe you can catch lightning in a bottle, and you can be an NBA player.”
These three players have the tools to be a professional. They also have areas that need improvement to take the next step. Declaring for the draft was not much of a surprise.
Butler and Johnson had this plan coming into the season.
“We stayed in San Diego for the summer to stay focused, put in the work, cause we knew what we are capable of,” Johnson said after the win over FAU. They went at it in the offseason and were the talking point headed in the season as the players who made the biggest step. With successful workouts, they may work themselves to be one of the 60 players selected.
Johnson’s announcement was the most surprising because of his statement, “I’ve made the difficult decision to conclude my SDSU career and make myself available for the NBA Draft and enter the transfer portal to explore all my options.”
Johnson aided the Aztecs to reach the pinnacle of college basketball two weeks ago. The achievement satisfied him to be content with his career at San Diego State.
“Each and everybody is blessed to be here” (in the Final Four), Johnson said. “They would give anything to be in our position right now; gotta thank god, thank the man up above for bringing you this far, everybody is champions to even make it this far.”
By eliminating SDSU from his list of options next season, Johnson has helped Dutcher know what he needs for next season. It should lessen the stress SDSU’s head coach is under this offseason as he builds the next season’s roster. Instead of waiting around for Johnson’s decision, he knows he needs to replace him immediately.
Dutcher will keep a close eye on Butler’s and LeDee’s draft process as he needs to be aware of their status.
“If they’re getting good feedback, and they need to continue the process, encourage them to stay in the process until they get all the final information that they need to form a decision,” Dutcher said.
Aztecs add Reese Dixon-Waters through the transfer portal
“We’ve had teams good enough to win a national championship, so I don’t know how much recruiting is going to get upgraded; it’s not about stars, it’s about character, and chip on the shoulder and all the things that we’ve won with,” Dutcher said.
SDSU knew that they were losing at least four key contributors. Aguek Arop, Matt Bradley, Adam Seiko, and Nathan Mensah all used their college eligibility. The need for a larger guard/forward became dire when Johnson entered the transfer portal.
Dixon-Waters fits perfectly. He’s 6’5, 210 pounds, and prides himself on the defensive side of the floor. He spent his first three seasons at USC. Last year, he played predominantly off the bench, starting just eight games. He won the PAC 12 Sixth Man of the Year. He averaged 9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 25.5 minutes a game for the Trojans last season.
He classified early, bypassing his senior season of high school. He joined the Trojans late into the 2020-2021 season but did not play. Joining a season shortened by COVID, he was given an extra year of eligibility. Therefore, he has two years of eligibility left.
He has room for growth. In advanced stats, his defense is better than his offense, possibly due to a subpar shooting year.
In his true freshman year, he averaged only 13.8 minutes a game. But he was a more efficient shooter. In his first year, he shot 23-for-50 from beyond the arc for the season, a blistering 46% rate. The following season, his outside numbers dropped to 24-for-81 (29.6%). His free throw numbers also declined; he went from 86.4% to 77.5% the following season.
His 2-PT FG% went up in his sophomore year, and even with decreased shooting numbers, he still was still the Sixth Man of the Year award. If he fits into SDSU’s culture of gym rats, then his outside shooting numbers will most likely rise through hard work.
As of now, the players on scholarship for the Aztecs are:
Miles Heide (incoming freshman)
BJ Davis (incoming freshman)
Then two placeholders for Butler and LeDee
“We’ll take two, maybe three guys out of the portal, and that will probably fill our roster,” Dutcher said.
Class of 2022 at San Diego State University. Communication major and pursuing a sports journalism profession. Season ticket holder of the SDSU MBB team since 2011. Fondest memory of Viejas Arena is Aztec legend, Dwayne Polee sparking a 19-1 run over New Mexico to win the MW Conference in 2014.