Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
For many, finishing what one has started is a source of pride.
Grambling State forward Jamal Breaux is no different. And if he has his way, finishing what he’s started will mean a very memorable final year for he and the Tigers.
Breaux, a former East St. John basketball and baseball player from Reserve, was selected as the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches and sports information contacts, in addition to a spot on the All-SWAC Conference Team.
Of course, those honors are basically a prediction — recognition of what Breaux has already accomplished in his career thus far. But they’re predictions that Breaux intends to make good on.
“This is my last year, and I want to accomplish all of those goals,” he said. “Not only to get the Defensive Player of the Year, and be named All-Conference, but for our team to win the SWAC. That’s what I’m aiming for.”
Breaux is a 6’7, 240 pound post player who averaged 7.4 points and 7.4 rebounds a year ago. He also averaged 1.7 assists a night.
There will be a new face coaching him on the sidelines. Rick Duckett is beginning his first season at the school. But it didn’t take long for Breaux to catch his eye.
“He’s very coachable,” Duckett says. “His effort, his attitude, all of it is a big plus. He’s responded real well to what we’re teaching.”
What really sticks out to Duckett is Breaux’s toughness. In a sport that so many look to score first, Breaux’s unselfishness in committing to defense and rebounding has impressed the coach.
“People that excel in the areas he does, defense, rebounding, have a great toughness about them,” he said. “Those are usually areas not well received. He’s not a leaper, but he’s able to create space for himself when rebounding, he does the little things right. And he’s really, really competitive.”
Likewise, Breaux is impressed with Duckett, and believes he and the team can reach a new level with him in charge.
“He’s told me my role, and what I need to do to help the team win,” said Breaux. “I think these are the best coaches I’ve had. They’re motivating me a lot, giving me more things in my game I can work on. These guys have been great coaches to me.
“Right now, we’re reading a book about how talent’s not enough. And that’s right. You have to work on things, and keep getting better.”
Duckett sees more than just a stopper in Breaux, though. He thinks that scoring average can come up, and has encouraged Breaux to look for his shot more on the offensive end.
“That excites me a lot,” Breaux said. “I’ve been working on my post game, my moves down low. I think I’m improving a lot.”
So far, Breaux and the Tigers have opened with a tough schedule, falling to Division I foes Louisiana Tech, New Mexico and Oklahoma State.
One area that Breaux has improved early this season is his foul shooting though — he’s shooting 80% from the line after two seasons of shooting under 60%.
If that continues, it will come in handy with the increased offensive workload.
And his willingness to improve only makes Duckett want to work with him more.
“It just speaks to the type of person he is,” Duckett said. “Sometimes, a different voice can energize you. He wants to improve. He’s interested in growing. He’s embraces our staff, and that’s extended from him to the rest of the team.
“He’s just been a joy to coach.”
For Breaux, the joy would be to see his team do as well as he projects.
And if he has his way, it’ll only be the start to a fantastic year for Breaux, who is also a reliever on the baseball team.
“I want to win the SWAC in basketball,” he says. “And then, to do the same in baseball.”