ON A QUEST TO THE NEST
Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
Our hometown heroes could have a tough test headed there way on the basketball court next week.
That’s because a squad that boasts a quintet of players that run 6’10, 6’9, 6’9, 6’8 and 6’7 and that has plenty of championship experience is headed this way.
Think the Hornets may be in trouble?
Its Reserve Christian and other local prep teams that may potentially have a lot on their plate to deal with beginning on Thursday.
That’s because Christian Life Center Academy (TX) is rolling in for the Reserve Christian Invitational, and will be one of the highlighted teams in what promises to be one of the most competitive tournaments of the year in Louisiana. The tournament runs this coming Thursday to Saturday.
Already a two-time defending Texas Christian Athletic League Class 2A champion, the Cougars (8-0 this season) don’t just boast staggering height, but staggering talent as well.
Augustine Rubit anchors the team in the middle, and is a 6’7 South Alabama signee.
Kadeem Kolby, at 6’9, will be returning to Texas after the tournament, but will be back in Louisiana soon enough — he’s commitment to Louisiana Tech.
And while 6’2 point guard Junior Cadougan seems to be the runt of the litter in size, he’s not lacking for accolades either — in fact, he’s on his way to Marquette when the season’s all over with. He’s considered one of the 10 best point guard prospects in America.
In all, CLC Coach Carlos Wilson believes that all eight of his senior players — yes, they’re experienced too — are going to be headed to Division I schools. And Wilson says that his four underclassman are likely headed that way as well.
“Last year, we had five guys go Division I,” said Wilson. “That said, this year’s team is the best I’ve had. I never thought I’d have this many guys.”
Like Reserve Christian, CLC is a very small, private school — from kindergarten to 12th grade, CLC has 200 students.
And as you can probably guess, basketball is likewise the favored sport at CLC.
But the school wasn’t a powerhouse until Cadougan and DeAndre Jordan transferred there three years ago to help lift the school to a championship. Jordan would depart to play at Texas A&M — he now plays in the NBA, drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round of June’s draft.
Wilson says that the team’s schedule and current reputation attracts players to the school.
“We travel a lot,” Wilson says. “We play in a lot of big games and at big events over the course of a season. Even the 11th player on our roster…he might not play as much as he would elsewhere. But when he gets his time, he’s playing in front of 15 D-1 scouts. People see you, and that’s built a lot of momentum for us.”
Wilson has great respect for Reserve, and looks at the upcoming tournament as a big proving ground for the Cougars.
“I look at Reserve as one of the very best programs in the South. If I want this to become a truly elite program, then we have to do well against that kind of competition,” Wilson said. “If we can go in and win it, it will help legitimize the things we feel about our team.”
Reserve and CLC are on opposite sides of the Invitational bracket, so each would have to win out to meet the other, setting up a potential championship meeting between the two.
Byrd has said he believes this is the deepest team he’s had — one that will become deeper later this year with the return of point guard Kyle McClue — but he knows that to win his team’s fourth tournament title of the year, it will require perhaps his team’s best effort this season.
“We’ll have to execute flawlessly if we get the chance to play them,” Byrd said. “In the past, we’ve beat nationally ranked top 10 teams before. You can’t get killed on the boards and you have to hit shots. Most of all, you can’t let their big guys run out and get easy baskets. If you don’t, you have a chance. If you let it happen, you have no chance.
“But I know that we’re very excited to have a them coming here to play this week.”