L’Observateur selects top coaches for 2010-11

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2011



East St. John’s Yussef Jasmine, West St. John’s Lester Smith, St. Charles’ Bill Ballard and Riverside’s Stephen Millet have each been named L’Observateur’s Coach of the year in their respecitve sports for the 2010-11 season.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Jasmine maintained high expectations throughout the season for his team, even when the Wildcats finished non-district play with a 9-12 record — one somewhat deceiving considering East St. John’s schedule was loaded with powerhouse teams like Riverside (twice), John Ehret, St. Augustine, and Westchester, the latter one of the top ranked teams in California.

East St. John ripped off 11 straight wins from there, though, including all 10 of its district contests and a first round playoff victory over Southwood on a dramatic shot in the waning moments by Joseph Williams.

Jasmine’s Wildcats were the first undefeated district champion in the basketball program’s history.

“We didn’t peak too early,” said Jasmine. “We kept continua lly getting better until we were playing our best basketball. I have very high expectations for myself and for my team, so I can’t sit here and say that (the district run) surprised me. I did feel like I was able to change their mindset from the start of the season, though. Their belief that even if Destrehan and East Ascension were ranked higher than we were, that Hahnville had the better record … none of that mattered to them. Their focus was on winning the game in front of them, and they kept doing that.”

GIRLS BASKETBALL: For West St. John, the Lady Rams won 21 games in 2010-11 behind Smith’s guiding hand — that number is the most ever in any one season by the girls’ basketball team.

West St. John won 11 straight games over one stretch, also a program record, and nailed down the second playoff victory in school history.

The Rams did all of this despite boasting a squad that featured just one senior and that started a pair of eighth graders.

“Our goal was to have a winning season,” said Smith. “But to get to 21 … if you had asked me before the season, I’d have told you we’d probably realistically go half and half.”

Smith credited his young players for stepping up, including sophomore point guard Jaylyn Gordon, who earned multiple postseason honors including, most recently, L’Observateur’s St. John MVP award.

“She really responded to the challenge,” said Smith.

“The kids all really did. For such a young team, the way they answered was really impressive.”

BOYS SOCCER: Ballard led St. Charles to its first double digit winning season since 2007. The defensive-minded Comets challenged E.D. White for the District 8-III title and played extremely competitively against some top non-district competition, like Northlake Christian, whom defeated the Comets 1-0 in December.

SCC allowed one goal or less 14 times this season.

“Coming into the season we had seven seniors, six of whom played together as freshman,” said Ballard. “So we as coaches all thought we might be able to do some things. All that experience would be a big help.”

Ballard credited assistants Rick Woodroof and Joey Brady as being major lifts, calling the team’s coaching a “group effort”, and said it was evident early on that his team was blending well.

He also noted a well-timed influx of talented young players.

“We had depth that we simply didn’t have in the last couple of seasons,” he said.

GIRLS SOCCER: Millet, in his third season, led Riverside to its first ever district win in 2011, over rival St. Charles. The Rebels also notched a big win over Episcopal-Acadiana this year, a team that knocked RA out of the postseason a year ago.

Riverside finished 7-11-2 and returned to the playoffs. Millet’s top scoring threat, Shelby Deslatte, led the parish in goals among girls.

“I’m just very thankful to Riverside for giving me the opportunity to coach here and work with these kids,” said Millet.

“Obviously, I knew it would be a challenge. But this year, we’re finally starting to see the dividends from the work we all have put in.”

Millet said that a big key to Riverside’s step forward has been the maturation of his players.

“To teach them the game and watch them blossom, their games grow, it’s the reason I coach,” he said. “When you start to see it, it’s an awesome thing.