Bigger, better things the aim for local teams

Published 11:45 pm Friday, November 28, 2014


RESERVE — Riverside Academy aims for the first basketball ‘three-peat’ in school history this season — and the Rebels’ ambitions don’t stop there, either.  

When Timmy Byrd’s Rebels won the Class 2A state championship in 2013, it was behind a core of very young players: two years later, most of that team’s primary rotation returns to attempt to cement a third straight championship and the Rebels’ fourth crown in the past five seasons.

Leading the charge will be a “fab four” of versatile guards and swingmen: Malik Crowfield, last season’s Class 2A MVP; Von Julien, 2A’s MVP the year prior; Herb McGee and Jordan Andrews. Each averaged double figures in scoring last season, and each is equally adept at driving to the rim and shooting from 3.

While many teams have begun their high school hoops campaigns, the Rebel boys will get rolling on Dec. 9, at home against district foe Carver. A week later comes a clash with last season’s Class 5A runner-up Scotlandville; that game truly kick starts a season of tests for Riverside, which could match up as many as three times with nationally ranked Monteverde Academy, led by the nation’s top recruit and LSU signee Ben Simmons.

“They can put a lineup on the court with five guys over 6’9,” Byrd said. “(Simmons) plays the point in that one … We could be a better team this season but have a few more losses. We play a number of very, very good teams this year.”

RA will participate in the City of the Palms tournament in Ft. Myers, Fla, the Hoop Hall Classic in Phoenix, Ariz., the All-State Sugar Bowl tournament in Westwego and the Monteverde Academy Invitational in Orlando, Fla.

With four national tournaments on the schedule, Riverside is looking to strike on the national scene while the iron is hot. The Rebels are ranked 31st in the Fab 50, the lone Louisiana prep team to make the list.

East St. John has kicked off its season, and while part of its “big three” of scorers last season, Edwin Winston, has graduated, Troy Green and Tre’Von Jasmine appear ready to pick up the slack so far this season (see story at top of page).

The Wildcats reached the Class 5A regional round last season after getting to the quarterfinals in 2012, and look to extend their playoff stay even further this season.

So far, ESJ coach Yussef Jasmine is pleased with how his team, full of incoming freshmen and underclassman earning their first taste of varsity action, has taken to the competition.

“Our toughness, mentally, has been really encouraging,” Jasmine said. “Guys who have come in as freshmen and completely bought in to what we’re doing, guys I didn’t 100 percent know what I had with them in these first few games, and they’re delivering.”

At West St. John, LaVanta Davis returns to lead a team that loses leading backcourt scorer Jordan Hamilton, but brings back an ascendant talent in forward Morell Bartholomew. Bartholomew, one of the River Region’s breakout talents in football this season, made a major push as the Rams’ go-to guy late last season during a stretch Hamilton was sidelined.

West St. John fell at Southern Lab in the first round of last season’s Class 1A playoffs, but could make some noise after earning a No. 19 seed a season ago.

St. Charles Catholic took a big step forward last season under coach Paul Waguespack, but the longtime Comet moved on to Destrehan last summer. The Comets landed a big name to replace him, however: Kemper Todd, formerly of Newman, steps in to head an SCC program that went 10-17 last season after going 2-21 the year prior.

Todd boasted a record of 104-22 at Newman. He and SCC will get one of their first big tests on Dec. 2, when the Comets travel to face longtime rival Lutcher.