Wildcats transfer becomes senior, leader

Published 12:01 am Saturday, December 10, 2016

RESERVE — When Indya Tutt first learned she and her family would be moving to LaPlace, she was distraught.

Tutt, a junior-to-be at Archbishop Chapelle, didn’t want to leave her school and her friends, nor did she want to leave her basketball teammates.

As the oldest of 10 children, however, she understood.

“We needed a bigger house,” Tutt said.

Soon, Tutt found herself at a new school, with a new basketball coach and new teammates. She also found herself in a new grade.

Because of Tutt’s heavy course load in Advanced Placement classes, she was able to skip her junior year entirely.

It was a whole lot of change for the 17-year-old.

“Everything is different,” she said.

Basketball is basketball, though, as Tutt found out. She earned a starting spot on the East St. John High School team as a point guard and began making her presence felt as the Lady Wildcats started the season 6-0.

Among the big victories was the championship game of the St. Mary’s tournament. Tutt was named to the All-Tournament team, and she was the MVP.

“She is just a leader,” coach Stasha Thomas-James said. “She is always positive around the kids. I never have to worry about her attitude. She always comes ready to work.”

As of this week, the East St. John team was 8-3. The team is coming off a 21-8 season in which they finished second to Destrehan (and senior Baylor commitment Cara Ursin) in the District 7-5A race.

Thomas-James has high hopes for this year as she lost no seniors to graduation and got two new players.

One is Tutt, who is averaging 10 points per game, three steals, four rebounds and three assists. The other is freshman Tiara Williams, who moved in from out of state.

Thomas-James said this year’s team hopes to fight those other Lady Wildcats from Destrehan for the title. The first meeting is Jan. 10.

“This year is going to be different,” she said. “I believe we will challenge them this year.”

Thomas-James said she had heard that a new student was coming to school, who also was a basketball player. She promptly hit up Google.

“I did my research on her,” she said. “That got me excited. Then I saw her in the weight room. I knew in there she would be good out here.”

Wilbert Thomas, who is Thomas-James’ dad and assistant coach, said they still were surprised once Tutt got on the court.

“She had some skills,” he said. “We believed her then.”

Tutt said her transition has been smooth. Her new classmates and teammates have accepted her easily.

“It’s been great,” she said. “God doesn’t make mistakes. I have five sisters. Now I feel like I have 20.”

If there is a negative about Tutt’s move, it’s that she skipped a whole year of eligibility by skipping a grade.

“I didn’t even think about that,” she said. “They just told me I could be a senior and I said, ‘OK.’”

Thomas-James rolls her eyes at that.

“I would have taken her another year,” she said.