DHS boys’, girls’ basketball season set to tip off

DHS’ Braxton Bernard and the Tigers are ready for a 2014-15 campaign.

The Donaldsonville High boys’ and girls’ basketball teams are set to tip off their 2015-15 campaigns. The boys’ team nabbed a new head coach during the offseason after Barry Whittington took the job at East Ascension High. Lionel Gilbert takes the reins as the new Tiger head coach and will bring an aggressive and physical style to the team. On the girls’ side, Nikeya Walker is excited about her second year as the Lady Tigers’ head coach.

Last season, the Lady Tigers finished 12-13, 8-2 in district play but was only good enough for a no. 31 seed in the 3A playoff bracket and was booted by powerhouse John Curtis in the first round. After only losing players to graduation, the Lady Tigers return their core.

“I’m just looking forward to getting the season on the road,” Walker said. “We spent a lot of time this summer working together with practicing and shooting and working out the kinks. I’m really excited to get it going.”

Walker said she expectations are set, and they know what is expected and “we communicate that everyday before the start of practice.”

“The accountability factor is there and I learned a lot from last year,” Walker said. “Being consistent, it’s visible for them and hopefully the issues we had last year we won’t have this year.”

Key players in the core of the Lady Tigers are sophomore Janira Collier, junior Kaylynn Foster, junior Blair Harvey, sophomore Jalencia Bean, and Mya Chatman. 

Walker said the communication is a lot better and “we’ve spent a lot of time together bonding and getting to know each other on and off the court.”

On the boys’ side, Gilbert begins his first year in Donaldsonville, but he is no stranger to the area. He coached at Livonia last year and has been around as far as Arkansas coaching and has coached collegiately at Xavier University.

He is a graduate of Plaquemine High School, where he played basketball.

As far as this year’s team, Gilbert knows what he has. Especially following last season’s semifinals team that was one game away from the state title.

Gilbert said he’s trying to do a lot of teaching to reprogram the mind and get them to understand the importance of being physical in basketball.

“Young guys like to be finesse, but that’s not just what basketball is about. Basketball is a game that’s play full-speed the entire court,” Gilbert said. “You have to be willing to get your body in condition first and the only way you get your body conditioned is if you have a strong mindset. I believe in being tough on the defensive end and rebounding. I think if you can defend you can rebound and you can get out and run in transition you’ll always have a chance to be in the ball game and get a win.”

Last year’s team lost a good group of senior leadership that included Leondre James, who’s playing football at Tulane University, and Jalen Pedescleaux, who’s playing basketball at Mississippi Valley State University.

Senior guard Jeremy Jones and junior guard Braxton Bernard – both who are getting college coaches attentions - will lead this year’s roster.

Gilbert said he’s trying to get these guys to become great leaders on and off the court but he knows it’s not going to happen instinctively.

“Jeremy Jones is a quiet kid, now if you just follow his actions he’s hard-nosed, plays hard and is tough,” Gilbert said. “If the younger kids can play how he plays, but he won’t lead vocally because he’s not a guy that’s going to speak a lot. That’s not his personality.”

The Tigers will also have key players return from the football team such as senior Jaquel Gant, junior Stephen Sullivan and junior Aaron Julien. Gilbert said he’s aware of the talent his team has, he just has to instill the discipline.

“I’m just going to prepare these guys to go as far as we can and if it’s the state championship then that’s where we land. We’re just preparing to play basketball,” Gilbert said.

The Lady Tigers will host St. James Thursday for their regular season opener. Tip off is at 5:30 p.m.

There will be a boys’ basketball ninth grade Parish Jamboree Saturday at DHS. Games will start at 10 a.m.