Parish basketball teams ready to compete

Kyle Riviere
Jacoby Smith and last year's Donaldsonville team fought their way into the playoffs. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

Last season, many of the parish’s basketball squads were breaking in new starters and leaning on young and inexperienced players to lead them to victories.

This year, many of those players are a year older and wiser and expected to help their teams take the next step in 2016-17.

East Ascension will begin the season as one of the top contenders in the state.

Led by third-year head coach Barry Whittington, Jr., the Spartans fought through growing pains in 2014—finishing 13-17 and missing out on the playoffs.

Last season, everything came together as they raced out to a 30-7 record, second-place finish in the district and a trip to the state semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion Natchitoches Central.

With so many starters returning from that heralded squad, the Spartans have their eyes set on another Top 28 appearance.

Leading the charge will be Le’Aaron Cain—who led the Spartans in scoring last season. In his first year as a starter, Cain was first-team all-district and Parish MVP.

Joining him will be a two-year starter at point guard in Jimel London and another seasoned guard in Koye Ruffin. Both players were all-district and All-Parish selections last year.

St. Amant was expected to experience a drop-off last season when they lost four of their five starters—including District 5-5A MVP Courtney Julien.

However, head coach Travis Uzee and his young Gator squad outperformed all expectations and fought their way into the playoffs.

After losing just one senior from last year’s team, St. Amant is looking to make a long postseason run this time around.

They return a first-team all-district inside player in Kameron Kelson, and they feature an array of sharp-shooting guards.

K.J. Franklin is one of the most talented point guards in the parish. As a freshman, he earned first-team All-Parish honors.

Joining him will be 3-point specialist Carter Templet and versatile junior Jimmie Pittman.

The past two years have not been kind to Dutchtown. Having to nearly rebuild from scratch each season, they only collected 14 combined wins in that time.

Finally, head coach Patrick Hill will have the luxury of having most of his top players return for the upcoming season.

Despite some inexperience, the Griffins won nine games in 2015-16, four more than they collected in the previous year.

Returning will be the sibling duo of senior Neill Caldwell—a two-year starter—and Nick Caldwell. Both players have shown they can be deadly from beyond the arc.

Another hot-shooting guard that will return is Jordan Jackson.

Though they lose one of their top scorers in Tim Michael Hasten, they will bring back experienced inside players in Aaron Hodah and Devin Jackson.

Donaldsonville made the playoffs last season, despite having to navigate through a treacherous District 6-3A schedule.

They’ll lose some top players from that team—including leading scorer Braxton Bernard and Ronald Whittington.

Jacoby Simon was an underclassman from last year’s team that stepped up for the Tigers. He was a second-team All-Parish selection.

Jacoby Smith, Aaron Julien and Ladarius Jackson were also on last year’s playoff squad.

Due to a brutal schedule that featured 14 upper-classification opponents, Ascension Catholic finished with a losing record and missed the playoffs under first-year head coach Kylon Green.

They will have to head into 2016-17 without the school’s all-time leading scorer, Kaleb Winchester, but they will return two of the most talented guards in the parish.

Jacoby Stewart was a second-team All-Parish selection last season. He will be joined by fellow senior guard Kebori Hunter.

Over the summer, Green said this about his team.

He said, “I’m very excited. I think the best word I can use is ‘eager.’ We have a lot of chemistry coming back. We’re still going to have to be able to shoot the ball well. I think 3-point shooting and ball-handling will be our strong points.”