Tripping through the Louisiana Bayou
By Bob Corwin
Recently I had the opportunity to see more Louisiana basketball in one weekend that I had see in my 30+ years of scouting while attending the 4th annual Hall of Fame Classic held on October 29 at Catholic High School in New Iberia, Louisiana. Sponsored by New Iberia High School and presented by the Delta Report, the event consisted of 15 full length high school exhibition games in two adjoining gyms. Twenty-eight colleges, Division I and II as well as junior colleges from Louisiana or adjoining states, attended. The games were staggered to start every 45 minutes so observers had a chance to see some of each contest. However, one has to be careful not to draw too many conclusions from a small sampling of play.
A lot of the better teams in the state drove as many as four hours to participate. There were several good teams by any standard but just a few might be candidates to get some time in the national rankings this year or next.
One bit of news that came up to those not following the state closely was that the governing body of the state (LHSAA) has decided to separate all of its private schools from public schools when it comes to state titles. Thus there will be a 5A public and 5A private down to 1A with ten champions crowned in the post-season. A lot of people will go home happy be the competition watered down overall.
Louisiana thus passes Florida which will crown nine champions primarily based on size of school. Only Kentucky holds a single championship regardless of size with California putting the best teams (regardless of enrollment) in an Open Division and then placing the rest in five classes based on enrollment so you might say California has six although the Open champ stands out above the rest.
Three teams to spotlight
Ursuline Academy (defending 4A champ from last year and now classified as 4A Private) out of New Orleans was considered the best team present beating a solid Natchitoches Central (5A Public) which lost in the 5A semi-finals last year. Ursuline has both a future Power 5 point guard and small forward. You can add in several more Division I prospects. The team has no significant seniors so next year might be when these Lions shine brightest even if they show up in national rankings this year.
Destrehan (5A Public) has a similar make-up to what won state titles (and garnered national ranking) in both Hawaii and Illinois last year. The team has a high level senior point guard (see below) surrounded by a group of seniors (plus one future Division I freshman). If the remaining Wildcats play off their lead guard as happened in the two above states, similar championship results are not out of the question.
Natchitoches Central (5A Public) lost to Ursuline at the event but with three veteran, hard playing guards of D1 caliber, nobody should take this group lightly. Look for this team to make a deep run in the 5A Public race this year!
Taking a brief look at some of the talent (watched only briefly)…
Players below are listed alphabetically with listed height, position, graduation year and high school. School location is in parenthesis.
Diamond Brooks, 6-2, center, 2017, Jewell Sumner High School (Kentwood, Louisiana)
Committed to Louisiana Monroe, Brooks has a strong low post build and a “meat and potatoes” game (catch ball on block and finish). For her size, she runs the court well.
Traya Bruce, 5-7, shooting guard, 2018, South Lafourche High School (Cut Off, Louisiana)
Bruce, a lefty, will not blow you away athletically but can get out and finish on the break. In the quarter, she demonstrated a nice step back shot and hit a few threes to tally 18 points in one half. Hopefully, a few DI scouts will find their way to Cut Off.
Morgan Carrier, 5-9, small forward, 2017, New Iberia High School (New Iberia, Louisiana)
Committed to Southeast Louisiana, Carrier has a fairly strong build as perimeter players go. Her calling card appears to be a solid perimeter stroke inside and beyond the arc.
Jada Duncantell, 5-6, guard, 2017, Natchitoches Central High School (Natchitoches, Louisiana)
An uncommitted senior, Duncantell showed a good motor along with quick feet. In a losing effort versus Ursuline, she posted 23 points hitting a variety of perimeter shots.
Rayah Haynes, 5-6, point guard, 2018, Zachary High School (Zachary, Louisiana)
Haynes demonstrated nice handles and good quickness on defense. For scoring she appeared to want to drive.
Dynah Jones, 5-8, guard, 2018, John Curtis Christian High School (River Ridge, Louisiana)
Jones is a cerebral combo guard (appeared more comfortable at the two). Although not a senior, she appeared to be the team leader filling up the stat sheet with more than just points. She has a wide variety of Division I offers, probably needing most to quicken her release.
Jerkalia Jordan, 5-9, forward, 2020, John Curtis Christian High School (River Ridge, Louisiana)
A good athlete, Jordan is advanced as freshmen go. Currently, she seems to want to score by getting to the rim taking a short drive within the paint. Hopefully, she can transition to the perimeter as she has DI level athleticism but is short as college posts go.
Brooklyn Mitchell, 5-6, point guard, 2018, Ursuline Academy (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Those more familiar with Mitchell said this was one of the better showings they had seen from this junior. She was under control, ran the offense and took (and made) shots within the context of the offense. She has Division I offers from Power 5 schools down.
Kenyal Perry, 6-5, center, 2020, McKinley High School (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
As one might expect from a freshman, Perry is raw. The pluses, besides obvious height, are that she runs the court well and her hands are good. Power 5 schools should be lining up.
Korriana Reynaud, 5-8, shooting guard, 2020, Destrehan High School (Destrehan, Louisiana)
An above average athlete, Reynaud showed the ability to function versus some quality opposition. As a young player, her game is not yet that defined but a Division I upside appeared present.
Sydney Rivers, 6-0, power forward, 2018, Loranger High School (Loranger, Louisiana)
When players are adding to their games, their efforts should be commended. The word in the gym was that Rivers has added range to her game in the paint where previously she just scored around the basket, now she is showing a mid-range face-up shot. Given her medium build, a transition to the small forward would maximize her stock as a college prospect.
Tykayla Robertson, 6-3, center, 2020, Jewell Sumner High School (Kentwood, Louisiana)
Robertson is built very similar to her senior teammate (Brooks above) but not as far along being much younger. With proper maturation, a Division I future should be hers down the line.
Cara Ursin, 5-7, point guard, 2017, Destrehan High School (Destrehan, Louisiana)
Ursin has won state player of the year awards for the past two seasons but is not well known on the spring/summer club circuit reportedly instead staying with her high school team. From watching her high IQ play along with the ability to hit timely threes, it isn’t surprising that she is being recruited at the Power 5 level, now deciding among, Alabama, Baylor, and South Carolina.
Kourtney Weber, 5-10, small forward, 2018, Ursuline Academy (New Orleans, Louisiana)
An obvious Power 5 prospect, Weber plays hard, aggressive basketball attacking the basket and hitting outside shots. In the victory over Natchitoches Central, she posted 21 points but forced some perimeter shots rather than just letting the game come to her.
Mahoganie Williams, 6-1, power forward, 2019, Ouachita Parish High School (Monroe, Louisiana)
Williams is a player showing high energy in the key. She demonstrated a nice face-up stroke but still could add range to her young game. Word in the gym is that she is getting mid-major Division I looks.
Micaela Wilson, 6-2, power forward, 2017, Rayville High School (Rayville, Louisiana)
Wilson, a good athlete, is being recruited at the Power 5 level and deservingly so. A lefty, she can create a shot almost at will in the key as she handles well for her size. In watching her at the event, at times she needs to be more active without the ball.
Jamya Young, 5-8, point guard, 2019, Loranger High School (Loranger, Louisiana)
Jamya is just coming back from an extended absence due to knee surgery. Prior to the game, the word was she would not play until December so it was a surprise when she took the court. In spite of the lack of time in game situations, one could see the fluidity of movement and confidence with the ball. Not surprisingly, her progress is being monitored by Power 5 programs at the Division I level.
Tiara Young, 5-10, point guard, 2019. Evangel Christian Academy (Shreveport, Louisiana)
Tiara has the combination of height, confidence with the ball, court vision and an ability to get to the rim that has made Power 5 programs take notice. Like so many point guards, improving shooting range should be on her “to do” list.