LAFAYETTE — When Comeaux boys basketball coach Jeremy Whittington decided to put Braxton Stevens in the starting lineup three games ago, he admitted to initially thinking he had made a mistake.
“I walk into the locker room (before the Lafayette game) and all the guys are hooping and hollering,” Whittington said. “I look at (Stevens), and he is pacing and quiet. I was thinking he might foul out in the first two minutes. I told the coaches I might have made a mistake, but he just puts his nose to the numbers and says, ‘Let’s go.’ ”
Stevens, a 6-foot sophomore, has become a defensive spark plug for Comeaux. Whittington said Stevens, is the Spartans best defensive player. Since being inserted in the starting lineup, Comeaux is 3-0 with District 3-5A wins over Lafayette, Acadiana and Sam Houston.
“Here’s a kid that hadn’t started all season,” Whittington said of Stevens, “and he comes out and shuts down star players. He goes until he can’t walk anymore. Braxton smothers the guy he’s guarding, and he is completely OK with playing defense that way.”
Whittington affectionately refers to Stevens as “hard hat” due to his toughness and effort on every single play. Stevens said “hard hat” is something he takes pride in living up to, especially since taking on a bigger role on the varsity.
“I put in a lot of work and give 100-percent effort,” Stevens said. “I have a very positive attitude. All around I am just a positive person, a chill person.”
Against Acadiana, Stevens held Rams star Myles Hutchinson in check despite cramping in the second half. Whittington said he looked at the sophomore guard and asked him if he was either ready to go, or if he wanted to take his jersey off and call it a night.
“He looked at me and said, ‘I ain’t taking off my jersey,’ ” Whittington said. “He goes back in, shuts down (Hutchinson), and that is where we took over.
“He is the best defensive player we have. That is what he takes pride in. He has to guard Mike (Smith) and Ferontay (Banks) in practice. He has to guard them on a regular basis, and he will tell them, ‘You will not get by me.’ It helps them because he’ll just squat in his stance, and they don’t get by.”
Stevens said he completely accepts and relishes his role as a defensive specialist, though he’s not completely void of offense. Whittington said the confidence Stevens gains from playing great defense is beginning to show on offense.
“He hasn’t played a lot this year,” Whittington said. “He is gaining that confidence to where he is making moves to the basket, and it’s good to see him not worried about what’s around him. The kids love him out there. They know that they’ll take care of the offense, and Braxton has the defense.
“He’s not hurting us; that’s for sure. I didn’t know how the pressure would get to him, but he’s been great and moving forward, he’ll be a lock-down guy for us.”
Stevens, or “hard hat”, is short with his words, but is not lacking in that confidence Whittington said he’s seeing now. Stevens said his new role with the starting lineup could catapult the Spartans to some big things this season.
“I take pride in that “hard hat” nickname,” Stevens said. “If we play like we’ve been playing, no one can stop us.”