On display above a baseline in the Walker High gym, a giant portrait of the team that advanced to the Class 5A title game in girls basketball last season keeps the legacy of those Wildcats alive and well.
Adding another deep playoff run this year could be challenging, however, given the amount of experience and production Walker lost when the 2015 class graduated.
The team’s only three seniors, Jamie Gibson, Baylie Stears and Kacie Fountain, combined to average 52 points per game as Walker made its first trip to the state tournament since 2009 and advanced to the state title game for the first time since 1977.
All three of those seniors signed Division I scholarships.
But coach Korey Arnold said he isn’t expecting the kind of drop-off the numbers would suggest.
“I think we’re going to get better as the season goes on,” Arnold said. “The young ones have to find their role and gel together. Once that happens, I think we’re going to be tough to beat.”
Off to a 5-3 start, the Wildcats entered the Livingston Parish/Blount General Contractors Basketball Tournament at Live Oak as the No. 2 seed behind District 4-5A rival Denham Springs.
Holden was seeded third and Albany fourth.
Walker won the Livingston Parish tournament each of the last two seasons, part of a run that included a 31-5 mark in 2014 with a berth in the 5A quarterfinals and a 31-6 finish last year en route to the 5A title game.
The Wildcats now move forward with a lineup that features two seniors, one junior, one sophomore and a freshman in the starting five.
Senior forward Keeona Brown, a Nicholls State signee, will be the go-to offensive weapon after averaging 12 points last year. Junior guard Treasure Mansur missed the early part of the schedule with a knee injury but is expected back later this month.
Arnold admits it may take some time to get his young team up to speed.
What has already been established, however, is the Wildcats expect to win.
“That’s one thing I don’t have to fight like a lot of schools,” Arnold said. “I don’t think we ever walk into a gym intimidated. We practice hard, we prepare hard, and I think the kids know that. They saw last year what it took. So they know what kind of work goes into getting there.”
Albany boys seeded first
The Albany boys basketball team was chosen as the top seed in the Livingston Parish tournament with Denham Springs seeded second and host Live Oak third. Walker was seeded fourth.
The annual Livingston tournament was set to tip-off Tuesday at Live Oak and finish Saturday with championship games at 6 p.m. (girls) and 7:30 p.m. (boys).
The Denham Springs boys have won four straight parish tournaments and will be looking to make it five in a row under first-year coach Kevin Caballero.
On the girls side, a potential matchup of Denham and Walker would pit the programs that have dominated the tournament in recent years.
Denham has won the parish tournament six times since 2004. Walker has won the other five tournaments during that time, including the last two.
Future sites for the tournament, which rotates among the parish’s nine participating schools, include Albany in 2017 and Denham Springs in 2018. Springfield hosted the tournament last year.