As high-profile scholarship offers continued to gather at Cheyenne Labruzza’s locker, the Albany High football star seemed to catch the recruiting world off guard when he made a springtime commitment to Tennessee.
Even more surprising to some than the timing of the commitment, Labruzza said, was the school he chose.
Or to be more accurate, the school he didn’t.
Hot on the heels of Labruzza at the time was LSU, viewed as the early favorite in the race for his services given its proximity to the prospect’s hometown and the long line of NFL defensive backs it has produced.
Labruzza projects as a safety or cornerback in college.
“The people around me were super surprised,” Labruzza said. “They thought I was leaning toward LSU. At the end of the day, I felt like Tennessee was where I wanted to be. Why wait? I wanted to go to a college where I was wanted a lot — where I was wanted most.”
Labruzza made his most recent of three visits to the Tennessee campus the weekend of June 18. When he returned, he said he was more convinced than ever he had made the right decision.
Hard to blame him. Labruzza spent that Saturday being pampered by the Tennessee coaching staff as he joined other top prospects for “Orange Carpet Day,” a recruiting extravaganza reserved for select Tennessee commitments and targets and their families.
Recruits were introduced by a live DJ as they strolled down an orange carpet in movie-star fashion.
Labruzza donned an orange No. 3 jersey and posed for pictures with Tennessee coaches and other top recruits.
“It feels like every visit gets better and better,” Labruzza said. “I’m very solid to Tennessee. There’s no No. 2.”
Tennessee left “Orange Carpet Day” with eight new commitments, vaulting its 2017 class into the top 10 of the recruiting rankings.
Labruzza would have had a difficult time envisioning himself as part of that class when he finished his junior season at Albany holding only scholarship offers from Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulane and Southeastern.
Tennessee made its offer late last fall, one of the first Power 5 programs to join what would soon become a long list of hard-charging pursuers.
Labruzza committed April 16 while visiting Tennessee for the spring game.
Now he can focus his efforts on helping Albany reach the playoffs in football for the first time in his four seasons.
Last year, as a junior, the versatile Labruzza rushed for 1,130 yards and 12 touchdowns as a running back in Albany’s Wing-T offense and also registered 47 tackles on defense, but the Hornets struggled down the stretch to finish 5-5 and outside of the postseason.
This year, Labruzza knows the attention on him will be magnified.
Scout.com lists Labruzza, 6-foot, 180 pounds, as the No. 239 prospect in the nation as well as the No. 22 cornerback.
He is considered by 247Sports as the No. 20 prospect in Louisiana.
“It’s a great opportunity because it gives me a chance to make an impact on some other peoples lives,” Labruzza said. “But I don’t feel like I’ve arrived yet. There’s still a lot of work to do.”
Holden coach leads all-state picks
David Knight has been named the Class B softball coach of the year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association after leading Holden to a berth in the state final.
Holden finished as the B runner-up under Knight despite fielding a roster that included fourth eighth-grade starters. The Rockets finished 32-4.
Three of Knight’s players — Olivia Lackie, Emma Hutchinson and Ashley Fogg — joined their coach on the all-state team.
Lackie went 21-7 with a 0.97 ERA for the Rockets and recorded 157 strikeouts. She also batted .323 with 14 RBIs. Hutchinson was 10-0 in the circle to go with a .450 average, 10 homers and 29 RBIs on offense. Fogg hit .477 with five homers and 29 RBIs.
All three of Holden’s all-state players were eighth-graders.
In Class C, three players from Maurepas were chosen as all-state selections.
Baseball player Chaz Scivicque made the all-state team after batting .425 with four homers and 32 RBIs and helping Maurepas reach the state quarterfinals. Softball players McKenna Lessard (16-6) and Brailie Gautreau (.353 avg.) represented Maurepas from the softball team.
Live Oak senior Savannah Hall was the lone player from the parish — baseball or softball — to earn a spot on the 5A all-state team.
Hall was selected as a utility player on the 5A squad after posting a 22-5 mark with a 1.94 ERA and batting .406 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs. Her efforts propelled Live Oak to the state semifinals.
Whitehead takes SEC post
Denham Springs’ Mark Whitehead, a longtime NCAA basketball official who has worked regularly in the Southeastern, Big Ten, Pac-12, American, Mountain West, Conference USA and Missouri Valley conferences, was recently named the Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officials for the SEC.
Whitehead replaces Jake Bell, who is stepping down from the position after three seasons.
“As we look to continue the focus on improving men’s basketball in the SEC, Mark Whitehead will bring a wealth of ability and enthusiasm,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a news release from the league office. “Mark has successfully officiated at the highest levels of college basketball, he has relationships through his officiating in many of the strongest basketball conferences, and I am confident his experience will be of great benefit to the SEC’s men’s basketball officiating program.”
Whitehead is a 1982 graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University and has a master’s degree from the school.
His résumé includes over 31 years as an NCAA official with Final Four assignments in 1999, 2011, 2012, 2013 and in 2016.
Sceroler named All-Louisiana
SLU right-hander Mac Sceroler, a Denham Springs High graduate, was named to the LSWA’s annual college baseball all-state team as a member of the second team.
Sceroler was the top pitcher for Southeastern this year, going 10-3 with a 2.18 ERA and helping lead the Lions to their first at-large appearance in the NCAA tournament. His 10 wins tied for the Southland Conference lead.
Chosen in the 36th round of the recent MLB First-Year Player Draft, Sceroler is a sophomore who has two years of collegiate eligibility remaining.
He was one of four Lions to make the All-Louisiana team, joining first-teamers Jameson Fisher and Carson Crites and honorable mention selection Drew Avaris.
Scott Hotard covers sports for The Livingston-Tangipahoa Advocate. He can be contacted at shotard44
@gmail.com or livingston@the