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Baker's Courtland King (34), Terry Johnson (2), and Louis Blakes (13) block the shot attempt of McKinley's Tyrese Radford (23), Wednesday, December 28, 2016, during the East Baton Rouge Boys Basketball Tournament at Tara High School in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK < p>

Perhaps in any other year, McKinley senior point guard Tyrese Radford would be looked at in a different light.

Instead of being merely among the state’s top 10 players in the Class of 2018, the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder could be closer to the top.

This recruiting cycle, though, is loaded with players from the Baton Rouge area, led by LSU commitment Ja’Vonte Smart of Scotlandville and Madison Prep’s Josh LeBlanc and Kobe Julien — impeding Radford’s path up the Class of 2018 ladder.

Radford, a three-year starter who helped McKinley to the Division I select state semifinals a year ago, would have it no other way. The thought of being under the recruiting radar has fueled his offseason workouts and pushed him to levels he never thought possible.

“When I’m in a game against (higher-ranked opponents), I’ve got to prove everybody wrong,” said Radford, who played AAU basketball this summer with LeBlanc and Julien for coach Jeff Jones’ Louisiana Elite team. “That’s why I go so hard.”

There is no better example of Radford’s driven nature than five months ago, when he nearly led McKinley to an upset of Smart and top-ranked Scotlandville in the Division I semifinals. Radford scored a game-high 20 points, including nine during a stretch in the third and early fourth quarters, when the Panthers opened leads of seven and nine points before the Hornets rallied for a 47-44 victory.

“There’s no doubt Radford was the best player on the court,” Scotlandville coach Carlos Sample said. “He’s everything they said he is and more.”

The near-miss carries another meaning for the first team all-district and All-Metro and second-team Class 5A all-state performer, who averaged 17.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists last season.

“When I’m in the gym working out, I think about that game,” Radford said. “I most definitely played the best game of my career. It was in front of one of the biggest crowds, but (losing) makes me want to work 10 times harder.”

"He is a big-game player," McKinley coach Harold Boudreaux said. "The bigger the stage, the bigger he is, and that’s what you want in players. Night in and night out, he’s very special.”

Boudreaux, who played at LSU and professionally in Europe, has been a valuable resource for Radford when it comes to preparing him for the college game. Memphis, Louisiana-Lafayette, Murray State and Nicholls State have offered scholarships. There has been interest from Arkansas, Indiana, UAB, Nebraska, San Diego and Florida Gulf Coast, Radford said.

“I’ve (told him) great players spend time in the gym, master their craft and make others around them better,” Boudreaux said. “Tyrese has done all of those things. He’s the total package. The sky’s the limit.”

The area of emphasis this summer for Radford has been refining his left-handed jump shot — primarily in the mid-range area — to complement his ability to get inside the defense and use his strength to finish around the basket.

More ability from the perimeter, including out to 3-point range, will not only put additional pressure on the defense but further enhance Radford's game and potentially put him among the state’s elite prospects.

“My mindset before the game is that nobody can stop me,” Radford said. “I’m trying to prove a point. I’ve come this far. I’m trying to get farther than where I’m at now.”