Unsung heroes are nothing new for the University High boys basketball team, which boasts an embarrassment of riches better known as the team roster. Rather than talent, the team’s defining characteristic is its ability to come together as a cohesive unit.
At times, different players have stepped up to lead the Cubs while others have stayed out of the limelight. All have found their own ways to contribute.
A pair of junior guards, D.J. White and Jalen Johnson, has illustrated that this season. Each has spent time in the spotlight, and each has spent time doing the little things that have the Cubs challenging to win their second consecutive Class 3A championship.
Top-seeded U-High (30-3) continues its quest on Saturday when it plays at District 7-3A rival No. 9 Port Allen at 6 p.m. U-High defeated the Pelicans (24-6) twice during the regular season including a 68-53 win at Port Allen on Jan. 16.
“You could take any of our starters, and even the first couple of guys off the bench, and they could score 15 or 20 points per game,” U-High coach Joe Spencer said. “They’ve done a great job of playing together and adapting to each other for the good of the team.”
Wayde Sims leads the Cubs with per game averages of 17.4 points and 9.3 rebounds. Point guard Skylar Mays adds 8 assists per game, but there is still plenty left for Johnson and White to do.
Johnson, 6-foot-6, usually draws the assignment of guarding the opposition’s top scorer. If he gets a hot hand, like he did Jan. 10 when he made seven 3-pointers on his way to 29 points in a 66-47 win over Glen Oaks, he can lead offensively.
Johnson averages 12.3 points, and 5.2 rebounds. His list of ways to contribute to winning games is extensive.
“I just do what the team needs me to do to win,” Johnson said. “If they need me to rebound, I’ll rebound. If they need me to score, I’ll score. If they need me to lock up the best player, I’ll lock him up. If they need me to take the charge to win the game, I’ll take the charge. That’s what I do.”
White, 6-5, has averages of 13.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Lately, his scoring has come to the forefront with team-leading performances in both of the Cubs playoff wins.
White tallied 20 in the Cubs’ 69-42 opening round win over Lusher Charter. He scored 31 in an 89-48 win over Madison Parish.
“I feel like we play good with each other because we’ve known each other for so long,” said White, who has been part of the -High basketball program since he was an eighth-grader.
“The biggest thing is we play for each other as a team. We’re good on the court and off the court.”
White believes this season’s team has as much drive, if not more, than the one which defeated Richwood 69-64 for the 2014 Class 3A title.
“I think its even better (this season) because we got a little taste of it last year,” he said. “We want it again.”