The importance of team chemistry and being able to adapt to changing times will always be important in sports and the St. Amant Gators boys basketball team seems to have it figured out.
“We have really good team chemistry; the guys play hard for each other every night,” said coach Travis Uzee. The Gators are 15-4 at press time and ranked 20th in the Class 5A rankings with district play starting last week.
St. Amant finished 21-11 last season and lost to West Monroe in the first round. The team lost 93% of its scoring power to graduation, including Destin Baker (Juco in Tennessee), Connor Adams (baseball at William Carey), Kenyon Hebert and Tyrone Johnson. “That group finished with 85 wins in their four years of playing together, but we have some guys ready to step up,” Uzee said.
One of the top returning players is Trace Forbes. He started over half the games last season and is the only returning starter. Letavian Crockett, the sixth man last year, will be counted on heavily as a sophomore. Merrick Richardson is a team captain and a starter. Jakobe Singleton has led in scoring early with 15 points per game, followed by Crockett with 11 and Forbes with 13.
“We have had balanced scoring so far this season," Uzee said. "The depth of playing about 10 kids per game should pay off as the season goes along. The closeness of this team is strong. I am not sure if I have ever coached a team that is this close. They all pull for each other; there is no selfishness."
Some other key contributors are Jah’leel Ester and Brayden Kuriger; both have played well and are juniors. The chemistry is key as the season has hit the midpoint and being able to have a great supporting staff is paramount.
“The chemistry is why we have started out strong," Uzee said. "Even with the lack of experience we returned, we have shared the ball and that has led to efficiency on offense. We have changed some things on defense which has helped."
Coaches tend to look at strengths and weaknesses early so they can make changes; having extra eyes always helps. “Our assistant coaches have been a huge part of our changes," Uzee said. "The team has accepted the changes and hit the ground running."
District play has started, and every night will be a challenge. “EA, Catholic and Dutchtown return a good group of guys," Uzee said. "Add in Woodlawn and McKinley, who have had success early this season. Catholic has won the district the last two years — they are likely the favorite but honestly any team can win it."
Class 5A is strong as ever with the same teams returning talent. Bonnabel, West Monroe, Hahnville, Zachary and New Iberia are teams that were mentioned; maybe a team in our district could be in the mix. “We have plenty to improve on, but if we stay the course, we feel like we can have a good ending to what has been a great start for our team,” Uzee said.
All-District team announced
Here are the local players included in the 5-5A All-District football first team.
Athlete: Cole Poirrier, St. Amant
OL: Matt Gallman, Dutchtown
OL: Reed Davis, Dutchtown
OL: Gavin Soniat, EA
WR: Navell Chopin, EA
WR: Remy Rizzuto, St. Amant
RB: Walter Samuel, EA
RB: Kendall Washington, EA
RB: Dylan Sampson, Dutchtown
Kicker: Christian Donnelly, Dutchtown
MVP: Dylan Sampson, Dutchtown
DL: Jerrell Boykin, EA
DL: Ashton Milton, EA
DL: Tyler Legendre, St. Amant
DL: Joseph Johnson, Dutchtown
LB: Rionte Jones, EA
LB: Marcellas Taylor, EA
LB Chris Washington, Dutchtown
DB: Kael Babin, EA
DB: Kendrick Broussard, EA
DB: Blake Thompson, EA
DB: Evan Bourgeois, St. Amant
DB: Jordan Jackson, Dutchtown
Flex: Tanner Vadnais, Dutchtown