Inexperienced Gators to rely on different brand of basketball

Peter Silas Pasqua
St. Amant’s Steve Fulkerson is the lone returning starter from a team that advanced to the Class 5A regionals last season.

ST. AMANT – If you have become accustomed to St. Amant running the floor the past couple of years, expect a different philosophy this season.

“I think it is going to be an exciting year,” St. Amant head coach Gary Duhe said. “It is going to be a different brand of basketball then we played the last few years here and that is what we have to understand. We are real inexperienced. It is a transition year and we just have to keep working. Teaching the game and watching kids get better, that is what I enjoy about this group.”

The Gators placed third in District 6-5A standings a year ago with a 6-4 mark and defeated Hammond in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs before falling to top seed Huntington 91-70 in the regionals to finish with an overall record of 23-11.

However, the Gators must replace four starters including first-team all-district selections, overall MVP and first-team all-state pick Rashaun Claiborne, honorable mention all-state selection Brandon Morris and defensive MVP Bruce Mathison along with honorable mention all-district selection Nick Morris. 

“You don’t replace them,” Duhe said. “You just have to figure out how to do different things. I am pleased with the group that we have. We are not extremely athletic but we are going to get there. We are going to be a very good basketball team in another month.”

The Gators lone returning starter is 6-8 senior center Steve Fulkerson. Jacob Gauthier is the only other player returning with varsity experience. Malik Beasley will man the point and Justin Manton, Jacky Joseph, Marlon Bourgeois, Dalton Alexander, Shane Laurent, Wendell?Williams and Brandon LeBourgeois all figure in.

“Our strength is teamwork,” Duhe said. “That is what we are relying on. We don’t have one individual. Last year, we could beat you so many different ways. Off the dribble, with the pass, shooting the ball and pressure defense but we don’t have that this year. It is not crying over spilt milk. That is just the team we have.”

“We have to find our identity. Right now, we have a lot more weaknesses than strengths and the biggest is inexperience.”

St. Amant opened the season hosting Zachary before participating in Donaldsonville’s Tiger Classic. After playing Hammond in Denham Springs’ Hornsby Classic, the Gators hosted Walker before their tournament, the Gold Dome Classic.

A trip to Donaldsonville and Denham Springs sandwiches Scotlandville’s tournament before two district challenge games and the Hornets at home.

After the Spartan Classic at East Ascension the week after Christmas the pre-district slate wraps up at Lutcher following a home date with Redemptorist.

“It is basically the same schedule,” Duhe said. “It is tough which is good because with power rankings, every game is important. This is the most inexperienced team I have ever put on the floor. We have a lot of growing up to do. We have to shrink the game down into three minute intervals. Every game we play is going to have to come down to the last two minutes for us to have a chance.”

Parity in District 6-5A was evident last year when five teams were seeded within seven spots from each other.

“We were one of the two or three best teams in the league last year,” Duhe said. “We are not this year but that doesn’t mean we can’t finish there. We have to value every possession and understand that is the type of basketball we have to play.”

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