Gators hope speed and experience give them edge

Kyle Riviere

The St. Amant Gators head into this basketball season with a small lineup but what they lack in size, they make up for with quickness and overall experience.

Head coach Gary Duhe will lead St. Amant for his 13th year--a reign that has culminated in 234 wins, and he hopes to add many more this season.

The Gators are a year removed from a campaign where they went 19-11, finished fourth in the brutal District 5-5A and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

However, with four starters returning from that squad--including District MVP Donald LeBlanc--St. Amant could be well on their way to having a breakout season and making some noise within the league.

It's hard to imagine LeBlanc being much better than he was last season when he was all-district, All-Parish, All-Metro and All-State Honorable Mention, but he just might be with that extra year of experience under his belt.

Duhe thinks that once he gets back to 100 percent, he'll be the spark that ignites the Gator attack all season.

"Donald hasn't played well as of late because he's been dealing with some injuries but when he's healthy, it's great to have him back as a guard," Duhe said. "We have a guard-oriented team, so he really makes our offense go."

Another guy returning that will help this St. Amant team go will be Mason Clouatre. Clouatre was also a first-team all-district selection a year ago and was named one of three District 5-5A Defensive MVPs.

Jonavan Lewis, Courtland Brown, Dominique Wilmore and Brandon Guillory all saw significant action last year and look to have breakout seasons and play key roles in any success the Gators have.

"Our strength is our experience and our quickness," Duhe said. "Being small and having to play teams like East Ascension--who have so many big guys--that's a challenge. We just have to do all the small things, play good defense, block out and rebound well."

Duhe is certainly right. With the starting lineup not featuring anyone over 6'3, St. Amant will have to maximize their speed and tenacity if they want to make a run in the stacked District 5-5A.

"It's a big challenge. It's one of the best 5A districts in the state," Duhe said. "McKinley was the state runner-up last year, and East Ascension is a preseason top-five team. It's just a challenge every night, but that really helps out when you're playing non-district and when you get to the playoffs because you really feel like you've been battle-tested."

The Gators got off to a promising start last Thursday night in their jamboree when they beat Lutcher 42-35.

They're hoping it's just a sign of what's to come as they get ready for their regular season schedule.

Coach Duhe is confident that his team has what it takes to compete for the district crown. He said, "I expect us to be very competitive in the league and play hard. We'll just have to see what happens."