Parish's District 5-5A basketball teams set to tip off 2015-16

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Bilal Frank and East Ascension will be looking to improve on a 13-17 mark from last season. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

As football winds down, the parish now braces for the high-school basketball season.

There will be plenty of fresh new faces.

St. Amant finished the 2014-15 season as the top team in the parish as they rolled to a 19-12 record.

It was quite the turnaround for the Gators. In their first year under head coach Travis Uzee, they were in rebuilding mode and could only muster an 11-20 record. They were winless in the district.

Their ability to almost double their win-total a year later was helped by a tremendous District MVP season by Texas State signee Courtney Julien.

Julien averaged 24 points a game on 62 percent shooting.

He also got plenty of help from three fellow seniors: Nick Griffin, Crandell Christoff and Durrel Smylie. Griffin was an all-district selection.

The Gators jumped out to a 5-1 start within the district and looked like a lock to make the playoffs, but a 1-3 finish to the season forced them to miss out on the postseason, despite the 19 victories.

Uzee will have a tremendous challenge heading into his third season as he has to replace four starters--including Julien and Griffin.

The one position the Gators will bolster some experience is at point guard with both Terique Daley and Travis Cole seeing significant action last season.

Carter Templet and Nick Fehn will all return for St. Amant as great options from behind the 3-point line, but it's inside where the Gators will be looking for answers.

Christoff and Smylie provided a lot of toughness in rebounding and defense. Replacing them will be just as important as replacing the scoring lost with Julien's departure.

Kameron Kelson will try to fill the void. Kelson is an East Ascension transfer.

Parish counterpart Dutchtown will enter a second straight year where they have to replace almost their entire roster.

The Griffins went from the state quarterfinals to winning just five games in 2014-15 with the departure of starters: Christon Thompson, Patrick Thompson, Tevin Thompson, Leonard Scott and Nick Whalen.

To start this season, Dutchtown will have to replace: Josh Crockett, Ross Hill, Preston Gaines, Christian Chustz and Cameron Burke. Burke was their lone all-district selection last season.

Neill Caldwell brings back the most experience from the guard position, while Aaron Hodoh and Tylen Wilson will have to step up down low for the Griffins.

The team that brings back the most firepower out of the three Ascension teams in District 5-5A is East Ascension.

In head coach Barry Whittington Jr.'s first season, the Spartans were baptized by fire.

In addition to losing top players like Jacardo Hawkins, Johnell Lane and Eric Williams, returning all-district star Deandre Jones was lost for the season with an ACL tear before the year even began.

Many young players were forced to grow up quickly. Their youth and inexperience certainly showed early on as they got off to a rocky 9-16 start.

But to end the season, the Spartans hit their stride. They closed the year on a 4-1 tear that included wins over McKinley and St. Amant.

Their only loss was a last-second heart-breaker to district champion Catholic in the season finale. Overall, they finished the year at 13-17.

Now returning four of their five starters, East Ascension is ready to make a return to the postseason.

Though they lose all-district selection Josh Andrews, they bring back talented players like Shedrick Smith, Koye Ruffin, Bilal Frank and Jimel London.

Down low, they return the 6-foot-6 Justin Harris, a player that showed flashes of tremendous potential last season.