Parish basketball tournament tips off

Kyle Riviere
K.J. Franklin and St. Amant are set to compete in the John “Hot Rod” Williams Gold Dome Classic. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

With football finally wrapped up in Ascension, the parish will get its first real taste of the basketball season this weekend as the annual Gold Dome Classic tips off.

This season’s tournament has been renamed to honor former Gator great John “Hot Rod” Williams.

Williams, a former NBA All-Star from Sorrento, passed away last December after a battle with prostate cancer. He was only 53 years old.

After his passing, St. Amant alum Tim Scott and Alvin Ellis drafted a letter and sent it to former Superintendent of the Ascension Parish School Board, Patrice Pujol, proposing the tournament honor Williams.

This led to a meeting with Pujol, Scott, Ellis, Interim Superintendent Denise Graces, St. Amant Principal Mia Edwards and Gator Athletic Director David Oliver. It was there that the decision was made to pay homage to the Ascension great.

Unfortunately, the first ever John “Hot Rod” Williams Gold Dome Classic will not be able to take place in the Gold Dome—a place that honors Williams’ retired No. 30.

When the catastrophic flooding made its way through Ascension back in August, St. Amant as hit the hardest.

In addition to houses and businesses, St. Amant High School was submerged. Many of the school’s athletic facilities took on heavy water—including the Gold Dome.

With the gymnasium still taking on repairs, the tournament will have to be played in the Dutchtown High School gym. The gym will also be a temporary home for the Gator basketball teams this season.

Like every year, there will be many of the top basketball programs in the state competing in the tournament over the four days. The stacked field will include the parish’s three Class 5A programs in hosting St. Amant, East Ascension and Dutchtown, along with Woodlawn, Fontainebleau, Zachary, Hammond, Airline and Dunham.

Dutchtown is looking for improvements this season after winning just nine games last year.

The Griffins will return their most experienced team in years as they’re led by seniors Neill Caldwell, Justin Williams, Aaron Hodah and Devin Jackson. Nic Caldwell will be back after having a breakout freshman season.

East Ascension won the Gold Dome Classic last season. They will bring back the most accomplished team in Ascension in 2016-17.

The Spartans only lost one starter from last year’s state semifinalist squad. They return Parish MVP Le’Aaron Cain, along with All-Parish players Jimel London and Koye Ruffin.

East Ascension will enter the tournament 3-1 and fresh off of winning the Bulldog Classic in White Castle last Friday night.

Their only loss was a 70-65 defeat to defending Class 3A champion University in the season opener. The Spartans were missing numerous players that were still competing in the football playoffs.

St. Amant enters this year’s tournament with all five of their starters from last year returning. This includes All-Parish stars Kameron Kelson, K.J. Franklin and Carter Templet.

The Gators will enter this week’s action with a solid 4-1 record. This includes an impressive 3-0 run in the Doyle Tournament.

The action begins on Wednesday evening. East Ascension will play Zachary at 6:30. St. Amant will finish the day with a matchup against Hammond.