Kaigler brothers give Istrouma a boost

Most high school sports fans know about a Baton Rouge boys basketball team that has two intriguing big men. One is a rebounding/defensive force, and the other might end up playing college football.

If you think that team is Scotlandville, the top seed going into the Coca-Cola/Bob Petit/East Baton Rouge Parish Tournament, you’re only half-right. Just as intriguing is the story of second-seeded Istrouma and its big men, 6-foot-7 Carvis Kaigler and his brother, 6-5 Marquise.

Scotlandville and Istrouma lead the field of teams set to compete in the annual tournament, which begins at noon Wednesday at Southern’s F.G. Clark Center.

“Unselfish … that’s the one word I can use to describe them,” first-year coach Aaron Pearson said of the Kaiglers. “They don’t care who scores the points or makes the plays as long as we win.

“Earlier this season, Carvis was the defensive MVP in one of the tournaments we played in. I told him that’s the one award I respect the most. He didn’t have to put the ball in the basket, but he worked harder than everybody else. Marquise is solid. He doesn’t mind banging inside, but he also can handle the ball and has a mid-range game.”

Scotlandville (13-2) has 6-8 Vanderbilt signee Damien Jones, an accomplished shot-blocker and rebounder, and 6-5 Brian Bridgewater, who has football and basketball scholarship offers. Jared Sam, also 6-8, provides another inside presence for the Hornets.

While Scotlandville is coming off its first state title in Class 5A, Istrouma appears destined to contend for plenty of accolades — including the EBR title, the District 6-4A championship and perhaps even the Class 4A state crown.

Just a few months ago, those options were in doubt when Istrouma was taken over by Louisiana’s Recovery School District. That meant all of the players had the option to transfer to other EBR schools.

The Kaiglers could have attended Broadmoor but opted to return to Istrouma.

“We just wanted to keep the team together,” Marquise Kaigler said. “We felt like we started a good thing and wanted to see how far we can go.”

Added Carvis Kaigler: “We like playing together.”

Devin Bethley, a 5-10 senior guard, leads the Indians (11-4) in scoring at 18.0 points per game. Marquise Kaigler is next at 15 points and nine rebounds, while Carvis adds 13 points and 11 rebounds. Two 6-1 players, Tevin Walker and Josh Green, each average around 10 points.

Both Kaiglers are juniors, but Carvis will turn 19 before the 2013-14 season and will ineligible to compete. He enjoys blocking shots and playing defense and is looking to improve his grade-point average, which is above the 2.0 needed to compete on the college level.

Marquise Kaigler has been Istrouma’s starting quarterback the past two seasons and wants to pursue football. The 215-pounder hopes to attend a number of summer football camps, such as the Manning Passing Academy, to showcase and improve his skills.

The younger Kaigler carries a 3.5 GPA and wants to major in mechanical engineering. While he sees himself as a football player in the future, he’s focused on basketball.

“We’ve gained a lot of confidence so far,” he said. “We’ve lost to Scotlandville twice, but both times it was close. We’re working to get better.”

All but one of the Indians’ losses have been narrow defeats, including those two to Scotlandville.

Pearson, a 2006 Southern Lab graduate, was intrigued by the chance to return home after spending the past two years coaching at Mid-Continent University in Mayfield, Kent., where he also played.

“I knew the history and that there was always going to be talent here,” he said. “I’m glad these guys all decided to stick together. What we’ve tried to do is build on what they already had. We’ve talked about having a championship mentality, and that’s a process.

“That’s what I had at Southern Lab. You expect to win big games, but you also prepare. Every play is a championship. Every possession is a championship.”

For now, the Indians are focused on the EBR tournament championship. The Kaiglers said it’s impossible to overstate how important the four-day event is to them.

“Winning it,” Carvis Kaigler said, “would mean a lot.”