METAIRIE — Ten basketball players graduated from the Douglass High School (Oklahoma City) squad that won the 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Basketball Classic.
Here’s the bad news for this year’s field: Guard Stevie Clark was not one of them.
Clark, who despite an injured shoulder scored 33 points during last season’s tournament championship game against O.Perry Walker, will return to the Alario Center in Westwego as Douglas tries to defend its title Thursday through Saturday.
Nine other prep powers, though, will make sure it’s not an easy for Douglas, winners of three consecutive Oklahoma 4A state championships. The competition includes five local schools, as well as St. Thomas Aquinas of Hammond and Northside of Lafayette.
Five-time state champion St. Augustine will feature Craig Victor, a 6-foot-8 junior whose scholarship offers include Kansas and UCLA.
John Curtis, will showcase two-sport star Malachi Dupre. At St. Thomas Aquinas, Cody Addison averages nearly 20 points a game.
Walker, last season’s tournament runner-up, brings point guard Tyree Griffin, the younger brother of former Chargers star Bo McCaleb, who later played at the University of New Orleans and is now playing professionally oversees.
Higgins junior point guard Shawn Jones also hails from a basketball family. His older brother, Casey Jones, signed with Tennessee-Chattanooga last year.
And at Riverside, coach Tim Byrd is spending more time mentoring, now that he has to replace five seniors to graduation, all playing college basketball. His job now is more about reinforcing the game and its many techniques as compared to reminding the former upperclassmen. Byrd hopes many of the lessons they have learned early this season, and others they learn at the tournament, will help the Rebels earn another run deep in the playoffs.
“For a young team like us, this competition helps our team grow up really quick,” said Byrd, whose Rebels were the Class 2A runner-up last season and state champions the two previous seasons. “It gives them the confidence that they’ve played against the best. It’s a good gauge to show them where they’re at and what they need to improve on as a team.”
The tournament, now in its third year, has added an eight-team girls bracket for the first time. Cabrini, one of the schools, opens play Thursday against John Curtis with one senior, one junior and the rest, as coach Nancy Walsh described them, “are babies.”
Young players she expects to learn quick.
“We’re going to take some bumps early on,” Walsh said, “but I think we’ll come out strong during district.” They know there’s going to be some pressure on them to perform well. Even know they’re young, they have to handle that.”
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