“What people are going to see is a very contemporary blend of our marks and logos in a layout that’s comparable to what they see when they turn on ESPN or Cox TV and watch games nationally.” WILLIAM BROUSSARD, Southern athletic director
The racket is so loud, you can hear it from Roman Banks’ office.
Three doors and a hallway away inside the F.G. Clark Activity Center, a pair of floor sanders grind across Southern’s basketball court, stripping away the lines, logos, polyurethane coating and sealant to reveal bright, fresh wood.
“They’re tearing it up, but for a good reason,” said Banks, the Jaguars’ men’s basketball coach.
Banks gave SU a face lift last season with a 13-win turnaround and second-place finish in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Now, he and women’s coach Sandy Pugh are making sure the court gets one, too.
When work is complete in a few weeks, the court will sport a new design and surface, improvements Banks said will make his players feel like “a kid at Christmas with a new bike.”
“When they see that court after it’s been redone, it continues to give them meaning of moving to the next level,” Banks said. “Not only this basketball team, but the university as well.”
The repairs, which Athletic Director William Broussard said are privately funded and will cost about $25,000, are more than cosmetic.
Since the floor was brought in for the 2004-05 season, it has gotten its fair share of wear and tear. The court is laid in square sections that lock together, and as it is taken apart and put back together over time, boards are chipped, dead spots develop, high and low points form, and lines become jagged rather than perfectly straight.
That’s exacerbated in Southern’s case, since the floor has also been used for concerts, student shows and other events.
“That floor has really taken a beating in the last seven years, and it was definitely overdue for an overhaul,” Pugh said.
Armando Wood of Classic Hardwood Floors, the New Orleans company handling the project, said about 45 boards needed repair work, and then the entire floor was sanded down to the wood, which leveled out the trouble spots.
That begins the process of resurfacing, which includes five different types of sandpaper and about 90 gallons of sealant and high-gloss polyurethane — two coats each.
“This court is worn, torn and played on,” Wood said. “This will just make it smoother and flatter with a whole lot more grip than they’re used to.”
After that, the goals will be brought back out, measurements made and new lines and logos put down.
That’s where the fun begins for Banks, Pugh and Broussard.
They examined national trends in court design, which are moving toward a more clean look and less use of mascot images.
For Southern, that means removing the dark blue and yellow border around the outside and the cartoon jaguar that occupied midcourt. They will be replaced by a border and foul lanes colored by a darker stain than the rest of the hardwood, and a large, interlocking Columbia blue SU logo in the middle of the floor.
Plans also call for “Southern Jaguars” to be written in white and blue on the border near the scorer’s table.
“What people are going to see is a very contemporary blend of our marks and logos in a layout that’s comparable to what they see when they turn on ESPN or Cox TV and watch games nationally,” Broussard said.
Banks calls that the “clean, special look,” and it’ll come complete with sentimental value.
The school plans to dedicate the court to former SU star and current Brooklyn Nets coach Avery Johnson later this year.
“They have a statue of (Shaquille O’Neal) at LSU, and I think this athletic department felt it was time we do something to recognize (Johnson). That’s part of the vision I have for bringing this basketball program back,” Banks said.
Along with the new court design, Banks and Pugh are planning for some fresh jerseys.
The men’s team is looking at options, and Pugh is going to unveil gold uniforms this season as a follow-up to the gray ones that debuted last year.
“That’s something we’ve never had before,” she said. “I think that will get a nice reception, too.”
Banks is also checking into the possibility of other facilities improvements and of taking his team on the road for a foreign tour next season. He hopes to raise funds during the “Blues Concert on the Bluff” on July 28, which will be put on by the Hardwood Club and feature Willie Clayton, Denise LaSalle and Tyree Neal. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
New track on the way
The basketball players won’t be the only ones on a new surface. Track and field coach Brian Johnson is getting one, as well.
Work is set to begin soon on the faded, worn-out track inside A.W. Mumford Stadium. Broussard said he hopes to have it finished before the start of football season, with a price tag of about $120,000, paid for through the university budget and student fees.
Rather than the more expensive and less resilient blue color on the current track, the new surface will sport the classic clay-colored red tone and is expected to last between four to six years.