Never has a Louisiana basketball player earned the honor of Gatorade Player of the Year three times – until Cara Ursin, that is. The Destrehan High School basketball star received that news in surprise fashion Monday morning, as she was greeted at the DHS campus by her coaches, teammates and family members, all of whom there to offer congratulations and support.
The senior now stands alone as the state’s only three time winner in the history of the award, which was established in 1985. Theresa Plaisance of Vandebilt Catholic (2009-10), Whitney Jones of West Monroe (2005-06) and Seimone Augustus of Capitol (2001-02) were the only girls basketball players besides Ursin to win the honor twice. No male player has ever won the award thrice, either: Riverside’s Ricardo Gathers, St. Thomas More’s Trey Touchet, Country Day’s Matt Derenbecker, Helen Cox’s Greg Monroe and Newman’s Randy Livingston each won the award twice.
Ursin averaged 28 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and four blocks per game this season as she led the Wildcats to a perfect 35-0 season and the Class 5A state championship. She shot nearly 70 percent from the field and hit 52 percent of her 3-point attempts. Ursin was named the Outstanding Player of the Class 5A title game, a 62-57 win over Barbe, and also helped lead her team to the championship of the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic tournament.
“I was speechless … overwhelmed with joy,” said Ursin, who signed with Baylor in late 2016. “I really don’t know what to say, it’s amazing. Winning it three times, and I’m still so happy about our state championship. So, it’s just all come together and I just get more and more excited every day.”
Ursin became the first-ever player from a St. Charles Parish school to earn the Gatorade award when she took those honors as a sophomore in 2015. She has now set a mark that isn’t likely to soon be topped, if ever.
“It’s so nice that it is her making this history,” said Destrehan coach Angi Butler. “It shows good things happen to good people, that you work so hard and the hard work, the passion that you have, it all pays off.”
The Gatorade award honors those who excel on the court, but also in the classroom and in the community. Ursin has maintained straight As throughout her four years at Destrehan.
“All the work she puts in, the hours … you don’t see people like her anymore, so who are just so good all the way down, through and through,” Butler said. “She works hard, doesn’t complain, doesn’t disrespect. She’s willing to go the extra mile, whether anyone sees it or not.”
Destrehan has lost just eight times in her tenure with the team, which includes finishes as 5A state champion, runner-up and semifinalist. The team’s overall record in those four years was 120-8.
Ursin said she was floored to see her friends, family and teammates waiting for her Monday.
“I walked in and they yelled surprise … it looked like I just stood there,” Ursin said with a laugh. “But I was just really happy. I’m making people happy and that’s something I love to do.”
As part of the achievement, Ursin will receive a $1,000 grant from Gatorade to donate to the charity of her choice as part of the company’s Play It Forward program. Each Player of the Year winner through all sports will also have the chance to write an essay on why their selected organization deserves additional support — 12 of those will be chosen, with an additional $10,000 grant going to that charity.
Butler said the accolades aren’t likely done for Ursin, and one would be inclined to agree. She was named Louisiana’s Miss Basketball by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association last year and is a favorite to repeat that honor.
When asked where all the trophies go, Ursin mixed in a bit of truth with humor in her response.
“My mom has a trophy case at the house, and I put some in my room to hang on the wall,” she said. “I guess I’ll need a bigger room soon.”