First St. Charles basketball player to ever win state award

Destrehan High School’s Cara Ursin was already the first basketball player from St. Charles Parish to ever earn the Gatorade Louisiana Player of the Year. She now accounts for the first two instances.

Ursin, a junior, has been named the girls Player of the Year for the second consecutive season after leading her Wildcats to a 26-3 record and a trip to the state quarterfinals. She averaged 25 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, seven steals and five blocks per game this season while averaging just one turnover. She was named District 7-5A MVP for the third consecutive year.

Ursin joins Theresa Plaisance of Vandebilt Catholic (2009-10), Whitney Jones of West Monroe (2005-06) and Seimone Augustus of Capitol High School (2001-02) as the only girl basketball players to win the honor twice.

She will have the opportunity to become the only player to ever win it three times next season. Already, Ursin is the lone player to ever receive the award twice prior to her senior season — Plaisance, Jones and Augustus each earned the honor in their respective junior and senior seasons.

“Those are great players, and to be mentioned among them is definitely something I’m proud of,” Ursin said. “I never imagined being in this position when I started playing basketball. This is really an unbelievable, almost unexplainable feeling.”

The award honors those who excel on the court, but also in the classroom and in the community. Ursin has maintained straight A’s throughout her three years at Destrehan. Destrehan has lost just eight times in her three seasons with the team.

DHS girls basketball coach Angi Butler said Ursin’s back-to-back Player of the Year honors speak to the junior’s special talent.

“If she wins it again, she’ll make history. Nobody’s ever done it,” Butler said. “Even looking back at an Ed Reed (former Destrehan and NFL football star), as talented as he is, he never won the Gatorade Player of the Year. It’s a rare feat and an amazing testament to her skill.”

Butler said it’s tough for her to imagine Ursin not being in the running again next season, mostly because the tireless worker continues to get better as a player. She improved her efficiency this season to go along with her eye-popping statistics, increasing her shooting percentages across the board — from 64 to 69 percent on two-pointers, 53 to 55 percent on 3-pointers and from 78 to 82 percent at the foul line.

“It’s definitely a blessing to have the opportunity to coach her,” Butler said. “I can’t take credit for her ability. Nobody can. God gave her that talent because He knew she’d know how to handle it. I’m just so happy and grateful to have the chance to help her develop. She makes coaching the game fun.

“I’m certainly proud of her. We all are, and we’re proud that she’s from St. Charles Parish.”

It marks the fifth time since 2011 a boys or girls basketball player in the River Parishes has earned the Gatorade Player of the Year honor. Riverside’s Ricardo Gathers was named boys Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012, while St. James’ Brandi Jeffery earned the girls Player of the Year in 2011. It speaks to a region that has seen the skill level of its basketball programs grow across the board. Prior to 2011, only one River Parishes basketball player had ever earned the honor, Reserve Christian’s Tweety Carter in 2006.

Ursin said she’s working on expanding her game even more, casting an eye on improving her ability to pull up and hit a mid-range jumper.

“Girls are going to keep getting bigger and bigger (near the basket), so you can’t just rely on shooting at the rim,” Ursin said. “I’m going to keep working on all of my skills. I’d like to get quicker.”

She said while a third Player of the Year award would make her feel amazing, it’s not near her top priority. The Wildcats have been to a state championship game and semifinal during her tenure, but a state championship has eluded Ursin and her teammates.

“We have to work even harder and want it even more,” she said. “Mentally, we have to be prepared. So many people want this for us, but we want it for ourselves that much more.”

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