The bad news for the Hahnville boys basketball team is it will enter something of a retooling phase next season after the graduation of six seniors — only one starter, senior point guard Raylon Hardy, returns. But the Tigers, who went 7-3 this summer in the Crescent City Summer League, are loaded with promise. Though Hardy will be surrounded by players who were junior varsity a season ago, those underclassmen powered a JV team that went 22-1 last season, including a 21-game winning streak to end the season.
“These guys understand winning,” said Hahnville coach Rick Spring, who is set to enter his second season as the team’s coach. “It’s just a matter of learning how to win at the varsity level.”
Hardy will be a key part of that process. Spring said his senior floor leader has already embraced the challenge and is taking his younger teammates under his wing.
“He’s one of the best point guards in our area and our quarterback on the court,” Spring said. “Anytime you have a great leader at that spot you have a chance to be successful. He understands his role (this summer). He’s established already. He has to make his teammates better. He’s showing them what it takes to be a varsity competitor.”
The team played a slate of teams that included John Curtis, St. Augustine, Bonnabel, Carver and Crescent City. Among notable results, HHS fell to a strong St. Augustine squad by one and split with perennial contender Curtis.
Among the players who figure as rotation factors in Spring’s run-and-gun system are Terrell Jefferson, who, along with Hardy is one of only two seniors on the team, juniors Glenn Grover, Ian Arnold and Kendall Pierre and sophomores DiJon Howard and Wardell Strickland.
The player that’s made the biggest leap in ability level according to Spring, however, is junior Dionte Sumlin. Sumlin was not a major factor on last year’s varsity or JV team, but this summer he made his presence known, leading the team in scoring in eight of 10 games and leading the Tigers in rebounding in all 10 contests.
“He’s had an incredible offseason from a conditioning and strength standpoint,” Spring said of his 6’2 up-and-comer.
The team was without 6’5 center Mako Martin after he suffered a knee injury in the opening game of the summer league, and Spring said his return will give an undersized team some mettle on the glass.
The biggest factor for the team’s success next season, Spring said, will be whether the young team can quickly tackle its learning curve.
“In our district, you don’t want to be dealing with a learning curve at that time of the year,” Spring said.
“For us, it won’t be a physical problem. But those other teams don’t care that we’re young or that we lost six seniors. We need to figure it out by the Christmas break or else we’ll have issues.”