As Hahnville prepares to compete in this weekend’s star-studded St. Augustine tournament, his young Tigers basketball team already has made a point to prove it has no intentions of going through a rebuilding season.The Tigers are 3-1 after defeating St. Thomas Aquinas, Independence and East St. John at last week’s St. Thomas Aquinas tournament. Hahnville’s lone loss is to John Curtis this season, head coach Rick Spring’s second with the program.
Hahnville saw six seniors graduate from last season’s squad, with 85 percent of the team’s points production leaving along with them. But strong guard play has paced this season’s Tiger squad, which has also been lifted by the faster-than-expected acclimation of the team’s youngest players.
“I’m pleased because we graduated six seniors and our question marks are how to replace those guys,” Spring said. “We don’t have a lot of experience coming up to fill these roles, so to have some success early on is very encouraging. We’re going to see over the next few weeks how steep our learning curve is, but we’re confident that there’s a lot of talent here.”
Part of that confidence comes from the fact that the Tigers’ JV team went 22-1 last season.
“It’s just a matter of moving up to this level,” Spring said.
Senior point guard Raylon Hardy is the leader of the team. Spring said Hardy has embraced his opportunity to guide his young teammates and has become the consummate senior both on and off the floor.
“He’s leading with experience and he knows we have a lot of youth,” Spring said. “He’s been vocal and he’s doing everything we’ve asked of him. He’s a returning senior starter and he’s acting the part.”
Freshman Keith Williams III has proved a quick study, the 6’2 guard scoring exactly 16 points in each of the Tigers three victories.
“He’s showing that ability to score that you don’t expect to see from someone as a freshman,” Spring said. “Though it’s pretty nice when it happens.”
Junior shooting guard Ian Arnold has been a marksman from the outside, drilling 17 3-pointers over the first four games.
“He’s been red hot and he’s knocking them down,” Spring said.
The Tigers are also adding some size into the mix with the additions of 6’5, 240 pound forward Mako Marin and 6’6, 300 pound center Larry Dixon, both of whom are jumping over from the HHS football team after the end of the gridiron Tigers’ season two weeks ago.
Spring said his second year heading the program has allowed him to expand his system and build on an established foundation. Another big help, he said, has been the addition of former Franklinton coach Randall Ginn as the Tigers’ associate head coach.
“We worked together at Slidell and we think the same way,” Spring said. “It’s a two-headed monster. I’ll be with one group, he’s with another and we’re teaching the same things … I can’t say enough about how the difference he’s made.”
Hahnville edged district foe East St. John in the championship game of the STA tournament, 48-45. Williams scored 16 and Hardy added 12.
In the Tigers’ opening tournament game, it bested host St. Thomas Aquinas 70-52. Williams scored 16 and Glenn Grover added 12.
Hahnville trounced Independence in its second game, taking a 74-32 win. Arnold hit six 3-pointers to finish with a team-high 18 points, while Williams added 16.
On Friday, Hahnville opens play at the St. Augustine tournament 5 p.m. when it faced Lake Area New Tech. Other teams at the tourney include host St. Augustine, McDonogh No. 35, Country Day, West Jefferson and Sophie B. Wright.
“It’s a lot of the area’s heavyweights in one tournament,” Spring said. “It’ll be a good gauge early on for us.”