Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association Team Camp set for New Orleans

by: Mike Strom // GeauxPreps.com Contributor

The goal is exposure.

More than 1,000 athletes and 100 teams are scheduled to participate in the Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association June Scholastic Event (JSE) Top 100 Showcase team camp set to tip off Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Loyola University in New Orleans.

In addition to the participants, which will include many of Louisiana’s top teams and prospects, a field of 30-plus college coaches are expected to attend this third annual event that operated its first two years as an individual showcase camp with no team competition.

“The idea is to put as many kids as humanly possible in front of Division I coaches all the way down to D-II to D-III to the NAIA and junior college coaches,’’ said Carencro coach Christopher Kovatch, LHSBCA president.

To that end, the LHSBCA has maintained flexibility in an attempt to make the camp as attractive as possible to college recruiters as evidenced by the format switch from individual to team showcase camps.

“We had kind of gotten wind that the college coaches would have preferred to see the kids in a setting with their own team so it was less of an all-star thing or AAU thing where essentially kids are just trying to make sure they worry about themselves,’’ Kovatch said. “So (in that setting) you have a lot more three-point shots going, you have a lot more selfishness going on in that model.

“In the team camp model, college coaches are able to get a much better picture of who the kid is in terms of their ability and how they react when things are going really well or things aren’t going well. That got us to where we are this year.’’

The additional significance of the LHSBCA camp is that it is a NCAA-certified “Scholastic Event’’ that also is accredited by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Louisiana is one of 33 states that stage Scholastic Events and this weekend’s camp is the only NCAA-approved Scholastic Event in-state where college coaches are able to attend and evaluate talent.

The hope, according to the LHSBCA, is that “players playing with their own teams (can) display a more accurate picture of their skill and ability.’’ The LHSBCA camp also comes during the only open contact period with recruits for college coaches during the month of June.

“Essentially, it’s a certified event by the NCAA,’’ Kovatch said. “We have to go through all of the proper channels, through the NCAA and the NFHS (the National Federal of State High School Associations), to be able to do this.

“It’s the only time that Division I coaches have an open contact period in the month of June. So from that standpoint it’s a really big deal.’’

“In the world of what I call ‘Backyard and Dad AAU teams’ where there’s eight million tournaments every weekend all around the entire nation, there aren’t necessarily college coaches there,’’ Kovatch added. “So here’s the opportunity to have anywhere from 20 to 50 schools, at least from what we’re expecting, at our event.

“We’re honestly expecting 30 to 45 (colleges) at our event just based on the past couple of years. We’re really focusing on making sure that every Louisiana (college) is here for sure.’’

A total of 85 varsity teams from Louisiana and Mississippi are scheduled to attend with the lions share of entries coming from Louisiana. Another 20 junior varsity teams also are scheduled to compete in a sub-varsity field that represents a new wrinkled added this summer.

Loyola’s University Sports Complex is serving as the camp’s primary venue with overflow games scheduled to be played at the John Curtis High School lower school and upper school gymnasiums. The Junior Varsity team camp is being staged at Country Day.

Camp hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. Attendance is open to the general public with daily admission set at $15 and three-day passes available for $25.

Teams get to play two games daily that, unlike the majority of camps, are broken down into four six-minute quarters with no running clock time. There will be no team champion or all-star teams named given that not all teams are participating for all three days.

But there will be no lack of volume given that 190 games are scheduled over the three days. A total of 84 games are set for Friday with another 80 scheduled for Saturday and a final 26 on Sunday.

“It’s a ton of games,’’ Kovatch said. “In our organization, one of our primary focuses is to promote the game. For the vast bulk of high school coaches, it’s about kids. I think everybody in the organization shares that view. This is our service mission.

“Nobody is making money off of this. We charge the minimum amount to make it operational for teams. But at the end of the day it’s about putting Louisiana kids in front of college coaches and trying to help them get four years of free education.

“So it’s a lot of work for only a handful of people, because you can only have so many hands involved in the logistical operations. It’s something that we don’t have to do and it is a little bit of a pain in the rear, to be honest. But it’s something that we believe is really important for the high school kids in our state, so we’re going to sacrifice and do whatever we need to do to give these kids this opportunity.’’

Calvary Baptist, Richwood, Peabody Magnet, St. Thomas More, Madison Prep, Dunham, Catholic-Baton Rouge, Liberty Magnet, University, Zachary, Natchitoches-Central, Shaw, Hannan, Bonnabel and Slidell are Louisiana programs expected to field strong teams with solid prospects while Pascagoula, Ocean Springs and Starkville are top Mississippi’s entries.

Rummel, St. Paul’s, Country Day, Sophie B. Wright, John F. Kennedy and Alexandria other Louisiana teams with players to watch.

Top guard prospects scheduled to compete are Evangel Christian’s Chris “C.J.’’ Shiflett (Class of 2025), Calvary Baptist’s Bubba Strong (2025) and Tyrone Jamison Jr. (2027), Catholic-Baton Rouge’s Tate McCurry (2025), Nico Jones (2025) and Matthew Hotstream (2025), Liberty’s Devin Houston (2027), University’s Trushaad Bush (2025), Carencro’s Brandon Duffy (2028), Ocean Springs’ Maddox Noblitt (2025), Pascagoula’s Kelan Rich (2025) and Blake Nettles (2026) and Starkville’s Jaden Tate (2026).

Richwood’s Lavell Lane III (Class of 2025), Shaw’s Kobe Butler (2025) and Triston Naquin (2027), Liberty’s William Nelson Jr. (2028), Dunham’s Elijah Haven (2027), Starkville forward/center Jerwan McCarter (2026) and Pascagoula’s Quey’sean Taylor highlight some of the top forward prospects while Richwood’s Karder Mason (2025), Calvary Baptist’s Justin Houston (2025), Alexandria’s Tyshawn Duncan (2026)  are top centers.

Mason and Houston each stand 6-foot-9 while Duncan and McCarter are 6-7.

A panel of LHSBCA coaches separated the varsity teams into four levels based on ability that will compete only against teams at comparable levels, Kovatch said while declining to reveal the four groupings of programs.

“One of the big things is that we really take scheduling serious,’’ Kovatch said. “We’re never going to make everybody happy with the way that it came out, but we did the schedule by hand. What we essentially did was rank teams from the top down to the bottom (and decide) who’s a perennial power and who do we know has college prospects on their team.

“Basically, we said there’s our upper echelon and we tried to play all of those teams against one another and keep them in a tight proximity. And then we just went down level by level breaking (the teams) into four levels of how good these teams usually are and if they have college players on their team.

“Then from there, we tried to break them up geographically so that we try to play a north Louisiana team against south Louisiana team and a team from the western part of the state against a team from the eastern part, along with the Mississippi teams in there, of course.

“Then we tried to take into consideration (for) travel for each of the teams, if they’re coming in that morning or they have to leave that night to drive back home. You don’t want to put a Shreveport team on the road at 8 p.m.’’

As for not revealing team brackets, Kovatch said, “We’re not disclosing (the levels) to the public. We really just used it to find balance in scheduling. If we gave them letter grades to make sure that A’s were playing A’s or A’s were playing B’s, we wouldn’t have a D team playing an A or a B team.

“People are way too sensitive and they get their feelings hurt way too bad (to be differentiated). Everybody thinks they’re an all-star. Everybody thinks they’re Bobby Knight. Everybody thinks they have college kids, but unfortunately a lot of them really don’t know the difference.’’

Education, in addition to exposure, is another key element in the three-day camp particularly education about recruiting rules.

“It also is designed to be an event where kids are educated about the recruiting process,’’ Kovatch said. “So we’re going to disseminate information to every kid on college basketball and the NCAA recruiting process.’’

As for publicity, the LHSBCA generally subscribes to the theory of allowing the players’ performances on the court to rule the day with the college coaches serving as judges.

“We’ll try to recognize kids through social media as we go, but it’s such an intensive three days that it’s hard to keep up with it unless we go out and hire and outside person to do it,’’ Kovatch said. “As a coaches association, we’ll do our best to highlight kids who are really standouts through social media. But the big idea of this is for what (the players) do for the college coaches that are sitting in front of them, for (the players) to make their own name for themselves.’’