Football players make transition into basketball

Calvary’s Shea Patterson came off the bench with the other five football players in their first basketball game since winning the Division III football state championship.

And the rust showed.

“I thought I was LeBron James or something, and I shot three air balls that went off the backboard,” Patterson said about his mid-December debut. “But it’s starting to come together now, and just like football, it’s about getting that comfort and chemistry.

“The toughest thing is we weren’t in basketball shape. We were dying sprinting up and down the court.”

The Cavaliers are one of a handful of local basketball teams who gladly welcomed football players after deep playoff runs.

Calvary started 0-4 with mostly eighth graders while the football team won its first-ever state title, but the Cavs have won four of their last six since fielding their entire roster.

One of those wins came against another football state title winner in Haynesville, whom the Cavaliers beat 62-50 on Dec. 20 in the Minden Tournament. The Golden Tornado started 0-4 before winning two of their last three games.

Parkway coach Mike Guess coached in his own mid-December tournament without his football players and without his gym after a water mane leak along Barksdale Boulevard.

But the Panthers, who started 0-4 as well, have won five of their last seven games. The team’s scoring output increased by 10 points to 77.5 per game before Friday’s 73-34 loss to Orr Academy of Chicago.

Guess is assimilating several of his best players like Brodrick Jefferson, Keondre Wudtee, Cory Hamilton and William McKnight back into the basketball team.

“It always takes time for these football guys to get back into basketball shape for one thing,” Guess said. “We work really hard in June … we play full speed practices while some other schools might just open their gyms for shoot-arounds and pickup games.

“We hope that adjustment is mainly conditioning and not skill. We’ve had some games where we’ve shot it well, and it’s ballhandling, vision on the court that takes adjustment. We’re staring at the ball at times and not seeing a cutter come right beside us to get a layup.”

Most basketball coaches probably prefer not to share their players with other sports, but North Webster coach Rodney Thrash is all for it.

The 26-year coaching veteran says his players are stronger from a football training regimen and the sport’s physical nature. Similar to other teams, North Webster lost its first four but has won 12 of its last 15 games with the addition of three starters and nine football players after a Class 3A quarterfinals run.

“I love football players, and me and (North Webster football coach John Ware) have it goin’ on and we encourage them to play other sports,” Thrash said. “I’ve never totally put my players on a weight program like they’ve got with coach Ware.

“But now, it’s not even comparable. My guards going for loose balls will bump into an opponent, and we use to fly the other way but now they do. These same kids have a much better shoulder and core strength. I’m sold on (weight training) now, and we’ll continue to lift during the season for maintenance.”

Devin White, the stud all-state sophomore who has football offers from LSU among others, is an embodiment of the bowed-up basketball player.

“It’s been hard because we’ve been running to get into basketball shape,” White said. “We’ve worked on shooting and gelling together.

“Some people might look at me as the star, but the reason we were good in football is because we had a lot of good people playing together. We want to bring that over to basketball and do it as one.”

Montavious Smith is arguably the best basketball player, joining fellow football players Lyntravious Gipson and White in the starting lineup. Add 6-foot-7 Dontavious Smith, and the Knights are a lengthy bunch capable of a deep playoff run.

A long football season didn’t affect every team, though.

Byrd, who was 15-1 before Friday night’s late game with Huntington, added eight football players that were available for Thursday’s win against Fair Park.

Coach Rusty Johnson’s program has 20 players, so depth didn’t affect the Yellow Jackets as much as other teams.

“(Football players) will play for the first time in the Bossier Tournament, and it will be a transition period,” Johnson said. “But Chad Lott is going to be at the center of what we do, and we’ll mix in 15 to 18 players per game.

“This district is going to be very competitive, and we learned last year that the road is tough and you better take care of home court. Every game matters because of the power points system in the playoffs.”

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