Paula Lott, mother of guard Chad Lott, pulled off her red jacket to reveal a “Rice Mom” T-shirt Monday in the Byrd High gym.
No, it’s not to show her affinity for the versatile starch at the foundation of much of Louisiana’s famous cuisine.
It’s the culmination of a tough and lengthy recruiting process that ended Monday with Chad’s decision to play basketball and attend Rice University in Houston, Texas.
Lott’s three-year recruiting trail included interest from schools like LSU, Southern Methodist, Houston, Louisiana Tech, Creighton and later Nevada among others, but Lott said he feels Rice is a great fit because of its mix of academics and basketball.
“I’ve been recruited by a lot of people, and I’ve seen the worst in the recruiting process and the best,” said Lott, who’s submitted scholarship papers. “My parents instilled in me to be a student … and wanted to make sure academically that I was straight.
“That’s what this decision came down to.”
Perhaps the best of the recruiting process for Lott was Rice’s persistence in pursuing the 6-foot-2 guard that averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds as a senior.
A member of Rice’s coaching staff watched at least five of Lott’s games during his senior season, and Lott said he fell in love with the school once Rice had a scholarship for him.
“Rice had all of their spots filled, but one of their guys left, and they told me I was the first person they called to see if I was still open,” said Lott, who will major in sports management. “They’ve always been there, recruiting me since my sophomore summer.
“It just took me exploring them. I didn’t give them much of a look because of me being attracted to the big names. But when I did give them a look, I was crazy about them. The coaches took care of me (on my visit) … and it was amazing how they opened their arms to me when I got out there.”
Rice coach Mike Rhoades, who spent five seasons as a Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) assistant before leading Rice to a 12-20 record his first season, runs an up-tempo style that Lott compares to Byrd’s.
“Rhoades said he trusts me to where he wants me on the ball a lot (as a point guard), but at the same time, he feels like I can run the wings and score,” Lott said. “I can play a two (shooting guard) or a three (small forward) kind of like I did here (at Byrd).
“He says he wants me to rebound the ball and push it up the floor. I’m very relieved I don’t have to guard guys like (Natchitoches Central center) Cameron Lard anymore … but in a sense that made me tougher. I may get a few rebounds over the bigs because I had to do it all of high school.”
Lott led the Yellow Jackets to the Class 5A Top 28 (semifinals) for the first time since 1997 as Byrd finished with a 27-6 record. He’s a tough guard that can penetrate to score or distribute to his teammates, but he’ll need to develop more of an outside offensive game to become an all-around threat.
He recently won The Times’ inaugural Best of Preps Basketball Player of the Year award after winning his third consecutive All-City Player of the Year this season.
“He’ll do well,” said Byrd coach Rusty Johnson. “He’s picking a school where he can get a good education, and a school where he may play quickly.
“He needs to play in a full-court game. That’s where he’s best.”
Lott had some fun with fellow Conference USA member Louisiana Tech, and he says he’ll enjoy coming to Ruston to play in front of his former high school classmates.
Eric Musselman recruited Lott as an LSU assistant and then as Nevada’s head coach as well.
“(Former Louisiana Tech coach Mike White) recruited me some, but he didn’t recruit me really,” Lott said. “It’ll be fun being in (Tech’s) conference.
“I did have a close relationship with Coach Muss … but I didn’t feel like Coach Muss was as serious as Rice was. He texted me congratulations on my decision.”
Lott signed a scholarship in the last week of late recruiting period, but he said he thinks he’s found the best fit.
“I’m so relieved the decision is made, but I’m more relieved that I’m completely happy with the decision I’ve made,” Lott said as dad Cedric and mom Paula flanked him. “I’d tell others in my position to listen to your parents and that you don’t have to go off what other people tell you when it comes to this college process.
“I’d say find a home, somewhere where you are genuinely happy, and do not listen to the hype.”