Ready for a new coaching challenge

New LSU assistant David Patrick glad to be back where he launched his basketball career.

David Patrick is a well-traveled man.

Born in Bermuda, raised in Australia, and an 19-year resident of the United States – with stops in Louisiana, New York, California, and Texas – Patrick has hung his hat in his share of homes across the globe.

But after many years on the move, the 36-year-old Patrick hopes to finally settle down for good in Baton Rouge, the home of his high school alma mater, as last month he was named the final addition to first-year head coach Johnny Jones’ LSU basketball coaching staff for the 2012-13 season.

Since leading Chapel Trafton School to the LHSAA 1A State Quarterfinals in 1995 and earning State Player of the Year honors, Patrick has been working his way up the ranks in the basketball world.

A part of Syracuse’s 1996 Final Four team as a freshman, Patrick transferred to Louisiana-Lafayette to finish out his college career.

After returning home to Australia to play in the National Basketball League for three seasons, Patrick played professionally in England and Spain before returning to the U.S. to pursue a coaching career. He got his feet wet in Thibodaux as a volunteer assistant with Nicholls State in 2005-06, helping to establish a recruiting pipeline to Australia that brought the Colonels such standouts as Ryan Bathie and Anatoly Bose.

Patrick then moved west to join Saint Mary’s College in California, helping the Gaels emerge as a mid-major power by landing talented Aussies like Patrick Mills, now of the San Antonio Spurs. Patrick finally joined up with the Houston Rockets as a scout before taking the job with LSU.

Though he’s been away from the state for the better part of the last decade, Patrick has kept close ties with Louisiana’s basketball scene.

While much of his recruiting efforts with the Tigers look to be focused on a national or international scale, Patrick says he’s still well aware of the challenges inherent in recruiting Louisiana players, the foremost of which is academics.

“When you think of Louisiana players, it’s hard to recruit them, because very few of them have the grades to qualify,” he said, citing increased admissions standards implemented by the NCAA since his collegiate playing days.

“Schools can’t get the same kids in school that they used to get. You used to be able to throw them in prep school until they qualified, but the NCAA raised their academic standards, so now you can’t do that. Now kids get lost in the mix.”

Another challenge Patrick expects to take on is the competition with football for the state’s best athletes. Look no farther than former White Castle star Ronald Martin, an all-state basketball player in high school who signed with LSU’s football team as a defensive back.

Following a redshirt football season, Martin quit the LSU basketball team after only a few weeks of practice to focus on breaking through in the deep LSU football secondary. Like Martin, many of the state’s best basketball talents, Patrick said, forego the chance to play on the hardwood for a shot on the gridiron, which seems to promise greater glory.

“When kids see LSU football playing on TV every Saturday while the basketball team struggles like they have, they’re going to lean toward being a football player,” Patrick said.

With the challenges acknowledged, Patrick cites community involvement as the greatest asset the new basketball staff can utilize in rebuilding the LSU basketball program.

To prove his point, Patrick points to the LSU coach who recruited him as a high schooler as a model for how he and the rest of Jones’ staff can begin to restore the Tiger basketball program to national prominence.

“At the college level, you have to have your coach invested in the community,” he said. “Look at Dale Brown. You thought of him as the face of Baton Rouge because he was involved. When you do that, the community will give back.”

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