Young talent shines at Combine

The state of Louisiana had a collection of prep basketball talent unlike any other at Saturday's Combine in the Capital. In a special to TSD, Trey Mongrue runs down the highlights from the combine, which included one LSU-related onlooker.

Youthful talent was the theme on Saturday as many blue-chip basketball prospects from all over Louisiana converged at Team Sportsplex, Baton Rouge's newly built state-of-the-art basketball facility, for the first ever Combine in the Capital.

"We were very pleased with the turnout," said Team Nike Louisiana assistant coach and director of recruiting Bryan Denison. "We had an overwhelmingly positive response."

The event attracted more than 120 of the state's best high school basketball players for a full day's worth of scrimmaging as well as assorted combine tests, with the results sent to college basketball coaches all across the country for recruiting purposes.

According to Denison, who pitched the idea to Team Nike Louisiana head coach Jonathan Pixley three months ago, the opportunity of having a grand event was just too good to pass up.

"We've got this four million dollar gym, we have the resources and we have great connections with a lot the schools and teams from around the state. We wanted to put together a great platform for these kids to get their names out there," he explained. "I felt like we achieved our goal in this first run.

"We liked the idea of doing something other than just having a bunch of high school players show up and roll the ball out to let them play," Denison continued. "We did something a little different with the combine-type testing. That kind of information will be very helpful for college coaches as well as the players."

After two hours of the combine testing, the players were broken up into four teams per class to scrimmage as high school and college coaches watched intently.

With the likes of Christian Life power forward Jonathan Stove and Brother Martin shooting guard Jordan Cornish, the class of 2014 was well represented as was 2015 with Country Day center Scott Plaisance and Byrd (Shreveport) point guard Chad Lott.

However it was the younger classes that really made names for themselves with University High point guard Skylar Mays, Riverside swingman Malik Crowfield and Catholic shooting guard Toliver Freeman drawing rave reviews during the scrimmages.

"There are tons of kids in those younger classes that can really play," said Denison. "A lot of them showed that they have a really polished game. They are super, super talented and they showed that."

The celebrity in the crowd was LSU head coach Johnny Jones.

With guys like Lott and Mays holding scholarship offers from the Tigers, Jones was constantly pacing between each of the four basketball courts to watch a handful of potential future players and talked with them afterward.

"Them being the flagship university of the state and being in the city, Johnny was definitely going to be around because of the type of talent we had flowing through our gym," Denison of Jones. "He got to see some good basketball."

However, the main reason that Jones was in attendance was because his son, John, participated in the event.

Other head coaches in attendance were Tulane's Ed Conroy, Louisiana-Lafayette's Bob Marlin, UNO's Mark Slessinger and Michael Giorlando of Loyola.

Denison would not be shocked if he starts getting a few phone calls from those coaches after he mails out the official player results.

"Some of the lesser-known players probably will benefit the most from this because they will be on record when I send out the information to all of the college coaches," explained Denison. "I expect to get a lot of e-mails and a lot of calls from those coaches asking a lot of questions about some of these kids."

With the Combine in the Capital's maiden voyage proving to be a rousing success, Denison is already looking forward to 2014. The plan is to expand it to a multi-day event to allow even more Louisiana players to participate after he had to turn down a couple of players this year due to a lack of room.

His goal is to not only help these kids get their names out to college coaches but to show the country that Louisiana cares about its basketball.

"The fact that we still had a great turnout despite that there was a pretty big football game going on at the same time shows the interest," he said. "It's good to see people drive from a long ways out to show how much they love this sport. It does a lot for basketball in this state."

What do you think about the 2013 Combine in the Capital?


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