Riverside Returns to Defend Sugar Bowl Tournament Title With Full Deck

Posted by: Ken Trahan--Executive Producer in Prep Sports

REBELS CONSISTENCY A GIVEN UNDER BYRD 

Call it a dynasty, if you will. The results certainly warrant such praise.

Riverside has won three of the last four Louisiana 2A state basketball championships, losing only in 2012, when the Rebels finished second to John Curtis.

Head Coach Timmy Byrd captured his 10th state championship as a coach in 2013, having won seven at Reserve Christian and now three at Riverside.

The Rebels return to defend their title in the boys competition of the 4th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic at the Alario Center in Westwego January 2-4, sponsored by sportsNOLA.com.

Riverside defeated Sheldon High of Sacramento, California 72-65 to win the event in 2013, marking the first Louisiana school to win the prestigious event. Kimball High (Dallas, TX) won in 2011 while Douglass High (Oklahoma City, OK) won in 2012.

Von Julien scored 22 points and handed out five assists in the title game to earn Tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

"It was a real surprise to win the tournament last year with our team being young, especially against an extremely talented team in Sheldon," Byrd said. "From that point forward, we were a very good team."

Riverside went on to win the 2A state championship, beating St. Thomas Aquinas 60-49 for the title.

"It's always satisfying as a group to win a state championship that nobody expects you to win," Byrd said. "That's a testament to the character of the type of kids we had. Even though we were young, we matured and our lone senior provided leadership. Everyone accepted their roles. They were a truly unselfish team. It was a very enjoyable season because there were no issues off the court at all. They were humble and took care of business in the classroom."

While last year was special, Byrd feels his 2013-2014 team has the potential to achieve great things.

"We have some talented kids this year, some good players," Byrd said. "They have to understand that as good as they are, they must stick to their roles. We have a deep bench."

A 6'1 junior, Julien was the 2A Player of the Year last season while sophomore Malik Crowfield is the leading scorer for the Rebels early in the season. Crowfield is a 6'4 guard who is athletic. 6'2 sophomore Herb McGee is an explosive player at guard.

Junior Jordan Andrews (6'4, 185) is bigger and stronger this season and is an excellent shooter. 6'2 sophomore Deuce Wallace is the other starter, having overcome a fractured tibia in his left leg suffered during the football season. Massive junior Joe Anderson (6'5, 230) comes off the bench for the Rebels and is the new addition this season while senior Curtis Thomas (5'10, 165) and senior Jacorey Haynes (5'9, 165) provide quality depth.

Most Riverside players are also stars on the football team, making an adjustment period necessary.

"The kids always make the football playoff and come to us banged up," Byrd said. "It takes a period of time to get them in basketball shape and to get over the nagging football injuries."

What makes Riverside tough is that virtually all players on the floor have ball skills, can penetrate and get to the basket. The Rebels have a strong perimeter game as well, allowing them to play inside-out.

Once again, Riverside has scheduled very tough this season, facing defending 5A champ Scotlandville, University High, East St. John, Salmen, Parkview Baptist, Country Day and Newman.

Riverside plays in the King of the Bluegrass Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, facing the top team in Kentucky in Ballard High (Louisville), among other excellent teams.

"We only know how to do it one way, to play the very best teams you can to prepare them for the playoffs," Byrd said. "Those games test your team and provide a measuring stick for your program. There are great tournaments around the country and we have been fortunate to play in many but the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic takes a back seat to none."

Byrd and his Rebels are hoping not to take a back seat to any in this year's event, looking to become the first time repeat champion of the classic.

"That would certainly be nice," Byrd said. "It speaks well for basketball in Louisiana when our teams thrive."