SPARTANS ONCE AGAIN LOADED WITH SKILL
Expectations are always high for Salmen basketball.
Such is the monster that veteran coach Jay Carlin has created.
Carlin led the Spartans to the 4A state championship in 2009. Salmen reached the regional round of the playoffs in 2013 after reaching the quarterfinals in 2010 and 2012 and the semifinals in 2011 and in 2008. The Spartans are a regular participant in the playoffs, one of the best and most consistent programs in Louisiana.
Carlin leads his Salmen squad into the 4th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic January 2-4 at the Alario Center in Westwego, sponsored by SportsNOLA.com.
In his 30th year at Salmen, Carlin is one of the best coaches with one of the most consistent programs in Louisiana. That consistent excellence culminated with a first-ever state title in 2009.
"You've got to be good and you've got to be lucky to win it all," Carlin said. "We came close so many times. That was a group of kids that started with Hurricane Katrina and the school was wiped out and they stayed with us, stayed the course, overcame and achieved. That was a special group which helped to deal with what was a devastating situation. It really meant a lot in our community."
This season, the Spartans are off to a solid start. Salmen bolted to an 11-2 record, suffering its first loss to a very good Higgins team in the Valero Chalmette Christmas Classic. The Spartans won the Mandeville Skipper Classic, beating Catholic of Baton Rouge in the title game. The other loss was to Helen Cox.
Chris Vickers (6'4), Corey Vinson, junior Cory Rudolph (6'5), Robert Hayes, Dwayne Williams (6'6) and Matt Thomas lead the way for Salmen. As usual, the Spartans are the favorite in 8-4A with a pair of senior starters.
"Vickers can shoot from deep," Carlin said. "He made the All-Tournament Team in Chalmette, playing very well. Vinson is a junior point guard whom we count on to run the show. Rudolph gives us an inside presence as well but he can shoot it from the perimeter. Hayes has played solid, Williams is aggressive and physical on the defensive end and rebounds for us. Thomas is a junior and a very good athlete who provides punch off the bench."
Senior Jordan Pitts (5'10) is the other starter at guard for the Spartans.
Vickers and Rudolph were all-district performers a year ago. Vinson also started a year ago while Williams saw significant time. A sophomore, Hayes comes off the bench, along with sophomore John Norbel and Ashon Cook.
"We've lost some pretty good guards over the past two or three years," Carlin said. "Going into the year, it was all about our guard position as to how good we would become. We felt like our front line would be long and rebound. We lost two senior guards last year and one each the previous years so that left us with a bit of a void. We must protect the ball and prevent turnovers."
While Salmen has jumped out to a good record, the Spartans are not as good as they want to be, at least not yet.
"We're not where we want to be but I like our potential," Carlin said. "We have to fix our problems to compete in the Sugar Bowl Tournament. We are excited about being back in the tournament, getting top teams together in one location with very good out-of-state teams. The quality of the teams is outstanding and it provides a good measuring stick."