Hornets strategy key to winning state 5A Championship

Scotlandville and McKinley high schools made history on March 9, by being the first two Baton Rouge teams to play for a boys Class 5A basketball state title, the state’s highest classification.

The No. 1 seeded Scotlandville Hornets trounced the No. 14 seeded McKinley Panthers with a final score of 82-48 to capture the Louisiana Class 5A Boys Basketball Championship. With this victory Scotlandville became the first Baton Rouge school to claim a 5A title since Woodlawn defeated Brother Martin from New Orleans back in 2003.

While the victory improved the Hornets record to an astonishing 36-2, the true victory however comes not only for Scotlandville head coach Carlos Sample, his staff, and his talented players but also for alumni and the entire Scotlandville community.

Scotlandville was a magnet school that had no football or basketball team for two decades.

Sample has been a coach for 15 years with this being his 5th year at Scotlandville Magnet. The previous 9 years were at Glen Oaks High School, but he got his start at Livonia High School.

Sample who became head coach at Scotlandville during the 2007-08 season has coached the Hornets to runner-up finishes in 5A the past two seasons before finally bringing home the state title this year.
Since becoming coach at Scotlandville, Sample has never had a losing season so he knows what it takes to win.

When it comes to coaching strategies Sample’s is quite simple: “It’s all about teamwork and discipline,” Sample said. “I don’t give out individual awards because I feel that the guy that doesn’t play as much is just as important as the guy who plays the most and to get them to care about one another, work hard, and feed off of each other, I believe you can build a successful program around a team basis.”

Michael Jordan is known for the famous quote “There is no “I” in team but there is in win!!” Well, there’s certainly an “I” in family and according to Sample that’s the only “I” we use. Scotlandville’s team motto is “We Are One” and that is what Sample builds and will continue to build his team around.

Sample is very team oriented and he gets his players to work together as a team and as a family.

When asked how did he manage to coach his players into winning a basketball championship in such a short time period Sample said, “a lot of things had to fall into place, it’s not just about me. First you must have an administration that backs you, you must have assistant coaches, you must have players that are willing to buy into your system and the things that you do and stand for, and I’ve just been fortunate enough to have those around me to achieve the things that we’ve accomplished in the last three years.”

Being humble goes a long way and according to Coach Sample he is thankful for his assistant coaches Jeremy Noah and Marcus Bradford, both of whom attended Glen Oaks High School. “The main reason why I’m here is because of Scotlandville High principal Howard Davis who coached me when I was in high school and he’s the only one that would lure me away from Istrouma and to come here and have the opportunity to a school with so much potential academically that was the main component for me coming here to try and build a program so that I could get that kid that excels academically as well as athletically and that has enabled us to have the success that we’ve had.”

When it comes to the important aspects of life: God, family, and academics are a top priority on Sample’s list. “I feel that God should be first and then family. On and off the court we have a certain standard that we set at Scotlandville and as a team we go to church together, we eat together, we do a lot of enrichment type of things off the court as a team. We kind of help take care of each other and the players do a great job of picking each other up because it’s not always peaches n’ cream,” said Sample. “I’m just proud to see that when one of the players are struggling outside of basketball there’s a genuine interest and love for that teammate.
That makes me feel good about winning because that’s a win in itself. When you talk about basketball that makes it that much easier when you’re on the court because you know they got each other’s back.”

Academics are very important and according to Sample both Damien Jones and Vincent Sanders are well acquainted in the classroom with both players having a 4.2 G.P.A.

Sample said, Jones, who will be a junior next year has everybody in the Southern region recruiting him, he’s also into engineering. “All of my players are putting forth the effort to get things done academically and that right there is worth more than anything. I’ve never had a kid that was ineligible or had to go to summer school because we really stress the importance of academics and we are really happy about our academic performance,” Sample said.

“Everyone loves a winner and winning the state championship helps with recruiting and when you look at our facilities, academics, and athletics as a whole that helps with recruiting here at Scotlandville a whole lot that we can get that magnet kid in here from EBR Parish that can get things accomplished both academically and on the basketball court,” Sample said. “I think Scotlandville has been wanting something that they can call their own and be proud of for a long time and winning the state championship really lifted the student body, the community especially the alumni because they had taken away athletics from here in the early 80’s and just winning this is a start of something new and we’re hoping that it can filter out into the other programs. Football had a great season, as well as track, all of our programs are on the rise and hopefully we may have set the tone but we are going to work together when it’s football season I’ll be the first one on the sidelines to be ready to win a football championship so we’re all in this together and anything that can enhance Scotlandville Magnet High such as winning the Class 5A Basketball Championship is a positive for the school and the community and the alumni as well.”

History means a lot because not only is it very important but it also educates us as we grow and learn.

Scotlandville Magnet is not only making history but also teaching us some things along the way.

With the success that Coach Sample and Scotlandville has had in the last three years Sample is a little disturbed by the fact that after winning the State title this year only one of his player’s Cleveland Thomas, made All-State and All-Parish.

Scotlandville’s 6-foot-4 senior Cleveland Thomas was voted the Most Outstanding Player in 5A, averaging 18 .0 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game, 3.0 steals per game, and 2.0 assists per game for the Hornets. The unanimous All-State choice saved one of his best efforts for last, with 21 points and 11 rebounds in Scotlandville’s 82-48 domination of McKinley in the title game, earning MVP honors in that game.

When asked how does it feel to be a champion Thomas said, “it feels great, it’s a big accomplishment, and I didn’t know it was going to feel this good but it does.”

When asked how does it feel to be MVP Thomas said, “it feels good but it’s not better than winning the state championship but it’s another accomplishment so it goes along with it.”

Winning a championship is not easy and going through this learning process has taught Thomas some new things. To win you must have a great leader and Thomas mimicked the words of his coach when he said, “on and off the court we’re always one, we’re always together, and it gives us a chemistry.”

Thomas feels that Sample and his assistants have helped him improve not only as a basketball player, but also as a person. “They helped me work on my game and in life growing as a person to make me a better man.”

When it comes to Scotlandville being named champions not everything is positive.

“I think there’s a lack of respect for this program and I feel that it’s an injustice to me and my program to only have one guy with the success that we’ve had going 36-2, being nationally ranked #18 in one poll, #15 in another poll, and #10 in USA Today in the South East Region,” Sample said. “To have only one guy to make All-State and All-Parish that’s a slap to our face but at the same time we’re going to take that and use it as motivation for next year. I can’t control that, I can only control what I can do and that is get these guys ready to play their best for next year but I am disturbed by having just one person to make All-State that is disturbing to me.”

Sample feels that his players deserve more media attention and according to Sample one way to achieve that is to continue winning, keep on doing what we do, and it’ll change and thank goodness we don’t play for media coverage, we play for ourselves “We Are One!”

By Lynwood Albert Jr.
The Drum Newspaper

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