Ellender boys pushing forward despite inexperience

Fletcher among nation’s fastest growing tech colleges
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Mandry J. Bourgeois Sr.
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Fletcher among nation’s fastest growing tech colleges
December 20, 2011
Mandry J. Bourgeois Sr.
December 22, 2011

The basketball is passed into the post at the Ellender Memorial High School gymnasium.

Patriots’ massive center Gibby Talbot squeezes the orange with his giant hands, readying to make a move.

As he takes a dribble, a swarm of defenders collapse into the paint.

He kicks the ball into the corner where a teammate is wide open for a 3-pointer, nothing but net.

The crowd goes wild inside the House of Pain. The rout is on and Ellender steamrolls local powerhouse Terrebonne by a resounding 101-69 score.

Flash forward two nights and the situation is the same, Talbot’s passing out of the post due to a triple team.

This time, the atmosphere in the gym isn’t the same. The House of Pain is just half full.

The 3-pointer clanks off the iron over and over and over again.

The Patriots stumble and lose to defending Class 1A state champion White Castle in the opening round of their home tournament.

The inconsistencies of a youthful team, that’s the story of the Patriots’ 2011-12 non-district slate, as Ellender pushes to stay afloat, despite one of the younger rosters in the Tri-parishes.

“I had a goal this year to watch this team grow,” Patriots coach Scott Gauthreaux said. “With the hope of hitting a peak come district play. I guess I’m taking my time and showing a little more patience than I normally would because we don’t have those [elite] expectations right now.

“But come district, we will. Come playoff time, we will. And we’ll be ready.”

The strength of Ellender’s team is unquestionably its ability to score in the paint.

Talbot has become a monster in his senior season and already has multiple high-scoring games for the Patriots this season, including Thursday night’s 34-point showing in a win against South Terrebonne.

Ellender’s offense in recent years has always been guard-oriented. This year, with a thumper like Talbot in the middle controlling the block, it has shifted and the Patriots try and feed the paint as often as they can to get their senior center the basketball.

“We’re definitely looking to get 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] from him in every game,” Gauthreaux said. “We’re expecting nothing less. And Gibby expects nothing less of that and his teammates expect nothing less, as well.”

But the massive, 6-feet, 10-inch Talbot’s brunt force is also met by the lanky athleticism of senior and co-captain Houston Chatman, who is both an inside and outside threat for Ellender.

Together, the duo make up the most experienced players Ellender has on its roster.

They need to have big seasons for the Patriots to push forward into the postseason.

“Good basketball players, great athletes and better people, that’s Houston and Gibby,” Gauthreaux said. “I think the younger guys don’t understand why I kind of talk them up a little bit in the locker room, but it’s because they are the leaders. And everyone needs to role themselves to be followers to those guys.”

With Talbot and Chatman drawing the lion’s share of opponent’s attention, a large burden is placed on the team’s younger players to score.

Ellender’s role players have countless looks at the basket in games because of the attention garnered by the senior duo.

Sometimes, they shine, like against Terrebonne.

Other times, they struggle to be consistent and are plagued with missed shots, mistakes and turnovers.

How to fix that problem is the $25,000 question for the Patriots going forward.

“Who knows why that happens? If I knew that, I’d be a millionaire,” Gauthreaux said. “Inexperience, I guess. It just comes with reps.”

Talbot believes the first step toward fixing the mishaps is confidence. He said it is he and Chatman’s job to continue to trust the team’s younger players in critical situations, stressing that the only way for progress to be obtained is through repetition.

He added that no matter how many mistakes are made, he knows as a team leader he needs to have a positive tone with players on and off the floor.

“You’ve got to encourage the team,” Talbot said. “As a senior, you inherit the leadership role. … For every 10 things you say, eight have to be positive and then you just have to slide those two negative ones in there. It’s our job to make sure everyone stays positive.”

For Gauthreaux, the recipe is similar, but focuses on a different side of the basketball, he wants to see more consistent effort on defense.

The coach points to the White Castle loss and said he doesn’t think his team was emotionally ready to play following their blowout win against Terrebonne.

“The shots aren’t going to always fall, but there’s no excuse for not having an effort on the defensive end,” Gauthreaux said. “That’s what disappointed me, our defensive intensity and our lack of rebounding. Those are two things that should be a given. And for us on that night, they weren’t.”

Talbot agrees and said the Patriots have to treat every game the same, 32 Minutes of Pain, the school’s longtime motto.

“We have to be motivated for every game,” Talbot said. “That Terrebonne game, we were just more motivated. It was like, ‘Not in our house,’ especially for me as a senior with it being the last time I ever played them. … We need to find that intensity in every game we play.”

Even with the inconsistency, Ellender’s not doing poorly in the standings, posting eight wins in their first 12 games.

And with district looming and the team reaching its probable peak, Gauthreaux and Talbot both believe the sky’s the limit for the Patriots.

An unusually patient Gauthreaux said this team can be as productive as anyone in the area if they can find that constant effort and play with controlled chaos.

The coach added that five years ago he wouldn’t have been able to stay so calm.

“You have 16, 17 and 18-year-old kids,” Gauthreaux said. “All you can ask them to do is be the best team that you can be each and every night. Just come into the locker room every night with no regrets. No could’ve, should’ve, would’ve’s. … We do that, we know we’ll be fine.”

Ellender High School forward Houston Chatman glides through the air for a one-handed layup during last Wednesday’s game against White Castle. CASEY GISCLAIR