THE BIG FOUR- Building off of last season’s success, Oak Forest Academy Boys Basketball hopes to take another step forward. Pictured from left: Seniors Carter Blanchard, Janero Porter and Chris Backa; and junior LaVell Scott and head coach Curtis Matherne. Photo by Jesse Brooks
By Jesse Brooks
Last season the Oak Forest Academy boys basketball team experienced one of their most successful season’s in program history, making a deep run in the MAIS AAAA State Championship tournament and qualifying for the MAIS Overall Tournament.
“I would say last year we took a big step for us,” fifth-year OFA Head Coach Curtis Matherne said at the team’s media day. “We won 20 plus games and knocked off the three-time state champions in the playoffs. This is a good group to coach. They’re a deep team, and I think we’re going to take another step forward this season.”
Last season, star senior swingman Reggie Johnson led the Jackets and played well enough to earn an offer to play for Lamar Community College in Colorado. Despite the departure of Johnson, the rise of OFA’s starting backcourt with senior point guard Janero Porter and junior shooting guard LaVell Scott are expected to fill the void.
Scott, who has an official offer on the table from Southern, played point guard last season but is looking forward to shifting into his most natural position now that Porter is healthy.
“I can do both, and I don’t think there are any weaknesses in my game,” Scott said. “But I do want to focus more on defense this year. My main mindset is to score, but I can do whatever is asked of me.”
Porter mostly saw time as a sixth man last season, but his minutes were limited due to a knee injury that occurred in the offseason. Now that he is “100 percent healthy”, he will look to be a compliment to the scoring nature of Scott.
“I like to move the ball up the floor and look for the open man. I’m a pure pass first point guard.” Porter said. “I also hope to get better defensively and get points off of steals.”
With a pair of guards that push the pace, Matherne said that he has changed the philosophy of the Jackets’ approach on both sides of the ball.
“I think we’re going to play a more uptempo type game this year than what you’ve seen in the past because of our depth and skill,” Matherne said.
Matherne also said defensively you can expect to see more pressing and an emphasis to get points in transition.
As heavy as the Jackets look to be in the guard rotation, they feel they have found balance with the addition of forward Chris Backa, a 6-foot-7 transfer student from Finland. Backa missed all of last season while sitting out under MAIS transfer rules, but is ready to take the court as a starter for OFA.
“I can say that American basketball is more physical and faster, where as it is more technical in Europe,” Backa said. “I have always watched American basketball and I think I already had an American play style.”
In a parish dominated by attention to football, OFA feels like their style of play can bring more attention to the hardwood. Matherne says the program will host theme nights including alumni, first responder and military nights.
“I would just say come out and see thing young athletes and there never will be a dull moment,” Matherne said.
OFA will open their season this Monday on the road facing MAIS AAAA defending champion Hillcrest Christian in Jackson, Mississippi. The Jackets will open their home schedule on December 2 against East Rankin Academy with a tip-off time set around 7 p.m.