CHASING DREAMS- Oak Forest Academy senior forward Chris Backa, a native of Finland, has signed with LSU-Alexandria. He is pictured next to his host family Tanya and Kyle Warren. Back row (from left) Jacket assistant coach Joe Fekete and head coach Curtis Matherne. Photo By Jesse Brooks.
By Jesse Brooks
On Thursday, May 10, Oak Forest Academy (Amite, LA) boys basketball senior forward Chris Backa officially signed a letter of intent to play for LSU-Alexandria. Backa, who is a native of Finland, averaged 14.5 ppg. and 6.5 rpg in the 2017-18 season, and shot 44 percent from 3-pt. range for the Yellow Jackets.
“This season, I saw a kid who is determined to get better,” OFA head coach Curtis Matherne said of the 6-foot-9 wing. “Until Christmas, we tried to make him play with his back to the basket, which was a little out of character for him. I met with my assistant, Coach Joe Fekete, and we figured out that we needed him on the perimeter to make plays, and from that point on he improved dramatically.”
Backa was featured on an OFA team that made it to the semifinal round of the MAIS AAAA Div. 2 State Championship Tournament were they fell short to Madison-Ridgeland Academy 65-63. The Jackets finished their season with a 20-10 overall record.
“First of all, I have to say that I loved playing here,” Backa said of Oak Forest Academy. “We had a wonderful start to the season, then things got a little bit rough, but we didn’t give up. To only lose by two to MRA in the overtime of the semifinals I’d say we had a really good season.”
Backa says he is aware of the national attention brought to the LSU-A program, under head coach Larry Cordaro, since their run to make it to the NAIA Finals. The opportunity to play for a high caliber program, he says, was a major factor in his decision to sign with the Generals.
Backa also said he had special insight into Generals’ program thanks to his coach’s relationship with Cordaro.
“Corardo and I worked at Southeastern Louisiana University as grad assistants,” Matherne said. “He’s an awesome guy who’s built a national powerhouse in Alexandria. What I was stressing to Chris is that LSU-A is a family type program similar to what we have here. I know that was an important factor to Chris.”
Matherne went on to call Backa a “perfect fit” for LSU-A, noting that they were looking for a bigger player that could hit 3-pointers and make plays off the bounce. Backa said he sees himself primarily as a shooting wing, but he feels he can also be a player that does multiple things with the ball in his hands.
“Playing in America has been an eye opener for me,” Backa said. “I’ve gotten to experience many different cultures and see how different people live. I’ve also met many people who are now like family to me.”
With Backa signing at LSU-A, he makes the fourth OFA prospect to sign on a college level under Matherne in the last three years. Currently, the Jackets have two former players in NCAA Div. I (Mushabar Ali at Southern and Ashton Spears at Jacksonville State), and one former player (Reggie Johnson at Lamar CC) in JUCO.