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Q&A: Nike Team Louisiana Director Bryan Denison

By Bobby Sibley, Louisiana Basketball Report, 05/09/14, 2:45AM EDT


Bobby Sibley:  What has being in the EYBL done for Red Storm?

Bryan Denison:  When we were awarded the NIKE contract in late 2012, Coach Pixley (Red Storm/NTL Founder & NTL 16’s Coach) and I knew the EYBL was the top of the grassroots mountain, but we had no idea at all how competitive the talent level and recruiting wars were going to be. We have obviously learned a lot about how high level travel basketball works the past 18 months, however, we always have and always will have the same goals we had 10 years ago when Red Storm started: to provide our players opportunities to achieve athletic scholarships to help get a college education and to do what we can to make sure the players in our program have FUN and conduct themselves with class. The budget for our Red Storm program (7 teams now), to get players on flights and in hotels to tournaments all over the country is roughly 20 times what it what was before we became a NIKE EYBL program.

BS: How do you feel NTL did in Sacramento for Session 1?

BD: We were very pleased with our performance in Sacramento. We went 2-2. We won two very close, very competitive games, and lost two very close very competitive games. We are 1 game back of first place in our EYBL Division and we have a weekend of EYBL experience under our belt. Our goal has always been to make Peach Jam, and that hasn’t changed. After one weekend in Sacramento we are right in the hunt for that Peach Jam spot. Dallas is going to be a big transition weekend for a lot of these teams jockeying for position in the standings. 

Chad Lott

BS:  Can you talk about the play of Chad Lott, Blake Paul, Jahshire Hardnett, Mike Layssard and Antonio Green?

BD:  Chad Lott – Chad is supremely athletic. He’s a natural wing but has the ability to excel at the point guard position as well which really makes coaching him fun. The one thing that stands out about Chad the most is his approach to the game of basketball. He approaches practices and games like a pro would. He reminds us of his former teammate Jonathan Stove from last year in that regard. That’s very rare for a junior in high school. His off-the-court credentials are as high as it gets, he’s a very coachable player. He’s going to getmore minutes at the point guard position this weekend to fill that void so I look for his minutes and assists to increase.

Blake Paul – We knew Blake could block shots. We didn’t get to see it quite as much during his high school season because his team plays a great deal of 2-3 Zone and East Jefferson was so deep that his minutes were limited. The fact that he is leading the EYBL in blocks after the first Session in Sacramento despite being in some foul trouble throughout is really impressive. I think Blake took a huge step forward in the eyes of a lot of college coaches last weekend as evidenced by the volume of phone calls he has received from coaches these past 2 weeks. Blake can affect the game without even scoring the basketball, not many players can have the type of impact on a game that he can on the defensive end and on the glass. He’s an anchor for this team. As his timing and conditioning improve week to week, I think his minutes will increase and his impact on the game as well.

Jahshire Hardnett – Nobody had a better weekend for NTL than Jahshire obviously. He had one of the better games in the entire session with an 11/12 FG, 30 point performance. He is the guy you want to have the ball in his hands with the shot clock running down because he can get the rim, draw a foul, create a midrange or stroke it from the 3 point line. He’s a very versatile combo guard. When he and Chad start clicking together, it’s going to be special to watch. I think that’s going to happen in these next 3 sessions. When it does happen, that will make this NTL team pretty tough to guard on the perimeter. Jahshire won a high school state championship in ultra-competitive 6A in Mississippi as a junior and was MVP of the state championshipgame.  The experience he and Chad Lott gained from playing in the EYBL last year is invaluable. We look to Jahshire to be one of the leaders of this team, not just on the offensive end but on the defensive end and in the huddle.

Mike Layssard Jr. – I think Mike may have been the biggest surprise for NTL in Sacramento. We knew he was massive. We knew he had great hands, great touch around the goal and superb footwork. We just didn’t know how he would react playing against the best post players in the country for the first time. He thrived to say the least. He was super-efficient and put up really big numbers in the time he was on the floor. He did everything we asked and earned significantly more minutes moving forward. Remember, Mike is only a sophomore and we look forward to Mike joining a very talented group of 2016 players we have on our Red Storm 16’s team next year. Mike’s game has progressed so much just from the time I saw him at the Combine in the Capital last year in Baton Rouge. You can tell he’s putting the work in. He’s going to make a name for himself by the time July rolls around.

Antonio Green – Antonio took a while to get going in Sacramento, but once he found his groove, he had a monster final game. Antonio scores the ball effortlessly. We knew his size might be a concern on the EYBL level but he makes up for it by being quick to the ball and explosive. He’s one of the better shooters in the state of Mississippi and nobody is looking forward to Dallas more than him after a rough few weeks in Tupelo due to the storms. Like Jahshire and Chad, Antonio also has the ability to play the point or the shooting guard position, that’s going to earn him big minutes down the line with this NTL team. I look for him to pick up where he left off in that last game in Sacramento. 

BS:  What do you expect of NTL in Dallas?

BD:  The schedule in Dallas doesn’t get any easier. There are no games off in the EYBL. If you look at our opponents in Dallas, they are all big time established NIKE programs. We have to win games to build a reputation and gain respect. I think Dallas is a great opportunity to do that. Obviously we want to win all 4 but if we go 3-1, I feel like that puts us ahead of the curve and right in top ½ of our division in the race for Peach Jam qualification. We have always said that 9 wins probably gets us into Peach Jam. I know these kids want to make Peach Jam and get all the extra exposure that comes with it. We are going to see just how much they want it in Dallas. Of course, every player on every EYBL team wants the same thing. Let’s see who’s left standing after the weekend.

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