Hamilton steps up MLK event, State’s top talent on display

Published 10:23 am Thursday, January 13, 2022

Top boys and girls teams from throughout the state will tip off against Southwest Louisiana’s best teams this weekend at the Hamilton Christian Martin Luther King Classic.

The event will be played Saturday through Monday at Burton Coliseum.

Hamilton Athletic Director Dexter Washington said the event is an opportunity to showcase the area’s top players and teams and give area fans a chance to see the state’s best players and teams.

The event grew from a single-day event, initially at Hamilton Christian then Burton Coliseum last year.

“Last year, after the last game, I was just visualizing how we could make it better,” Washington said. “MLK weekend is a great time to do something big, and after talking to Burton Coliseum and working with Eric Zartler (of the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau), I started calling people to throw the idea out there.

“A big selling point was teams getting a chance to play a game in an arena setting, since you can’t practice on-site at the state tournament any more. If you have already played in a big facility, you can have an edge against a team that hasn’t. It takes a while to get used to shooting in that setting.”

Among the headliners are Parkway’s Mikayla Williams, a 6-foot junior guard who won a gold medal with Team USA this summer at the U18 3×3 World Cup.

She is ranked by ESPN as the country’s top recruit in the class of 2023. Parkway is slated to play Lafayette Christian, which features the state’s top sophomore in Jada Richard, at 4:45 p.m. Saturday. Richard scored 38 points in a win against Welsh on Tuesday night.

The event will feature reigning state champions LaGrange (Class 4A), Madison Prep (Class 3A), Fairview (Class B), St. Louis Catholic (Division II) and Lafayette Christian (Division III) in the girls field. The boys field will include perennial powers such as Newman, Southern Lab, North Central, East St. John and Woodlawn-Shreveport.

Top area players in the girls field include the St. Louis tandem of Paris Guillory and Myca Trail, Mikaylah Manley of Barbe and Fairview’s Rylee Cloud.

Area stars in the boys field include Hamilton Christian’s Deion Ware and Mason Russell, Washington-Marion’s Tyree Brown and Justin Thomas, Elton’s Demarcus Jack, Sherman Bellow and Jadon Ross, Grand Lake’s Blayne Copper and Sam Houston’s Blaine Davey and Seth Ned.

“The opportunity to bring boys and girls together for the community is great,” Washington said. “On the girls side, we have a lot of good teams and talented players who can showcase themselves against the best in the state. You can come out and see what a college player looks like with all the talent we will have here.

“On the boys side, we have been down, but this is another chance for the community to be able to come out and see some great ball. Newman has several players ranked among the best in their class. They are matched up with Southern Lab, coached by former LSU player Harold Boudreaux, whose son is one of the best players in the state.”