SJ hoop event showcases past, present, and future

John Dupont
Plaquemine Post South

A basketball tournament held recently at St. John meant more than a showcase of the talent on this season's Lady Eagle squad.

It also highlighted the male and female athletes who laid the foundation for the program.

The St. John Legends Classic – the first tournament for the hoop program – paid homage to male and female players from previous generations.

"We wanted to get them back on campus and let them know we haven't forgotten about them," SJHS athletic director Cynthia Wille Prouty said.

Some of the legends who were highlighted in the program dominated the courts in the 1950s, several years before construction of the gymnasium on Regina Street.

Among those honored from the 1950s were Virginia Mancuso, Billy Wiliamson, Denise Bourque, Miranda and Alan Free – all who played in the 1950s and were inducted in 1977, the inaugural year of the Hall of Fame. Russell Gerace, Terry Gerace, and Jane Gerace Boudreaux were also at the event to represent the Gerace family, a prominent name in the Hall of Fame.

Donna Bujol – herself a Hall of Famer – helped coordinate the tournament and ceremony.

The event also honored the following inductees posthumously: Jimmy Gerace, Father Jerome Dugas, Sam Gerace, Sammy Gerace, Val Waguespack, Tony Fama, J.P. Gaudet, and William L. Grace Jr.

Others in the spotlight included Jimmy Gerace.

Also on hand for the festivities was Mickey Rivet, a longtime supporter of St. John athletics who played an intricate role in the organization of the HOF.

Prouty hopes to showcase a class from the 1960s at next year's tournament.

She initially wanted to focus on basketball but has since opted to focus on all sports at St. John.

The focus extends beyond a moment in the spotlight, however. It's more about a revival of the Hall of Fame, which has been dormant since 2011.

"Nobody picked up the ball, so there are plenty of people who deserve recognition, and we thought we could use the tournament to get people back involved," Prouty said.

Several dozen photos of various Hall of Famers lined the gym entrance for many years.

Those pictures came after renovation of the gym, which included everything from an HVAC system, new floor, fresh coats of paint, and a new scoreboard and score table.

The school is considering a different way to salute the star athletes of years gone by, Prouty said.

Plans include a plaque and pictures of each Hall of Famer in a photo book, along with disclaimers on their contributions to the athletic program.

The book would be included in the trophy case.

"I don't want people to think we simply took the pictures down," said Prouty, herself a multisport letter who dominated basketball, softball and track from her junior high years until her graduation in 1986.

At the same time, the school gave the gymnasium a facelift.

"We're very proud of what we've done, and we're trying to get people back in the gym to see the changes we're making and to show that life goes on at St. John," Prouty said. "The numbers may not be what they used to be, but we're still strong and we're not stopping there – our goal is to make sure all facilities are topnotch."

The recognition of Hall of Famers and the renovations work hand in hand. Prouty wants the makeover to honor those who made the program shine in the past, while also sprucing up the stage for those who will carry it into the future.

The renovations plans are not exclusive to the hoop program. Prouty also wants to renovate the football fieldhouse and continue improvements to the baseball and softball stadium.

"We're investing in the future of the athletic program," she said. "We even have a middle school basketball program that finished really strong and had a lot of kids involved.

"We want to main that interest, help maintain it and let it continue to grow," Prouty said. "We have a lot of good stuff going on here these days."

The Eagles kick off 2020 hoop action Friday, Jan. 3 when they host Highland Baptist of New Iberia.