Men's Basketball: UL's Broussard finds sacrifice well worth the reward
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Jan. 20, 2018
The setup was well-played.
UL athletic director Bryan Maggard and Patricia Cottonham, the school’s vice president for student affairs, interrupted a Ragin’ Cajuns basketball team film session late last week bearing the news.
“When Dean Cottonham came, she was like, ‘We have to stop the film. This is very important,’” senior guard Frank Bartley IV said. “The AD came, (said), ‘This is urgent; Coach, can we talk about this now?’”
Maggard, as Cajuns coach Bob Marlin recalls, told the team “we’ve got a student conduct issue” and Cottonham was there to talk about it.
Cottonham held an envelope, and guard Jacob Broussard — one of UL’s five seniors along with Bartley, Bryce Washington, Johnathan Stove and Larenz Stalcup — was asked to read the letter contained within it.
“We thought me, Bryce and Stove were in trouble or something; somebody did something crazy,” Bartley said. “Then Jacob read the first sentence — that he got financial aid — and everybody just had a big ol’ smile on their face.”
Marlin said the decision to put Broussard, a Lafayette Christian Academy product, on scholarship for the rest of his final season as a Cajun was made because he’s been “the model walk-on.”
Broussard’s college career, however, didn’t start according to script.
His first preference was walking on at UL, but, he said, “There wasn’t a spot on the team.”
So he instead went to Centenary College, an NCAA Division III program in Shreveport.
Broussard played in 10 games for the Gentlemen in the fall of 2014, but “things didn’t work out.”
His last game for the Gents was a 115-59 loss to UL at the Cajundome that Broussard said was “not pretty.”
With friends and family on hand, he played 22 minutes against the Cajuns, scored just three points and nervously shot 1-for-7 from the field — all from 3-point range.
“It was a weird situation,” Broussard said. “I was ready to get out of there and be back home.”
His preference was to be in Lafayette, not Shreveport.
So with a chance to join the Cajuns now open, he jumped.
It meant sacrifices, though.
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Broussard had to sit one year in accord with NCAA transfer rules. He wouldn’t have the academic aid he had previously. And he knew his role on the floor would change dramatically.
At Centenary, Broussard averaged 5.9 points per game as a freshman, had a season-high 12 against McMurry and Rhodes, and shot 36.2 percent on 47 trey tries.
“I had a big role on the team,” he said. “I was playing maybe 20 minutes a game.”
At UL, Broussard knew, playing time likely would be infrequent.
But that wasn’t what mattered most. All he wanted was to be a Cajun.
“Ever since I was a kid, and for as long I can remember, I was coming to games here (at the Cajundome),” said Broussard, a district MVP who averaged 19.3 points per game as a senior while helping Lafayette Christian to its first Top 28 state-tournament berth in school history.
“I was the guy high-fiving the players when they went to the locker room, and getting autographs and stuff.
“When we’d come to the games as kids, me and my brother (twin Jordan, who also played at LCA) — we’d play basketball games in the driveway, late nights after (Cajun) games, just dreaming of playing in (the Cajundome),” he added. “So that made it all worth it to have the role I have now. I enjoy every second.”
He came off the bench in 11 games as a junior last season, hitting 3-pointers against Pepperdine and South Alabama and averaging 1.0 point including a UL career-high five points with a steal in nine minutes against Panhandle State.
Heading into 16-3 UL’s game Saturday at Texas State, Broussard has appeared in nine games this season and is averaging 1.9 points including 5-for-10 shooting on trey tries and 4.6 minutes per game.
The numbers, though, aren’t what matters most. The total experience is.
“The opportunity to come back here and play in my hometown was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Broussard, who had a steal and a rebound while playing three minutes in an 82-48 win over UL Monroe last Saturday night at the Cajundome.
“It can be very frustrating (not playing), especially when we lose and you feel like you can help the team maybe.
“But when you win … it’s satisfying. And playing is a feeling like no other,” he added. “I get to play in front of my family and my friends. Every single night, they’re here. Whether I get to play or not, my friends are watching me, so it’s great.”
Transferring from the Division III program for which Broussard played a lot to an NCAA Division I program for which he would not, Marlin said, was made easier “because he was ready to come home.”
“He was ready to get out of Shreveport, I think,” the Cajuns coach said.
“(After) playing and getting a ton of shots off in high school and in his first semester at Centenary, it certainly put him in a different role,” added Marlin, whose Cajuns won their sixth straight by beating Texas-Arlington 77-65 behind Bartley’s season-high 26 points. “But he’s adapted and done everything we’ve asked of him.”
Walk-ons like Broussard, Marlin agreed, are underappreciated by those not around them every day of the season.
“They work hard in practice,” he said. “They’re not ‘just practice players.’”
No one knows that better than teammates who were among those thrilled to hear Broussard was going on scholarship.
“They were really excited for me,” he said.
So too where those loyal buddies who come to watch, even if it’s just seeing him sit.
“They were excited for me too. Happy for me,” Broussard said. “They know … I put a lot of hours in the gym, shooting and stuff.”
Perhaps no one was as pleased, though, as Broussard himself and his family members.
“It’s something I had as a personal goal of mine,” he said. “Coming here as a walk-on, I told myself that eventually I wanted to be on scholarship.
“So it meant a lot, more to me than anything. I think Coach (Marlin) probably doesn’t even know how much it meant to me and my family.”
Broussard’s father has been away in Puerto Rico working for an oil company that’s still cleaning up there after Hurricane Maria hit in September, leaving him at home with his brother, sister Myca and mother Michelle.
“My parents, actually, I don’t know how much they believed me at first,” Broussard said.
“He (Dad Shannon) was the first person I called right when I got out of practice. He was like, ‘No way. There’s no way.’ I said, ‘Yep.’ He was excited.”
No wonder Marlin was so excited about doing what he did.
“It was a way to give (Broussard) a moment … for all the hard work he’s given us,” he said.
First, though, Marlin couldn’t help but have some fun.
“When Bryan (athletic director Maggard) said we have ‘a student conduct issue,’” he said, “a bunch of the guys slumped down in their seats and looked around.”
When they learned the conduct was nothing but all good, however, celebration ensued.
“Stove and Frank (Bartley) grabbed him,” Marlin said, “and everybody was clapping.”
“Jacob was turning red,” Bartley added, “and some of us ran up to Jacob and gave him a big ol’ hug. … We’re proud of him. He’s been here for a long time in the system, and it’s a testament to how hard he works. He deserves it.”
UL (16-3, 6-0 in the Sun Belt) at TEXAS STATE (13-7, 6-1)
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Strahan Coliseum; San Marcos, Texas
RADIO: KHXT 107.9 FM, KPEL 1420 AM with Jay Walker
UL LEADERS: Frank Bartley IV, 16.6 points per game; JaKeenan Gant, 15.2 points, 6.6 rebounds per game and 2.1 blocks per game; Bryce Washington, 10.4 ppg, 10.8 rpg; Marcus Stroman, 6.1 assists per game