Reynard Douglas was a few months removed from graduating high school when he started the only travel basketball team in Port Allen.
The idea was born out of the passion Douglas saw at a youth sports camp he helped put on.
“The kids wanted it,” Douglas said. “But they had no structure. And me being straight out of high school, I was like, ‘Am I in over my head?’ They didn’t want to listen. The discipline wasn’t there first. As I grew along with it, it changed.”
Louisiana Ballers began with one team of eighth grade boys. It now has four teams made up of 50 boys.
This week, Louisiana Ballers was named the 2023 Jr. NBA Program of the Year. Under Armour awarded the now Plaquemine-based program a $5,000 grant to continue promoting leadership, education, and health and wellness.
The Ballers were selected from a pool of six finalists nationwide.
“You don’t know how much this means to us,” Douglas said. “In 13 years, there were times we wanted to give up.”
“You don’t know how much this means to us… in 13 years there were times we wanted to give up, there were times when coaches left and started other programs.”
— Jr. NBA (@jrnba) May 26, 2023
Early on, Douglas said he approached the Port Allen City Council and asked for financial assistance for his team. He said he was awarded $40.
“It’s grown,” Douglas said. “I remember going to Florida and playing. Someone asked me, ‘Hey, coach, can you ask your fans to move? Because we need the other fans to sit down.’ That’s how many fans we brought to Florida with us. They had no rooms in the stands. It’s an electric environment.”
In addition to his work with Louisiana Ballers, Douglas said he is joining Scotlandville High School to be an assistant with the girls varsity team. He wants to add a Louisiana Ballers girls team soon.
“I watch the NBA,” Douglas said. “But my biggest thing is watching college basketball. College basketball more relates to the kids I have now. I want to get them to the college level instead of getting them to the NBA.”
The NBA and WNBA launched the Jr. NBA Leagues last year to create a national network of youth basketball leagues for boys and girls ages 6-14. New Orleans was one of the Jr. NBA Leagues’ 10 inaugural markets. The Jr. NBA Leagues provides free curriculum that includes 48 practice plans and more than 250 instructional videos featuring NBA and WNBA players.
Douglas said he stopped playing organized basketball in middle school, but he always had the urge to coach.
“I only played in middle school,” Douglas said. “I did not play in my travel league. I did not play in high school. As my cousins always tell me, ‘I remember going to the park when we were little. You said you wanted to coach us.’ I’m a leader. I feel like if there’s a need somewhere, I’ll learn. I’m a lifelong learner of the game.”