A new era of Woodlawn High boys basketball will officially tip off Tuesday under new coach Stefson Arnold.
The Panthers open the season at Port Allen, the three-time defending Class 2A state champion, with plenty of lessons, gelling and adjustments still ahead after an abridged offseason.
But Arnold, who led Family Christian to a Class C title game in his lone season as head coach in 2020-21, wants his players focused on lofty goals despite having only been together two months thus far.
“As you know, I’m a firm believer in ‘championship or bust,'” he said. “Just coming in, it’s going to be hard to keep those goals right away, but at the same time I still expect that. What I want to do is get better every single week and every single game, continue to be better than what we were last time out and every time we leave a game the other team to be saying, ‘Man, we played really, really hard.’ If we go out there and play hard every single game, we’ll let that take us wherever it can.”
The coach said the timing of his September has led to a shifted schedule in which the Panthers have looked at their preseason scrimmages similar to typical summer league play and the opening weeks of the season similar to those typical preseason matches.
Arnold hopes to get a better sense of the expectations and potential of his players from seeing full game film of their performances against meaningful competition.
But he has been pleased with the early indicators.
“I’ve learned they’re definitely committed to what I’m asking them to do, the 5 a.m. practices, the showing up on time,” he said. “The first step is always the players buying in. It’s just going to take a little while for those guys to get really clicking and get the process going. But I’ve learned that they’re committed, and if you have a team that’s committed, eventually we’ll be able to figure things out throughout the season.”
Woodlawn returns senior guard Clayton Adams, junior guard Tyler Knox, junior wings Roy Recasner and Myron Nelson and sophomore post player Kelinee Stone among key players likely to lead the rotation to start the season.
And sophomore wings Elijah Scott and Jordan Woods are among newer faces Arnold hopes to see making significant contributions.
“This team is looking to create its identity,” the coach said. “We have some good pieces to build around and the future is bright. We will get better each game and as the season progresses. This young group of kids are determined to compete at the highest level. Under a first-year coach and a new system, this team is going to have to learn quickly and execute as planned. But the attitude is positive, the energy is there, and so is the toughness. When we bring all that together and execute, we’ll be tough for any team to handle.”
Woodlawn High has named Stefson Arnold as its new boys basketball coach.
The Louisiana native, whose previous head coaching experience included a state championship appearance, officially started Friday and said he is excited to hit the ground running in preparation for the upcoming season this fall.
“First and foremost, I’m thankful to God and for my wife and my kids,” Arnold said. “Through this transition of coaching, I’ve had to lean on them a lot. They’ve been my rock. And at the same time, (principal Scott) Stevens has been great. It was a great interview. I feel like we clicked as soon as I spoke to him. I love what he’s done with the school as a whole. He’s done a marvelous job with the school. And (athletic director Brent) Broussard, we talked, and he’s wonderful. I’m so thankful for him to give me that chance to come and lead the Woodlawn Panthers and be a part of such an elite program.
“We already have a great football team. The buzz is going, and all I can see is Woodlawn just striving for excellence.”
Arnold prepped at John Curtis before playing collegiately at then-USL — now Louisiana (Lafayette) — under coach Marty Fletcher and Delgado under coach Tommy Smith.
Four years at Family Christian as an assistant from 2017 to 2020 and head coach for the 2020-21 season highlight his coaching resume.
Arnold led the Flames to a 27-14 record and Class C state runner-up finish in 2021, including the program’s first victory against perennial power Jehovah-Jireh since 2014.
But Stevens said finding the right fit toward a bright future was prioritized more heavily than past records when sifting through a pool of more than two dozen applicants.
“We narrowed it down based on a multitude of things,” Stevens said. “It wasn’t necessarily historical or what their coaching record looked like. It really was more of who do we feel based on what they submitted to us as far as a resume or (curriculum vitae), how did they represent themselves and how did they stand out as far as fitting in with Woodlawn of 2022.
“We had about four or five that really stood out that we felt would be good for the kids and would respond well to the kids and who the kids would respond well to. And it was tough in the interviews of really narrowing it down, but we’re confident we got the right candidate that’s going to come in and do a good job with the kids and relate to them and get them to really push through with what we’re trying to do here at Woodlawn with the basketball program.”
The Panthers’ proud history — including state championships in 1965, 1999, 2002 and 2003 — was a major draw to the position for Arnold and others.
The new coach said he is eager to push his players toward that ceiling in Louisiana’s highest classification and one of the state’s most challenging districts.
“Just being on the 5A level, competing at a high level,” he said. “Woodlawn has a great basketball tradition, and what it can be is an elite program in the city. And that’s exactly where I’m trying to bring it. And that’s exactly what my goal is is to make it one of the elite programs, like it used to be back in the day.”
Arnold will meet with his his players next week and begin building relationships and getting to know his roster.
A few of the Panthers are already familiar with him, including his success at Family Christian, and are excited to get to work.
“We’re very thankful to have a coach that wants to come in and work with us, and we believe in him and believe that he can take us to the next level of becoming a successful program,” senior guard John White said. “Last year was a down season, but this season we plan on bouncing back. And we’re going to entrust in coach on leading us on that path, so we can prove everybody wrong and show that we’re not backing down from anybody.”
The LHSAA allows basketball teams to begin practice Oct. 11 and games Nov. 15.
Arnold said his evaluation of the team’s personnel in the coming weeks and months will go a long way into determining more specifics of its identity and style of play.
But many attributes of character and effort will be non-negotiable, he said, as they attempt to lay a strong foundation for the years to come.
“I’m tough,” the coach said. “And the thing about it is they’re gonna see that I pay attention to detail. It’s gonna be a fun experience for them. I cater to my team. They don’t cater to me. I cater to what I have, and I coach that way. We are going to be exciting one way or the other. We’re going to play hard. We’re gonna compete. As you know, I have a history of really getting a team to gel quickly. And that’s what my goal is here at Woodlawn.”
You Can’t Go Home Again. Not only is this the title of one of Thomas Wolfe’s most memorable works, it has also become a well-known and common phrase. However, Alicia Dedeaux is ignoring this advice and doing the exact opposite: Coming Home.
Woodlawn High School is excited to announce that Dedeaux has been named the head coach of the girls’ basketball team. In addition to her duties as head basketball coach, she will take on the role of PE teacher.
Dedeaux, a native of Baton Rouge, graduated from Woodlawn High School. She was a star-athlete during her time as a Panther, participating in basketball, softball, cross country, and tennis. She was recognized as an All-District and All-Metro basketball player.
“Timing is everything. To be able to return home to your Alma Mater as a head coach and former student-athlete is very special,” explained Dedeaux. “I desire to bring back Panther Pride through fostering healthy relationships with colleagues, parents, students, and the community. Together we can meet students where they are and ensure that they are able to continue to excel both academically and athletically.”
“I’m ecstatic to be back and looking forward to helping young ladies to reach their full potential on and off the court.”
Dedeaux has spent the last 16 years in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. After beginning her career as a head coach in Jackson, Mississippi, Dedeaux was named the head coach of the girls’ basketball program at Lee High School (now Liberty Magnet High School).
In the fall of 2009, Dedeaux was named the head coach of the girls’ basketball program at Glen Oaks High School. After spending one year at Glen Oaks, she was named the Athletic Director. Dedeaux has remained in both roles at Glen Oaks since that time.
“I think we have hired a high-quality, high-character coach to run our girls’ basketball program,” said Elmo Fernandez, Woodlawn High’s Athletic Director. “Coach Dedeaux comes to us with a great deal of experience and she has a proven record.”
Dedeaux resides in Baton Rouge with her husband and two children. She can be reached via email at [email protected]
In his two seasons as the Head Coach at Woodlawn High, Brad Voight has focused on building the foundation of the program. Coach Voight has stressed to his players that this includes excelling both on and off the court.
“We believe we are starting to set a very solid and sustainable foundation both on the court and in the classroom,” said Voight. “We will return three players who were recognized with All-District Honors. Our returning student-athletes have also done a great job in the classroom and are right at the 3.0 team GPA that was set as a goal before the season!”
Rickie Collins and Kyle Jones were each named to the District 5-5A All-District First Team for the 2020-2021 season. Collins, who was also named to the 2019-2020 team, looks to be in the mix for the District MVP next season. Collins averaged 17 points and 9 rebounds per game, and his shot blocking ability around the basket paid huge dividends for the Panthers this season.
Clayton Adams and Bryan Sledge were named to the District 5-5A Honorable Mention team. Sledge, who is a senior, average 11 points and 7 rebounds per game. His play on both ends of the court will be missed.
“Kyle Jones and Clayton Adams both return with Rickie, and both should have much improved seasons next year,” added Voight. “We will look to Clayton and Kyle to score more next year to make up for the loss of our seniors.”
The 2020-2021 season was marked by quarantines and streaks for the Panthers. After they opened their season with a win over St. Thomas Aquinas, Woodlawn was quickly placed on quarantine due to contact tracing and missed their next four games.
The Panthers returned to action to win their next five games, before suffering their first defeat of the season. Another five game win streak in early January, marked by a big win over Jehovah-Jireh, had Woodlawn poised to make a run at the district championship.
However, Covid-19 forced the Panthers to sit through another quarantine. When they were finally able to return to the court in early February, the team went 1-2 before being shut down again for two weeks leading into the playoffs.
Despite the roller coaster season, Woodlawn finished the season with a 17-7 record and were named the #20 seed in the LHSAA Class 5A State Tournament. The Panthers traveled to Gonzales to face the #13 seeded East Ascension Spartans, and fell in a close contest. Despite the season ending before the team wished, there were many bright spots to the season.
“We fill that we have that foundation built now,” concluded Voight. “We have kids working hard in the classroom and on the court. We have kids who expect to make the playoffs each year. We have kids that are looking forward to summer league. It’s an exciting time to be a Panther.”
Teams interested in joining the Woodlawn High Summer League should email Coach Voight at [email protected]
The Woodlawn Panther Basketball program was notified of its playoff seeding Monday, February 23rd, and the opponent is extremely familiar.
The Panthers will travel to face fellow District 5-5A member East Ascension. The Spartans received the #13 seed in the LHSAA Class 5A Playoff Bracket, meaning Woodlawn is the #20 seed. This is the third year that the Panthers have travelled in the first round of the playoffs. The 2018-2019 team was the 25th seed, and the 2019-2020 team was the 21st seed.
Given the obstacles that the season presented, Coach Voight and the Panthers are excited about the opportunity.
“Considering that seven or eight months ago, we were not sure if we would even have a season, we are extremely excited about the playoffs,” said Coach Voight. “We were unable to have summer league, our preseason workouts were pushed back, and we had to deal with quarantines. We are just grateful that we are in the position we are in.”
Despite being the higher ranked team, East Ascension comes into the contest with an 11-12 record. Coach Voight has already warned his team not to underestimate the Spartans based on this.
“Our players have already been cautioned about EA. They have some quality losses. Their losses have come to teams in the top-five, and top-ten, of their classifications. They have also beaten some quality teams, notably White Castle and Alexandria, who are both top ten teams.”
The Panthers and Spartans will be facing each other for the first time this season. The teams were scheduled to play on January 28th, but a Covid-19 quarantine postponed that game. The two coaching staffs discussed a makeup date, but weather and ice cancelled the last week of the season for both teams. This adds adversity for both programs, as each team will have been off for at least 13 days.
Coach Voight points to making shots and valuing possessions as keys to the game.
“I look for this game to be a grind, and we will need to hit some shots,” said Coach Voight. “We haven’t been able to do that during district. We have to keep them out of transition as much as possible, so we must limit turnovers.”
The Panthers and Spartans will tip-off on Friday, February 26th, 7 pm on the East Ascension campus. Tickets must be purchased on-line using a link that will be provided by East Ascension on Friday morning.