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Statements Made: A Louisiana Hoopin' Sunday With Mal Mundy

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Mal Mundy's Hoop Fest Tour hosts some of the premiershowcase and identification events throughout the year. Most areopen to all, but 42 of Louisiana's best hoopers met up on the lastSunday before school starts for a Statement Session. Chris Dodsoncaught up with the man on a mission in between games.

Mal Mundy's Hoop Fest Tour attracts scouting services, mediaoutlets, coaches and the best talent in the Gulf South region. Theyoung prospects get to compete against the best competition and getdirect feedback from college coaches. The growth of Hoop Fest hasbeen so impressive, I had to try and get a few moments with the manwho has made it all run smoothly from the start.

The impressive growth of these events is largely because Mundystands on the brand printed on the front of the jerseys, but alsobecause he's devoted to helping these athletes get their name onthe back of a college uniform. The reasoning for committing time atthe end of the summer was straightforward: “To bring exposure toLouisiana and help players get recruited,” Mundy explained.

Mission accomplished.

The Statement Session was barely wrapping up and the offers werestarting to roll in. Over 30 college coaches made the trip down toSouth Side High's Youngsville, LA, gym to check out over 40 of thestate's best prospects. It was a tough grind getting to this point,but the hard work is paying off.

"It has gotten better each year," Mundy said. "We try to bringsomething different each year to make the event better. In thefirst year of the session, only 30 players were invited. We’veexpanded to 42 players.”

The expanded rosters help local colleges working on smallerbudgets. Xavier’s AJ Williams admitted that this event is huge fora small school with an NAIA budget.

“It’s big for recruiting for us here at Xavier, because we get achance to see the player up close and build some true relationshipswith these players," Coach Williams said. “This event that Mal hasbeen putting on for the state, which includes college coaches, issuch a blessings to give the kids an opportunity to see what it’slike to compete at a high level and being able to get coached bycollege coaches.

"Being able to evaluate your game against the top kids in thestate is huge. [It] helps you know what you need to add to yourgame or how you measure up against the top guys at your position.If you’re the best, come play against the best in the state.”

CoachMicah Hagans (Bonnabel) complimented Mundy's effortstoo.

“The opportunity to play not only in front of college coachesbut to actually be coached by college coaches is a one-of-a-kindexperience," Coach Hagans said. "Every year, I see kids attend thisevent and walk away with offers from the coach they just playedfor. It also puts them in an environment with other top kids.Everyone in the event is a top kid. You have to bring it, just tohave a chance to be noticed. From my standpoint, [it's great] beingable to network with college coaches and build relationships thatwill last throughout my career. It also gives us as coaches achance to see our kid in a super competitive environment.”

Mundy is more than just a Louisiana talent magnet. Now, fouryears into this venture, he is starting to move into local legendstatus. People know that the Hoop Fest Tour is worth the trip,whether you're a fan, scout, coach or player. The event'satmosphere keeps us all young and the exposure is invaluable.Players don't have to pay to play, but it was invite-only. Qualityis key to the operation, and the student-athletes notice.

Jaylen Peters, the most impressive prospect in the gym for longstretches according to our scouting report, wasimpressed.

“It's great to have all this talent from Louisiana and you seewhere you stack up against everybody.” Peters said, before addinghis thoughts on how Louisiana prospects are perceived. “I think alot of people think all we do is play hard. A lot of dudes out hereare actually skilled. Just as much hoops IQ as everywhereelse.”

Clayton Blackledge, who had to log heavy minutes as the onlytrue big man, was more than appreciative of the opportunity,especially since he's still looking for a college home.

“I didn't get as many today, but I want to work on mymid-range,” Blackledge said, who was perhaps a bit too tough onhimself considering the just-met-my-teammates showcase situation.“Missed a few on defense” and “cardio got me” were the two biggestpersonal knocks, but Blackledge did “hit a couple nice ones though”that got some attention.

And that's all Mundy wants: attention on the young local talent.Not one to dwell on too much admiration, Mundy was humble whenasked what might go underappreciated with his efforts: “When youhave this amount of talent and Louisiana top players all under oneroof, it is easy to attract college coaches to watch.”

Be sure to check out Chris Dodson's scouting reportfrom the Hoop Fest Tour.

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