Friday, September 16, 2016

Dort Returns Favor In Recruiting Friend To Conrad

Growing up in Montreal, basketball once had little appeal to Luguentz Dort.

Though he had seen a torrent of talent in the area, witnessing guys such as Tristan Thompson and Joel Anthony and Kris Joseph thrive, soccer was his initial labor of love.

By the time he reached middle school, Dort was head and shoulders taller than his classmates.

He also developed rarified athleticism. This was the attribute that led to both his friends and coaches urging him to ditch soccer and play hoops with a full throttle approach and 12-month commitment.

"It was almost as if they were recruiting me," said Dort, who now holds offers from Baylor, Oklahoma, Florida, Louisville, Oregon, Missouri, and a bevy of other high-major suitors.

"They basically told me I was wasting my time by not playing. Really, the one who I followed around was Shawn (Barthelemy). He was that guy in Canada. He was a playmaker and a scorer. I learned a lot of his moves and picked up the game from him."

Dort and Barthelemy created a vaunted backcourt tandem from ages 12-16.

As effectively as Dort could barrel through defenses and get to the rim with ease, Barthelemy had capabilities in picking apart a defense and pulling off deft no-look passes.

"He was just ahead of his time," Dort said of Barthelemy.

"He's the one who really showed me the ropes. Through him, I met my coach Nelson Osse. From there, Nelson showed me how to become a scorer and really showed me the skill component of the game.

Five years after Barthelemy implored Dort to convert his focus to basketball, Dort returned the favor.

When he learned that head coach Shaun Wiseman was installing his basketball program at The Conrad Academy in Orlando, Barthelemy was the first person he contacted.

It didn't take a whole lot of innate hustling tactics or powers of persuasion to sell him on a national schedule and a chance to garner a scholarship here in the United States.

"He got me into basketball so I wanted to take him with me and basically renew our basketball brotherhood."

Barthelemy remembers a kid who was built like a running back and could get to the basket and finish with contact.

"We had a great team in middle school, probably one of the best teams ever assembled in Canada at that level," recalls Barthelemy.

"When we got to high school, we played on Park X both our freshman and sophomore seasons."

Now the two Class of 2018 guards will hope to replicate that success in the United States, where basketball will never take a backseat to soccer.

Dort's mental fortitude was tested on January 21st of last season.

During that fateful night, Dort suffered a season-ending wrist injury.

The timing could not have been worse.

It was against heated rival West Oaks, a backcourt featuring one-time South Florida-signee Andres Feliz and Dort's cousin and close friend Richardson Maître.

Prior to the game, a 72-70 ACD overtime victory in which the two went at each other with a furious pace, the two exchanged friendly trash talk in French during layup lines.

Then, during the third quarter, Dort fell hard on a layup and had to be carried out of ACD's gym on a stretcher.

Nobody in the gym looked more concerned than Maître, who finished with 20 points.

While being sidelined and watching West Oaks avenge the loss during the post-season (en route to a SIAA championship), it reminded Dort of how much he loves the game.

Dort bounced back and displayed a new, adroit long range shooting touch. Playing for Brookwood Elite in Vegas, Dort averaged 20.6 points, seven boards, and 2.7 assists.

His quicker shot release and tweaked form was evident, as he canned 13-of-23 from beyond the arc.

He plans on taking unofficial visits to Florida in October and scheduling a visit to Oklahoma and Oregon.

He's quick to admit he's a long ways away from arriving at a decision.

"Right now my focus is on getting better every day and helping the team win anyway I can with my game," Dort said.

The same game that he once neglected, before his teammates and coaches implored him to get serious about it.

"I think last year showed me a lot because even though I was the youngest kid on the team as a sophomore, coach Wiseman showed me how to communicate like a leader. He put a lot of confidence in my game and helped me lead by example and create with the ball in my hands.

Other coaches, such as the aforementioned Osse and Conrad Academy assistant coach Antarr Crowley, had a hand in his development.

"Just like coach Wiseman, coach Nelson shows me how to lead the team and play like a true point guard. Coach Antarr, he helped get me stronger and constantly emphasized work in the weight room."

On Monday, after watching Dort carve up defenses during a two hour open gym session at The Conrad Academy gym in Orlando, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino offered him a scholarship on the spot.

"He is a legendary head coach, so it was special," said Dort.

Now, everyone seems to want a piece of the 6-foot-4 and bullish 215-pound guard. Coaches from Baylor, Oklahoma, Missouri and Florida were on hand to see him this week.

Yet the first person to effectively recruit Luguentz Dort now shares a room and a backcourt with him.

"He was really the one who showed me the game and showed me the moves and all of that," Dort said.

"I had to take him here to Orlando with me."