Randy Livingston pours heart into Louisiana Top 150 to promote state talent
BATON ROUGE – It’s hard to believe that more than 25 years have passed since Randy Livingston was on the precipice of basketball greatness.
In 1993, Livingston exited Isidore Newman High School as a two-time national prep co-player of the year, three-time state champion, McDonald’s All-American and the number one ranked player in his class.
After a winding path that took him to LSU, 15 different teams over a 11-year professional playing career and multiple continents as both a player and coach, Livingston is back home in Louisiana with a mission.
Make basketball here great again.
Since 2012, Livingston had been helping to develop talent in Australia and New Zealand through his LivOn Basketball Foundation. He returned to the United States in 2016 as an assistant coach at LSU. After former head coach Johnny Jones was dismissed after the 2016-17 season, Livingston shifted his attention from the college game back to the grass roots of youth basketball.
Over the past weekend, more than 100 student-athletes came to the BREC Sportsplex to be coached and to be tested at the Louisiana Top 150 camp.
“For me, it’s my life,” Livingston said. “I’m a basketball lifer. I’ve been able to travel the world, and it’s all because of basketball. To give a kid the experience, to try to strive and shoot for something much higher than where maybe his mindset is.”
Damond Bateast, Program Director of the camp, shares that mission. ‘We’re trying to put Louisiana back on the map, basketball-wise,” he said. “Louisiana was a hotbed for basketball, and right now I don’t think all of our talent is getting the exposure it deserves.”
LIvingston feels as if the state is about to turn the corner in producing prospects.
“The Class of 2019 is okay, there are some real sleepers,” he said. “But the class of 2020? Good. 2021? Good. 2022? Exceptional.”
Unlike many camps that are filled with scrimmages designed to let athletes’s showcase the things they already do well, the LA Top 150 was designed to be a grind. There was a constant tempo to each timed station, with the coaches never hesitating to jump in encourage or correct a player. Satuday’s first session lasted a grueling seven hours.
“I want to teach them the fundamentals of the the game, and then we’ll get to play,” said Livingston during Saturday’s first session. “We’re not going to just toss the ball up and just play, we’re going to teach.”
“We’re trying to develop pro and high-level college prospects, and that’s what it takes. If (they’re) not ready to work for the six to seven hours today that we’re in here, maybe (they’re) playing the wrong sport.”
Livingston believes that his understanding of the game in its entirety is what sustained his career, even after the injuries that derailed its immense promise.
“Let’s be honest,” he quipped. “I played literally my who pro career on one leg, but I had the fundamentals down. When I went into a training camp, they knew I knew how to play.”
That’s why the mental work is just as important as the physical in his program.
LIvingston isn’t short on confidence in what he’s learned over the years. Aside form his tenure on the sidelines at LSU, he was head coach of the then NBA D-League’s Idaho Stampede for two seasons and played for coaching luminaries like Rudy Tomjanovich, Lenny Wilkens and Jerry Sloan.
“I’m teaching them what the NBA people are teaching,” he added. “We’re teaching them how to get better skill-wise, we have a good skill development program, but then we’re teaching them NBA plays and how to get ready for the next level. When they get to college they are already ahead of the curve because they have learned how to be pros.”
As a nod to the current information age, the camp also included pro-style combine testing, allowing campers to get a true assessment of their speed, agility, and quickness, along with other measurables found in the average recruiter’s file on a prospect.
Livingston and his staff will track the players’ numbers through the athlete’s progression through high school to provide them with a log of their development.
That professional approach was a big part of why parents and athletes were so excited to be a part of the camp.
Monica Mays brought her son Jordan, a 6-7 rising senior from Texas Christian High School in Houston. Last season, Jordan averaged 19.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game for the Tigers.
“We wanted to get a little bit of a different experience than Texas,” she said. “Our main goal for (Jordan) is to continue on the path to playing basketball on the next level. He’s appreciated the opportunity to able to talk to (Randy and Damond) and see how things are done in Louisiana. He’s really enjoyed his time here.”
“It was very important for me to be invited,” said Sophie B. Wright guard Gregory Hammond, who also plays for Livingston’s Louisiana Supreme travel squad. “They teach the basics. They don’t want you to dribble a lot. They want you to understand the simple moves. I want to get to the next level and I think (Livingston) can help me get there.”
Zaheem Jackson, the 10th-ranked player in the state out of Scotlandville Magnet, relishes the opportunity to face the best. “They’ll show you that you’re not as good as you think you are. You’re always going to find somebody out there that’s better than you. You’ve got to always go into the gym and work hard.”
Whether they make it to the next level or not, there will come a day for each of these young men when they can no longer play the game. Freddie Wilson, whose son Jacob, a freshman at Lee Magnet High in Baton Rouge was also an invitee, sees a bigger being example being set, harder than any pick these kids will come across on the court.
“When you’ve got guys willing to come back to the community, to come together for these kids…you have to teach these kids to put back and give back and that’s a good message that’s being displayed.”
It’s a message that Livingston and his team playing on getting through loud an clear.
Louisiana Top 150 will host camps for girls and middle schoolers in September. For more information visit www.latop150.com.
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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…