Local basketball coach Rogers Laugand may not be at the helm of a high school basketball program in District 9, but few coaches have made as large of an impact on basketball in our area as Laugand.
After starting his coaching career at Immaculate Conception and Clarion-Limestone, Laugand founded the highly successful Clarion Rising Stars AAU basketball program alongside Joseph Deas and Angelo Anderson in 2006.
Laugand’s positive experience with AAU basketball as a player helped inspire the creation of the Rising Stars program.
“Growing up in New Orleans, I played AAU basketball, and [Joseph Deas’] son played when they were in Kansas City,” said Laugand. “We thought it would be a good program that [would] help develop some of the local talent. I had a good experience [with AAU], Deas’ son had a good experience, and I wanted to give other kids [the opportunity] to experience what we experienced.”
Laugand understood the benefits of starting an AAU program, but he admits that he did not anticipate the massive future growth of the organization.
“We never knew that it was going to take off,” said Laugand. “Once kids found out [about Rising Stars] and were successful in high school, a lot of parents and kids wanted to become involved.”
Rising Stars’ reputation for developing well-rounded basketball talent has seen the program grow from two teams and 11 players in 2006 to eight teams and around 80 athletes today.
The Rising Stars program shines in its dual-faceted inclusivity, emphasizing player development while remaining financially viable for many area families. From a developmental standpoint, the organization prioritizes the growth of all players, regardless of initial skill. “We’re really about playing kids and developing kids. We have the mindset that if you’re in our program that you are going to play because we are going to develop you to play,” said Laugand. To provide opportunities for more players to get valuable game experience, the Rising Stars have created second-tier “developmental teams” in some age groups, displaying the organization’s focus on producing battle-tested talent. In addition to Laugand and Deas, the Rising Stars program has seven total coaches. Fred Port, who headed the organization’s first girls team in 2007, has been with the Rising Stars for 14 years. Experienced coaches John Irwin, Rob and Barry Foust, and Ed Baumcratz round out the current coaching staff. Former coaches Amy Shannonhouse, Ryan Bodein, Angelo Anderson, Ewing Moussa, Brendan Flowers, Jason Braun, and Donnie Rubin have also contributed their time and expertise to the program over the last 14 seasons.
AAU basketball can be very expensive for players and their families as travel, equipment costs, and team fees can quickly add up. Laugand has always prioritized keeping player fees low, ensuring that more families can participate in Rising Stars.
“We try to keep the program as cost-efficient as possible. For the quality of the program that we have, and for all that we have accomplished, we have to be one of the cheapest AAU basketball programs in the country,” said Laugand.
The organization’s low costs are partially made possible through a deal with Adidas, which helps offset equipment costs while raising money for the program. Donations and sponsorships also provide Rising Stars with vital funding, and the organization has seen a rise in contributions as the program has grown.
At the helm of Rising Stars, Laugand wants to produce athletes who possess both the skillset and mental traits to be successful players in any environment.
“We want [our players] to be skilled, we want them to have good knowledge of the game, we want them to work hard, and we want them to be coachable,” said Laugand. “When those players play with their high school teams, we want [people] who see our players on the floor to associate the player with our program.”
Rising Stars’ development strategy has paid dividends, as around 20 players have gone on to play college basketball, and countless others have played key roles in their high school lineups.
Laugand’s coaching style focuses on cultivating personal relationships with his players and gaining mutual respect, a philosophy followed by his own youth coaches.
“I had a great high school coach, and his philosophy was [focused on] building relationships with his players,” said Laugand. “He was more than a coach to me, and he really cared about his players. My college coach was the same way. All my style comes out of that. They’re really encouraging, positive motivators, and they really knew the game.”
Laugand believes his teams get a distinct competitive advantage from his more personal approach: “We treat our players with the utmost respect, and our players treat us the same. You’re going to play hard for people that you care about and respect.”
This high-effort brand of basketball has come to define the Rising Stars program, and the organization’s athletes have stood out in high school play with their strong skills combined with tremendous hustle.
To train and cultivate this high-tempo style of play, Laugand emphasizes conditioning during his practices. Laugand always combines his sprinting and physical work with dribbling and shooting practice, ensuring that players learn to feel comfortable playing basketball while fatigued.
These drills are also done as a team, with each player needing to execute on an individual level to complete the drill for the team, adding pressure to the practice environment.
“90% of the game is mental, so any time that we can put mental challenges in front of players, I think it’s a good thing,” said Laugand. “When you’re practicing and doing something consistently, then it becomes something that is natural so that when you’re in that situation [in a game], it’s no pressure anymore.”
Challenging practices are one of the cornerstones of Rising Stars, as the drills create the foundation from which mentally tough and physically powerful players can arise.
Laugand’s success has made him one of the most well-known coaches in the area, and his ability to produce and develop solid talent could make him a good fit for a college basketball coaching position. Laugand didn’t consider coaching college basketball while his kids were still growing up and playing basketball, but now with each of his three kids out of high school, Laugand is potentially open to the possibility.
“It would be intriguing; that might be something that would interest me now,” said Laugand, when asked if he would be interested in a college gig.
Although he has not been formally approached by any college programs, the AAU to college basketball coaching pipeline is stronger than ever, opening the possibility for a future move by Laugand.
The Rising Stars program has helped contribute to an increase in basketball talent from our local area, and Laugand enjoys his role in the process.
“We really enjoy working with the kids, developing them, watching them grow,” said Laugand, who has coached many of his players from fifth grade all the way through to their senior year of high school.
Laugand knows that his coaching staff isn’t solely responsible for the success of his athletes, stating that “[their growth] is a testament to their [own] hard work and commitment.”
By providing a well-coached and cost-effective AAU program in Clarion, Laugand has provided a fantastic outlet for those willing to put in the “hard work and commitment” necessary to improve themselves as basketball players. As the high school basketball season starts to rev into gear, we will undoubtedly see the Rising Stars polished, and high-energy style pay dividends for many area squads.