A learning curve is expected any time a program loses 12 seniors. That goes for programs all programs, even for those as proud as Wossman’s.
But the Wildcats boys basketball program got to jump that learning curve a little bit with one player in particular returning for his senior season…
“Devonte Austin has played varsity for four years, and he elevated this team,” Wossman head coach Casey Jones said. “He and Kaleb Raven were the only two guys returning with real varsity experience. I was never really concerned because we had those guys back. There were a lot of 30-point games early on for Devonte, and once his teammates started getting more comfortable, Devonte became a little bit more of a facilitator.”
Austin, who was recently named the Class 3A Most Outstanding Player, can add another honor to his high school resume — Ouachita Citizen Player of the Year. He averaged 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists during the 2020-21 season, and he was the catalyst for yet another trip to the state tournament.
“I had conversations with (Jones) about carrying the team early on, but around the third or fourth game, my teammates got a little more comfortable,” Austin said.
Austin said some have compared his game to Dwayne Wade’s, but Jones defined his game as being unselfish. Austin would do whatever his team needed, and if that meant constantly attacking the rim to draw contact and get to the free throw line, he would do it. But Jones also acknowledge just how close Austin was with this year’s senior class, which made him a little more passive at times. Austin wanted to get his teammates involved, which ultimately wasn’t a bad thing for the ultimate goal.
“Sometimes to a fault, I would have to call him over and tell him to be a little more selfish,” Jones said. “He draws attention every time he drives. He would get double and triple teams, so he would kick it out to Albert Shell or Kaleb Miles or LaCurtis Dunn. He could have averaged 30 (points) a game easily, but he knew he was going to need those other guys when we got deeper into the playoffs.”
A lot of those points started on the defensive end too. Because Austin would be tasked to guard some of the best players in the state, his tenacity often led to steals and fast-break points.
“I really had to take on a big role this year,” Austin said. “Guarding the best player on the team every game. I wasn’t worried about my offense, though.”
Wossman ripped off another stellar season, winning 22 of 24 regular season games before making another semifinal appearance. The season ultimately ended in disappointment with a 56-49 defeat against St. Martinville in the semifinals. Austin fouled out late in the game but not before he posted a team-high 19 points in the loss.
Now that Austin’s high school career is finished, he must now figure out where his next destination might take him. He has a couple of offers from the likes of schools, such as Pearl River Community College. But Austin isn’t ready to make his decision just yet.
If you ask his head coach, Austin is without a doubt under recruited.
“I think he’s been underrated compared to people in our area, but that’s the nature of the beast,” Jones said. “Monroe is a small market, but I’ve watch Tae Tae (Austin) play against some of those guys who are ranked higher than him in Louisiana All Star game. He had 11 points in the first half, and he decided to be that facilitator in the second half, so there’s no question he’s underrated.”
Where Austin lands at the next level is still in question, but coaches and sports writers alike agree that Wossman's senior guard was MVP material in 2021.