WATSON – Three years ago, Live Oak High’s Ahmad Pink stepped out of his comfort zone, pushing aside his more reserved character to step on stage and host the school’s annual talent show.
It was his job, still then a shy sophomore, to whip the school’s student body into a frenzy to create an atmosphere that would serve as the energy to help lift the show’s contestants to a new level of performance.
“I had a fear of being in front of all those people,” Pink said. “Then I just stepped out and did it. It was easy and knew I could do it.”
The ability to be able to fulfill a role has also served him well on the basketball floor where Pink – a 6-foot, 185-pound senior – has stood tall and provided the Eagles with a post presence where the intangibles he’s brought to the team far outweigh his statistical contributions.
In much like his function as the host of the talent show Pink has stepped outside of his comfort zone the past two years to not only try and serve as a galvanizing force, but bring energy and a belief to help keep the Eagles basketball show moving in the right direction.
That continues Friday when No. 28 Live Oak (13-15) visits No. 5 Lafayette High (24-4) to begin the Class 5A state playoffs at 6:30 p.m.
“He plays with heart and plays hard,” Live Oak coach John Capps said of Pink. “He tries to do the right thing. He’s going to take a charge, box out and go get an offensive rebound. It’s never going to be about effort for him.”
Pink said he recently had a discussion with a school maintenance worker planning to remove the individual banners of Live Oak’s senior players from a wall at C.B. Wheat Gym when Pink offered the following.
“I asked him not to take them down,” Pink said. “There’s a possibility we could come back and play for our hometown again. We could play one of our last games at home and then we could make it to Lake Charles (state tournament).”
There’s a reason why Pink, along with fellow senior Lawrence Pierre, was voted amongst his peers to serve as team captain and the aforementioned statement is a testament to that.
While the 5-versus-28 matchup carries long odds and appears improbable on the surface for Live Oak, it takes someone like to Pink, who has overcome seemingly similar odds to play in the post in District 4-5A, to offer an optimistic outlook.
If you believe it, then you can achieve it are words Pink lives by and trusts enough in his ability to bring his team together for what would be considered the upset for the first round should the Eagles return home for the second round of the state playoffs next week.
“A lot of people don’t think Live Oak’s going to get far and we showed them that when we become a team and we’re one unit, we can beat anybody in the state,” Pink said of his team’s ability to reach the postseason with a sub-.500 record. “If we don’t come out and do our part and not play well it goes downhill. We have to stick together and pick everybody up and play as one unit.”
Consider the part Pink will play in his team’s encounter with Lafayette, the tri-champion of District 3-5A, which features 6-foot-6 senior center Oscar Banks, who is committed to Xavier-New Orleans.
It’s not uncommon to be at a physical disadvantage in the post where Pinks frequently lacks in height and bulk, he tries to compensate with physical play, quickness and heart.
“I had been in the post in middle school and knew my role,” he said. “Coming in (Live Oak High) I knew we didn’t have any post players, so I had to become a six-foot post player and body these 6-3 and 6-7 dudes and get physical and be strong.”
Added Capps: “He’s a strong kid, he doesn’t give up. If you give maximum effort all the time you can go a long way and that’s where he is. You can’t coach that skill. You try to bring that out. It’s got to be an intrinsic thing and it comes from him.”
Capps provided such a sequence that best described Pink’s value to his team during Live Oak’s regular-season game, and Senior Night, which resulted in a 62-60 victory.
There was a long rebound or deflection that had caromed from Live Oak’s basket to the other end of the court that would have resulted in Central getting possession under its own basket.
Instead, on a dead sprint, Pink hustled all the way, got to the ball and jumped up before going out of bounds and threw it off a player from Central, giving the Eagles possession instead.
“It’s plays like that is where he’s great,” Capps said. “That’s where we’re going to miss him. I’ve had several people tell me they enjoying watching him play. Not because he’s flashy.”
Then there was Live Oak’s earlier landmark win – 64-41 – over Walker High in which Capps credited Pink with several key plays were more of a result of his effort than sheer ability.
“He didn’t have a great stat line, but he kept so many balls alive,” Capps said. “He rotated over (defensively), he boxed out and took some charges. It’s always little things that make a difference and he’s the king of the little things.”
Pink fondly recalled his team’s win over Central, not for the number of points he scored (two), but for the effort he put forth, taking four charges for his team.
“I’ve got get on the floor, I’ve got to get physical,” he said. “You see a loose ball, go after it. Take a charge and be strong.”
That’s the type of role Pink, whose twin brother Amar is also a forward, has embodied since entering the program four years ago, gradually rising to becoming a two-year starter leading the team in such areas as rebounds, charges taken and floor burns.
This season with Pierre leading the way offensively, Pink has found his niche at 6.2 points and 5.5 rebounds and is shooting 48% from the field.
Pink has grown in other ways off the court. Since accepting the host role for the school’s talent show, he’s developed a more of an outgoing personality and become much more visible around Live Oak’s campus, overshadowing his status as a basketball player.
For the past two years Pink has served as master of ceremonies for the school football pep rallies where his interaction with the student body was important to creating the energy and atmosphere necessary to fuel a successful send off for the football team.
He was also noticeable in his role for leading the football team onto the field – home and away – by carrying the school’s oversized flags and leading the chants in the student section during Live Oak’s volleyball games where he further exhibited his true sense of school spirit.
For his efforts, Pink was voted a Senior Class representative this year.
“Mrs. (Beth) Jones gave me an opportunity to be a (Senior Class) representative,” Pink said. “I wanted to get involved and help the community. I showed up at every football and volleyball game, every sport I could. I wanted to be there to lead the student section.”
Added Capps: “He could have been class president.”
Four years ago, Capps saw a much different side of an incoming freshman basketball player in Pink that didn’t quite take things seriously. He wasn’t certain Pink would be around for the long haul.
“If there’s anything that tells you, you shouldn’t give up on kids completely,” Capps said. “He’s the poster child for that. He’s involved in everything and everyone knows and respects him.”
During his first year Pink admitted to taking to heart a conversation with Live Oak assistant Stephen Prescott, asking him to play to his strengths, concentrate on areas other than scoring and one day he would be a face for the program.
Through his own maturity, and development into a team player, Pink’s was voted a co-captain of the team for having grown into of a self-less leader that’s endeared himself to his teammates.
“Everybody believes in me, I felt overwhelmed,” Pink said of the co-captains honor. “Coach Prescott was right. It’s my team now. We have to become one unit.”
The pre-game routines have dwindled to one more guaranteed outing where Pink, who plans to attend Southern and major in business, with gather with his teammates at Lafayette High with a similar message on his mind.
He’ll emphasize physical play, intensity, bringing energy and togetherness - especially on the defensive end – and then go out and take the lead role in making certain the Eagles carry out those objectives.
“I told them going into this game to play it like it’s your last (game) but don’t think like it’s your last,” Pink said. “You’ve got to outhustle them, outrebound them and box out. I know my role. When it’s my time to shine, then I’ll step up.”