Smith Visits Baton Rouge for Louisiana Charity Game
The New Orleans Pelicans organization took the Louisiana State Capitol by storm on Wednesday, May 8, continuing to build on the excitement of the organization’s rebrand as well as the future promise of the team on the court. In conjunction with a visit from executive staff led by Rita Benson LeBlanc and fifth-year player Jason Smith, the Pelicans visited both the State House of Representatives and the Senate Chambers. Both groups lobbied Smith, the longest-tenured player on the Pelicans, to join their teams in anticipation of the HoopLA charity game that took place later in the evening.
After visiting the legislature, Smith, mascot Hugo the Hornet and two Honeybees spent time taking pictures with a group of students visiting the capitol as well. Smith, a Colorado native, toured the city on his first-ever visit to Baton Rouge and stopped by local media outlets to discuss the tremendous momentum the organization is gaining.
Smith told the Baton Rouge media, “The Pelicans are here to stay. It’s a great opportunity for New Orleans and the state of Louisiana and I think the organization did a great job of giving people something they can be proud of for generations to come.”
His sentiments seemed to be echoed as legislators, their families and other community members arrived at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on LSU’s campus for the HoopLA event. Participants in the game and fans alike were donning Pelicans apparel.
House District 77 Representative John Schroeder, chairman of the HoopLA event, explained the long-standing partnership of the organization and the state house in raising funds and excitement for basketball in Louisiana. Schroeder anticipates raising in excess of $40,000 between participation in the dinner and silent auction, as well as outside sponsorship. The funds make an immediate impact, Schroeder explained. “One lucky legislator will get a chance to draw and build a basketball court in their district around Louisiana,” he said. “We’ve done it four times and twice it’s been in Lafayette and twice it’s been in New Roads, so we’re hopeful to find a new and different town this year.”
Preferring to remain neutral, Smith kept himself out of the game but instead mingled with fans at the HoopLA event and talked about the team’s future. Smith beamed, “We’re very optimistic, with such a young group of core guys who really want to get better this offseason. I think we have a great opportunity to get a lot better not just next season but for the next several years. We had a rough season with some bumps and bruises but I hope they see the light at the end of the tunnel, because we’re going to be a very good team.”