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METAIRIE, La. Eddie Ludwig and his family walked into the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at LSU on Jan. 24 and his heart skipped a beat.

Late though they were, the Ludwig's were about to get a lesson in what the next few years will be like for their 18-year-old son.

"I kind of got a glimpse of it at the Xavier game," said Eddie, a senior at Country Day. "We walked in like five minutes late and the place was packed and the atmosphere was incredible. You just look around and you're like, 'Wow, I'm coming here next year.' "< /p>

Ludwig will be more than going to LSU in the fall. He's one of the key cogs in Trent Johnson's first full signing class as LSU's head men's basketball coach.

Getting there, though, has been quite the journey for Ludwig, one that has had him aligned directly with the Tigers for most of his life.

"Going back through photo albums, I'm amazed at how many photos of Eddie from the age of 4 and up are in LSU gear," Ludwig's mother Lisa said.

Growing up an athlete

Ludwig didn't just develop into an athlete all of a sudden.

Both his mother and high school basketball coach recall a child who was uniquely competitive and interested in sports, especially baseball and basketball.

It all began in a swimming pool, however.

"The first time they shot the gun to start the race, he was nervous," Lisa Ludwig said. "It's one of the few times I've seen him nervous. He started crying and was scared and didn't want to do it.

"The gun went off and he swam and cried the whole way. He turned around and half the length of the pool (back) was the nearest competitor and a smile crept up on his face."

Nearly 13 years later, Ludwig still gets embarrassed at the story. But he also said it shows just how much he wants to win at anything he competes in.

"I'm one of the most competitive people you'll probably ever meet," he said. "I'm always in it to win it no matter what. If I have to cry through an entire race, I will."

Or there's the time he convinced his youth baseball coach Mike McGuire, now his Country Day basketball coach, to keep him in a youth baseball game up in a tournament in New York.

Fog and bad weather continually forced the postponement of a game that started after dark. Despite the delays, Ludwig told McGuire to leave him in the game, that his arm still had life in it.

And it did. Ludwig kept his team in the game through the late innings before reaching the league's maximum pitch count.

That's not McGuire's only baseball memory.

"He can really throw the ball, a terrific pitcher," McGuire said. "I used to coach first base and the opposing team's dugout is right there. The other team says, 'There's no way this kid is 10 years old. This is ridiculous.'

"He's blowing them all away. I turn around and say, 'Oh, you have to be 10?' They ask how old he is and I say 9."

An unforeseen change

In August 2005, Ludwig was set to start his freshman year at Country Day. But Mother Nature changed those plans when Hurricane Katrina tore through Southeast Louisiana.

The Ludwig family drove back to their Metairie home as the storm was making its way towards the region.

"We had no idea the levees would break," Lisa Ludwig said. "We drove in and had to wade through some water in the streets. A tree fell down in front of the road a couple of blocks from my house and we decided we were going to wait until the electricity was going to go on."

All the while, Eddie watched the water and its continual rise. He warned his parents about the impending danger and the family fled their house, Eddie and his dad Trip holding their dogs over their heads.

They drove to Country Day, but realized the school wasn't safe and headed to Baton Rouge.

It's a memory Lisa said she will hold onto forever.

"He and his father wading through that water, leaving," she said. "I think my husband saw him one time before January."

From there Ludwig went to Atlanta, where he attended Pace Academy that fall. Ludwig did well at Pace and could have made the varsity basketball team.

But he had other plans.

"My thinking was that if I was going to play on varsity, I've have to stay the whole year," he said. "But if I was going to play on JV, I could play with them, then come back at the end of the semester and come back and play for Country Day my freshman year."< /p>

Both Eddie's mother and McGuire called it a mature decision that took into account not only himself, but students at Pace in Atlanta who would have lost a spot to the Metairie player.

Working for a championship

Since his return to the Gulf Coast, Ludwig has been nothing short of a standout. He has led the Cajuns to the Class 1A state championship game two years in a row and is working on a third this season.

Country Day enters the 1A playoffs as the No. 2 seed.

He is the school's career leader in points with more than 2,330. He is averaging nearly 20 points and more than 13 rebounds as a senior.

But there's one thing missing on his resume - a state championship. Twice the Cajuns have fallen to Christian Life in the title game.

McGuire, however, knows how much a championship would mean to his star player.

"Although Christian Life is terrific and we've been there two years in a row, he really equates success in terms of titles," McGuire said. "He's got that leadership ability. He elevates his game. I really hope for his own sake we can win it this year.

"He has worked so hard. Yeah, that would be the crown jewel."< /p>

Ludwig, though, isn't just loved on the basketball court.

Ronnie Frazier has worked at Country Day for 16 years, meaning he has seen Ludwig from kindergarten through this, his senior year.

And he knows a winner when he sees one.

"He's just well-mannered," said Frazier, a do-it-all employee at the school. "He sits back and just watches a lot. When he speaks, he says something. He has something to say."

Such is the impact of Ludwig that when asked about the basketball player signing with LSU, Frazier's smile went from ear to ear and his voice picked up even more.

"It was great," he said. "It was like I was living. I hugged him when I saw him and heard."

LSU awaits

Now LSU awaits. Johnson has the Tigers' men's program rolling. Though the Tigers lost that Xavier game 80-70, LSU is 24-4 and 12-1 in the SEC, securing the school's 10th SEC title. The Tigers are ranked 18th in the country.

Ludwig, for one, likes what he sees, not that he didn't understand Johnson's vision before. It's why he chose LSU over Vanderbilt, Davidson, Wake Forest and Cal-Berkley among other schools.

"The new coaching staff coming in was really exciting for me," Ludwig said. "And the location was very important to me. I felt like with where they're starting, they're turning over a new leaf and I wanted to be a part of that."

And there's little doubt from those who know Ludwig that he's going to do just fine at LSU.

"He's a once in a lifetime for a coach," McGuire said. "We're proud of him. I know he'll do well at LSU."

Bradley Handwerger can be reached at or 504-529-6439.

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