Sweet Sixteen notes: That guy in the jacket keeping Carr Creek tradition alive

mfields@herald-leader.com mmaloney@herald-leader.comMarch 7, 2013 

David Couch, he says, is a walking billboard for one of the most storied teams in the Greatest Show in Hoops.

See him seated six rows up from quarter-court in Rupp Arena, and his 1956 Carr Creek letter jacket is exactly that.

The jacket belonged to his uncle, Jim Calhoun, who played with Couch's father E.A. on Carr Creek's state championship team.

Both his uncle and father have passed away, but David Couch fulfills a wish that Calhoun put in his will — that he wear the Carr Creek jacket to the KHSAA Boys' State Tournament each year.

"So no matter if it's 80 degrees outside or it's cold like it is now — and I've about had heat stroke in it a couple of times — I wear the jacket," David Couch said. "And I swear it's the best assist that he's done to the team because I'm like a walking billboard for the team, and I kind of remind folks of that team and the magic. It's kind of like the Hoosiers of Kentucky — this tiny, small school took on the big schools and won it."

Calhoun, who went on to win two NCAA championships with Cincinnati, had a UK logo added to the jacket because E.A. (Emery Allen) and teammate Bobby Shepherd both went on to play under Adolph Rupp at Kentucky.

And if you're looking for the answer to the trivia question "name the father/son combination that played under Adolph Rupp and Mike Krzyzewski," David is the second half of the answer. He played under "Coach K" at West Point.

David also is sandwiched between a pair of state champions.

While his father won a basketball title, son Matthew Emery won a state baseball title last year as starting first baseman for Woodford County.

Both the basketball and baseball finals were decided against Henderson County. The Carr Creek team won by four points; Woodford County won by four runs.

Matthew paid tribute to his grandfather in the baseball finals by writing "Grandaddy, '56 State Champs" on his cleats. On the other side, he wrote "Beat Henderson again!"

Thanks to an old, revered jacket, David still relives his dad's and uncle's glory years.

"People say, 'I remember that team,'" he said. "'I remember because it really was a team.'"

Hall of Fame awe

J.R. VanHoose, who led Paintsville to a Sweet Sixteen title 17 years ago and was chosen Mr. Basketball in 1998, is among the newest members of the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame. He and 16 other players and coaches will be inducted in a ceremony in Elizabethtown on July 20.

VanHoose said it's "surreal" to think he's in the company of legends like Larry Conley of Ashland and Johnny Cox of Hazard "Two Eastern Kentucky guys I idolized and grew up wanting to have careers like them. I personally don't feel I need to be in with them. It's just weird."

East-West game

The Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches' East-West senior all-star game is Saturday at Transylvania University at 3:15 p.m.

Proceeds from the game will go to support Coaches vs. Cancer and the KABC Coaches Catastrophic Assist Fund. The KABC also supports Autism Awareness and the Ronald McDonald House.

Hoptown, again

Jeff Griffin was a star player for Oldham County in the 1985 Sweet Sixteen. The Colonels beat Rex Chapman-led Apollo in the quarterfinals, and had a five-point lead on Hopkinsville with four minutes left in the semifinals.

Alas, the Tigers rallied to beat Oldham County 66-59 and went on to win the state championship.

Twenty-eight years later, Griffin watched nervously before South Oldham, whose roster includes his son Michael, took on Hopkinsville in the Sweet Sixteen on Wednesday night.

"Hopkinsville again," Jeff Griffin said, knowing the challenge the Dragons faced.

The Tigers beat South Oldham 74-52.

FCA breakfast

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes will host a "Breakfast of Champions" on Saturday (9:30-11 a.m.) at Broadway Christian Church.

The event is open to the public and to state tournament participants. Speakers will be Pikeville Coach Kelly Wells and Elisha Justice, who was Mr. Basketball in 2010 after leading Shelby Valley to the state title.

For ticket information, contact Bart Flener (859) 967-7270; Aaron Hogue (859) 333-1335 or Sheila Smith (859) 373-1300.

Mr. Perseverance

Ricky Burns, a 6-foot-4 senior, notched a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) to help John Hardin to a 79-69 win over Fleming County. Not bad for someone who was the last player picked to make his freshman team, cut his sophomore year, and the last player picked for the junior varsity a season ago.

"The kid just plays hard," Coach Mark Wells said. "That's the only way he knows to play is 100 percent. He's not worried about stats. He comes out every day to do what's best for the team."

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