High school notebook: Change to Mr., Miss Basketball process raises questions

Herald-Leader staff writerJanuary 30, 2014 

On March 16, 2012, five finalists for Mr. Basketball were announced during the quarterfinals of the Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena.

On Feb. 27, 2013, five finalists each for Mr. and Miss Basketball were announced by the sponsoring Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation in a news release.

On Jan. 29, 2014, seven finalists each for Mr. and Miss Basketball were announced at the Bluegrass Sports Awards banquet in Lexington.

See a trend developing?

Will next season's Mr. and Miss Basketball finalists be revealed on Christmas Day?

Will the 2015-16 pre-season include a Thanksgiving Day parade appearance by all of the Mr. and Miss Basketball finalists?

I understand that the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation, in conjunction with the Bluegrass Sports Commission, is trying to revive interest in the Kentucky-Indiana All-Star series that has been on life-support for several years. It hopes one way to do that is by adding some pop to the Mr. and Miss Basketball awards. But I'm not sure fast-tracking the process is the right way.

Noel Hardwick of the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation said ballots were sent out to all of the state's high school coaches in early January, and they had three weeks to vote for the top players.

Why the hurry? And why seven finalists? Why not five? Why not 10? Hardwick said he didn't know the answer to that.

And why will Mr. Basketball be announced on March 18, the day before the Sweet Sixteen tips off? Shouldn't a player's performance under the bright lights and heavy pressure of the state tournament factor into his Mr. Basketball candidacy? Dominique Hawkins probably won Mr. Basketball last year with his fabulous play in leading Madison Central to the Sweet Sixteen title.

Hardwick said the Lions Club will consider that question in the future.

All of the Mr. Basketball finalists — Jackson Davis of Lafayette, Trent Gilbert of Scott County, Shane Hall of Johnson Central, Brandon Hatton of Dixie Heights, Justin Johnson of Perry Central, and Kelan Martin and Quentin Snider of Ballard — were among the top nine seniors in the pre-season ratings. Jordan Green of Henry Clay and LaMontray Harris of Pleasure Ridge Park didn't make the cut.

All of the Miss Basketball finalists — Ivy Brown of LaRue County, Makenzie Cann and Eriel McKee of Anderson County, Nicole Kiernan of Newport Central Catholic, Javonna Layfield of Ballard, Kayla Rankin of Perry Central and Daijia Ruffin of Sacred Heart — were among the top eight seniors in the pre-season. Only Danielle Lawrence of Butler wasn't a finalist.

There was other news Wednesday: The Kentucky half of the Kentucky-Indiana all-star series will be played at Transylvania University the next three years.

Will another change in venue help this once grand rivalry win over the fans again? I doubt it. Kentucky has hosted the Hoosiers in Louisville, Bowling Green, Frankfort, Owensboro and Lexington over the past 20 years, but the support has suffered everywhere. At least an effort is being made to shake things up. "This is all a work in progress," Hardwick said. "We want it to be the best we can make it. And we're just getting started."

■ The Joe B. Hall Prep Classic, postponed because of bad weather on Jan. 25, has been reset for Feb. 9. Will the four-game lineup include a battle of unbeatens when Wayne County plays Montgomery County? Wayne County (20-0) has to play Southwestern on Friday, Clinton County on Tuesday, McCreary Central on Feb. 7 and Knott Central on Feb. 8 (in the Jock Sutherland Classic at Lafayette). Montgomery County (18-0) has Clark County on Friday, Elizabethtown on Tuesday and Augusta on Feb. 8 (in the Jock Sutherland Classic).

■ Franklin County played host to Scott County in boys' basketball Tuesday night. But they wound up playing at Western Hills after the Flyers' Lorenzo McCaskell broke the rim off the backboard in pre-game warm-ups. Coach Tommy Johnson said he's not sure what happened. "I was sitting on the other end of the court and I heard a bang," he said. "I looked up and saw glass falling down, and Lorenzo was laying the rim on the floor." Johnson said he immediately thought of moving the game to Western Hills. Franklin County Athletic Director Tracy Spickard and Principal Buddy Sampson met with the referees and Scott County AD Joe Pat Covington. Spickard called Western Hills' AD Craig Fry, who was at Shelby County for a game. Fry agreed to let Franklin County use the Wolverines' gym. He and Western Hills assistant principal Greg Lawson drove back from Shelbyville to help set things up. "It was a tremendous joint effort," Spickard said in an email. "We owe special gratitude to Western Hills. They went above and beyond to assist us." After only an hour delay, Scott County won 72-41. "On the way over I guess we left our game plan and focus at Franklin County," Johnson said.

■ Tates Creek's boys ended a seven-game losing streak by beating defending state champ Madison Central 66-61 in overtime on Tuesday. It was the Commodores' best win in the last two seasons. "We've had four games in January where we've been ahead with less than five minutes to go, but we haven't been able to finish," Coach Wayne Breeden said. "So we were real happy to finish this one and come away with a win." Jordan Fucci, a 6-foot-5 junior, led the Commodores with 27 points and 11 rebounds. "We've been getting better," Breeden said of his 6-14 team. "We're hopefully getting some confidence as we approach tournament time." Fucci is averaging 16 points and nine rebounds. Ian Davis, a 6-2 senior, and junior point guard Desmond Duke are averaging 12 and 10 points, respectively.

■ Madison Central Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. is toughening up his young team with a tough schedule. The Indians play host to No. 1 Trinity on Friday, visit No. 14 Henry Clay on Tuesday, and they've added a home game against No. 8 Holmes on Feb. 8 at 4 p.m. Madison Central visits No. 23 Lexington Catholic on Feb. 11 and it closes the regular season at No. 6 Covington Catholic on Feb. 21.

■ In Clinton County's 83-72 win at Campbellsville, junior Lance Claywell hit seven of 10 three-pointers and had 36 points. Junior point guard Keifer Dalton flirted with a quadruple-double. He had 20 points, 12 assists, nine steals and eight rebounds.

■ Harrison County senior Jordan Doram scored her 2,000th point in a loss to Campbell County this week. She is averaging more than 20 points and 12 rebounds this season, and has 2,019 points and 1,348 rebounds in her career. Megan Gray is the only other player in Fillies history with more than 2,000 points 1,300 rebounds.

■ Mason County seniors Alivia Bierley and McKenzie Butler each scored their 1,000th point in the last couple of weeks. Bierley did it against Clark County, and Butler did it against Pendleton County.

■ Lexington Catholic may be dropping from Class 4A to 3A in football. The KHSAA's first draft for realignment for the 2015-18 seasons has Lexington Catholic in 3A. Boyle County, which has been the Knights' district rival in 4A, is also in 3A in the new alignment. The best news for Lexington Catholic and Boyle County is that perennial power Highlands is still listed in 4A, as is state champ Collins. Mark Perry, the Knights' new coach, said "it doesn't matter if it's 4A or 3A, you still gotta beat several good teams to get to the state finals." He rattled off some tough 3A programs: Belfry, Caldwell County, Corbin, Louisville Central and Paducah Tilghman. Perry is glad to keep Boyle County around. "That's a healthy rivalry for high school football in Central Kentucky," he said.

The first draft of realignment didn't have many strong teams changing classes. One notable exception was John Hardin, which has been one of the top teams in 5A in recent years. It could be dropping to 4A.

■ Murray linebacker Jacob Mayes, honorable mention all-state, has committed to play at Harvard. The 6-2, 215-pound senior was in on 202 tackles for the state semifinalist Tigers last fall.

■ If my research is correct, a couple of recent hirings mean that four schools now have head football and boys' basketball coaches with state championships on their résumés: Madison Central (Chuck Smith and Allen Feldhaus Jr.); Scott County (Jim McKee and Billy Hicks); Southwestern (Larry French and Steve Wright), and Trinity (Bob Beatty and Mike Szabo).

■ Tates Creek senior Tyler Sturgill, a second-team all-city lineman, will play on an American team against France's U19 team in a game in Paris on March 29.

■ Former Madison Central football coach Bert Browne has taken a job as linebackers coach at Arkansas Tech. Browne has previous college coaching experience at West Georgia, Eastern Kentucky and Holmes Community College in Mississippi.

■ Simon Kenton quarterback Brenan Kuntz, a member of the Herald-Leader's Class of the Commonwealth, committed to Grand Valley State, an NCAA Division II school in Michigan.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Email: mfields@herald-leader. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.

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