Taveion Hollingsworth, the Paul Laurence Dunbar senior who led the Bulldogs to their first boys’ basketball state championship in March, committed to Western Kentucky University on Wednesday.
Hollingsworth, a favorite to take 2017 Mr. Basketball honors in the spring, averaged 21.5 points on 52.4-percent shooting during the Sweet Sixteen and earned tournament MVP honors after Dunbar defeated Doss 61-52 in the finals. He selected WKU over the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Hollingsworth, a three-star point guard ranked 55th nationally at the position by 247Sports, joined what could be the most talented class in WKU history. The Hilltoppers have commitments from Mitchell Robinson, a five-star center from Louisiana ranked as the No. 6 player in the nation by 247Sports, and Josh Anderson, a four-star who’s rated as the 12th-best shooting guard and 52nd player overall by the same service.
Being able to play close to home and contribute right away for a program on the rise under new coach Rick Stansbury was attractive to Hollingsworth.
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“Stansbury’s a good coach,” Hollingsworth said. “ ... He sees me playing. I’ll be getting minutes.”
Hollingsworth hopes to start for the Hilltoppers, who are expected to lose three seniors to graduation. Justin Johnson, a junior who played at Perry County Central and Sheldon Clark, is the only Kentucky native currently on WKU’s roster.
“I have to prove myself, but I’m ready for that,” Hollingsworth said.
The University of Kentucky had been keeping tabs on Hollingsworth and believed him to be a scholarship-caliber player, but he was told multiple times that the school was waiting on other guard prospects to make their college decisions.
Hollingsworth said he didn’t want to wait for a late UK offer, even if it provoked other high-profile latecomers to get in on his recruitment. He was ready to end the uncertainty.
“The only reason the other schools would offer me is because one of the best teams in the country offered me,” Hollingsworth said of that hypothetical scenario. “They wouldn’t know anything about me. I just chose the school that wanted me the most.”
The reigning All-City player of the year averaged 21 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior. He is 587 points away from breaking Darnell Burton’s school record for career scoring at Dunbar (2,192). Hollingsworth needs 803 points to break the Fayette County record of 2,408 set by former Bryan Station star Michael Allen, now the coach at Tates Creek.
Hollingsworth imagines he’ll be asked by Stansbury to put in some buckets early during his career as a Hilltopper.
“Y’know, I love to score,” he said with a laugh, “so if he tells me to score I’m gonna go score the ball, man.”
WKU hired Stansbury, a Meade County native who had been an assistant at Texas A&M, as its head coach in March. Stansbury was the head coach at Mississippi State from 1998-2012 following assistant coaching stops at Campbellsville University, Cumberlands, Austin Peay and Mississippi State.
“We’re excited to have Taveion join our basketball family,” Stansbury said in a news release. “It’s very obvious he’s a terrific player from a really good high school program where he’s been really well-coached. At the same time, he’s a terrific young man and a great student, and we’re happy to have him and his family become a part of our program."
Dunbar Coach Scott Chalk thinks WKU is a great fit for Hollingsworth, whom he believes will be motivated to leave a big impression as soon as his college career tips off.
“He’s gonna finish this process with a nice, healthy chip on his shoulder,” Chalk said, “ready to go to Western and prove to people that they should have been paying attention and should have given him more credit.”