Time flies when you're playing or watching basketball. The high school season concludes in just 50 days with the crowning of the boys' Sweet Sixteen champion in Rupp Arena.
■ Deep into the winter, no clear-cut favorite for Mr. Basketball has emerged. Nathan Dieudonne of No. 1 Trinity and Tamron Manning of No. 2 Scott County probably lead the conversation based on their steady performances and their teams' lofty rankings. Dieudonne has signed with Boston University. Manning is headed to Marshall. MeKale Moore of No. 7 Moore has raised his profile. Adam Wing of Rowan County, rated the state's fourth-best player in the pre-season, may have been eclipsed by senior teammate D.J. Townsend in star power. Max Clemons of No. 4 Pleasure Ridge Park is having a big senior year, too. The Herald-Leader's pre-season ratings were topped by juniors Derek Willis of Bullitt East and Darryl Hicks of Trinity.
■ Boone County's Sydney Moss, who has signed with Florida, looks like the Miss Basketball front-runner. She was a solid No. 1 pick in the pre-season and has enhanced her standing by averaging 25 points, 11 rebounds and helping the No. 6 Rebels go unbeaten (19-0) against Kentucky competition. Moss's main challengers for player of the year honors are April Wilson of Manual and Kendall Noble of Perry County Central.
■ Don't ask me to explain why unbeaten Madison Central, fresh off a stunning victory over No. 1 Trinity in the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic, was rated only the sixth-best team in the state by Dave Cantrall's computer. Before Saturday's showdown, Trinity was being touted as one of the best teams in recent state history. Shouldn't Allen Feldhaus' team get a bump in the ratings for upsetting the Shamrocks?
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■ Scott County's Billy Hicks, the state's winningest active basketball coach, got his 800th career victory when his Cardinals beat Franklin County on Tuesday night. Hicks started his head coaching career at Evarts in 1977. His first win was against Jackson City in a tournament in Williamsburg. His first home win, against Pineville, was memorable. His scorekeeper penciled in the wrong jersey numbers for Hicks' starting five, so Pineville shot five technical free throws to start the game. Evarts still won. The biggest change Hicks has seen in three decades of coaching at Evarts, Harlan, Corbin and Scott County? "The speed of the game. Everybody plays harder and faster now," he said. "And the kids put a lot more time into it." Hicks, 59, has no intention of quitting any time soon. "I enjoy it more now than I ever did. I'm a better coach than ever. I keep studying the game and learning from all the mistakes I've made along the way." An avid fisherman, Hicks said he got good advice from coaching legend Dave Fraley, who got in and out of coaching a few times. "He told me, 'Billy, when I was coaching, I loved to fish and play golf. But when all I had to do was fish and play golf, I hated it.' " Hicks said he'll be "real disappointed if I can't coach another five or 10 years. It's not about winning. It's about the kids. I love working with kids." Hicks guided Scott County to state titles in 1998 and 2007. His Cardinals are rated No. 2 in the state this season. "I thank God every day for being able to coach," he said, "because I was a sorry coal miner."
■ Jaysean Paige put on a show at the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic in leading Perry County Central past Ashland Blazer. He hit 13 of 17 shots, threw down a couple of teeth-rattling dunks and had 32 points and nine rebounds. The 6-foot-1 senior newcomer has settled in nicely since transferring to Perry Central from Jamestown, N.Y., where he averaged 26 points and led his team to a state runner-up finish last year. Paige said the hardest adjustment has been culturally, but the basketball transition has been smooth. Coach Allan Hatcher said Paige "is a people person with a great personality. Chemistry is important, and we've got great chemistry with him." Perry Central was a strong contender to repeat as 14th Region champ before Paige arrived. The Commodores returned point guard Braxton Beverly, who starred in the Sweet Sixteen last year as a seventh-grader, big man Dalton Cornett, Trevor Combs and Kyle Huff. Paige makes them more formidable. He didn't know anything about Kentucky hoops before, but he quickly learned about the magic of the Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena. "My teammates and coaches have talked about how important it is." Paige is drawing interest from OVC schools as well as Marshall and Northern Kentucky, and is working hard to get his academics in order.
■ The Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic, which moved from Richmond to Frankfort this year, is small-school hoops with big names in its past. Four winners of Mr. Basketball and four winners of Miss Basketball have played in the event over the last 20 years: Brandi Ashby of Webster County; Charles Thomas of Harlan; J.R. VanHoose of Paintsville; Katie Schwegmann of Bishop Brossart; Brandon Stockton of Glasgow; Megen Gearhart of West Carter; Sarah Beth Barnette of Lexington Christian Academy, and Elisha Justice of Shelby Valley. Two of those players were back in the All "A" this week as assistant coaches — Thomas at LCA and Stockton at Glasgow.
■ Webster County senior Jacob Scott leads the state in free-throw shooting. He was 6-for-6 in the All "A" on Thursday. He said that makes him 113 of 124 (91 percent) this season. How does he explain his accuracy? "I do the same thing every time," he said. "And right before I shoot, I tell myself it's going in, and with God's help, it always goes in."
■ Bowling Green's boys have been a surprise this season. The Purples are 18-4 and rated 10th in the state after graduating McDonald's All-American and Louisville signee Chane Behanan and most of his supporting cast. In their last two road games they beat Muhlenberg North and Hopkinsville, two of the best teams in western Kentucky. Bowling Green Coach D.J. Sherrill said his relatively young group is athletic, deep and improving quickly. Sophomore Nacarius Fant, a standout receiver on the state championship football team, is averaging 16 points, and senior Dareon Simmons is averaging 14. Seniors Scooter Hollis, a star quarterback in football, Jalen Hunter and Clay Sowell are steadying influences. "We've come on quicker than expected," Sherrill said. "We're able to shoot the ball a little bit, and able to turn some teams over. It's been a nice year for us."
■ What were UK assistant football coaches Greg Nord and Mike Summers doing at the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic? I suspect they wanted to be seen by Trinity's super sixth man James Quick, who'll be one of the nation's most coveted wide receiver prospects in the class of 2013.
■ Erik Goetz, who has Covington Holy Cross in the boys' All "A" state tournament for the first time as head coach, played for the Indians in the 1991 Sweet Sixteen. He was a sophomore starter on the team that lost to Tates Creek 71-66 in the state semifinals. Goetz said he remembers it as "an exciting experience. Being a sophomore, I was probably too young to realize what it was all about." Goetz was an assistant under Clay Eifert when Holy Cross made it to the 1994 Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals.
■ LCA senior Kristen Jacob had a fun three days last week. She had 27 points and 22 rebounds in a win over Sayre in the All "A" 11th Region semifinals on Thursday, signed to play college hoops at Campbellsville on Friday, and had 20 points and 30 rebounds in LCA's win over Frankfort in the All "A" region finals on Friday.
■ The draws for the boys' and girls' state basketball tournaments will be held Friday at 10:30 a.m.. It will be aired live on WKYT-27 in Lexington and replayed at 1 p.m., on CWKYT-27.2. The draws will also be streamed live on www.khsaa.tv.
■ Clark County has hired Steve Collins as its new football coach. Collins was offensive coordinator at Montgomery County the past two seasons. He previously coached in Georgia for 19 years. He replaces Paul Columbia, who was fired after 13 seasons as head coach.
■ Ironton's Bob Lutz, the all-time winningest high school football coach in Ohio, is retiring. Lutz, 69, had a career record of 381-91-5 in 42 years, the last 39 at Ironton.
■ Dave Brossart is the new football coach at Dixie Heights. He succeeds Tom Spritzky, who resigned after 17 seasons. Brossart, who played at Beechwood, was head coach at Covington Catholic in 2007 and '08.
■ The Central Kentucky Umpires Association — which calls balls and strikes for 10th and 11th region baseball — has started a Hall of Fame. Mike Elkin, Bart Rison and Harry Stephenson are in the inaugural class and will be recognized at a banquet at Madison Central on Feb. 1.
■ Starting with the 2012 post-season, volleyball matches will be determined in a best-of-five format, a change from best-of-three. The KHSAA Board of Control approved the change, which will be used in district, region and state tournaments. If schools mutually agree, regular-season matches can continue to be best-of-three.