Hayes Gardner didn't play basketball in high school — he ran track and cross country at Henry Clay — but he's now part of one of the most entertaining shows in college hoops.
Gardner is a junior reserve at Grinnell College, a small NCAA Division III school in Iowa. The Pioneers are averaging 132 points (and a jaw-dropping 60 three-point attempts) a game.
Last season Grinnell star Jack Taylor poured in an NCAA record 138 points in a 179-104 win over Faith Baptist. This season Taylor had 109 points in a 172-123 victory over Crossroads.
Gardner doesn't get much playing time. He did play three minutes in Grinnell's 164-144 victory over College of Faith on Monday night when teammate Patrick Maher had an NCAA record 37 assists. And Gardner played a career-high seven minutes and hit two three-pointers in the Pioneers' 124-85 win over Knox College on Wednesday.
What doesn't show up in the box score is the fun he's having. "It's really an enjoyable experience," Gardner said, "especially with all the big games we've had — Jack's 138 and 109 points, and Pat's 37 assists."
Gardner played lots of basketball growing up and considered it his favorite sport, so when he got to Grinnell he said he talked to the coaches about joining the team. He was familiar with their run-and-gun style. He had seen one of their games on ESPN several years earlier "so I knew what I was getting into."
Some way-too-serious people criticize the Pioneers' style, calling it a sin against all that is sacred in sports.
Gardner said people who haven't visited Grinnell and seen Pioneers basketball first-hand can't appreciate it. "The whole team and the whole school loves it. Just because something's different doesn't mean it's bad."
Grinnell Coach David Arseneault stresses fun, and isn't that what sports are supposed to be about?
■ Last Friday, Pendleton County recognized the 21 players (boys and girls) in school history who have scored 1,000 points. They included the Turner brothers — Talbert Jr. (3,183 points), Dave (1,448) and Bill (1,425). That prompted Pendleton County Athletic Director Keith Smith to ask if the Turners, with 6,056 points, were the most prolific scoring brothers in state history. A couple other families came to mind. Corbin's Selvy brothers: Curt, Frank, Edd, David, Marvin and Charles ("Curly"). I couldn't come up with a scoring total for them. Then there were the Stepp brothers: Ervin, Joe, Jimmy and Gary. Ervin, who led the nation in scoring at Phelps when he averaged 53.7 points as a senior in 1979-80, had 3,228 points in his career. Joe was a big scorer at Warfield in the 1970s, and Jimmy led the state in scoring at Sheldon Clark in the late 1970s. Gary played at Madison Central in the 1980s. Gary said a conservative guess would be that the Stepps combined for more than 8,000 points.
■ LaRue County's girls may have the best 1-2 combination in the state in Ivy Brown and Alexis Brewer. Brown, a 6-foot-1 senior who's rated the top player in the state, is averaging 20 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and 3.5 assists. The Western Kentucky University signee is LaRue County's all-time top scorer with 2,432 career points. "Her biggest strength is her versatility," Coach Travis Wootton said. "By the time she's done here she could easily be the all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals and three-pointers made." Brewer, a 5-10 junior, is averaging 23 points, four assists and four rebounds. She has 1,707 career points. Brewer is the daughter of former Bardstown star (and current coach) James "Boo" Brewer. "Alexis has really come into her own this year," Wootton said. "She's a beast with the basketball, and now she understands when we need her to score." Wootton said Brewer could threaten the school's scoring and assist records.
■ No. 18 Perry Central probably will be without Braxton Beverly for the next month. Coach Shannon Hoskins said Beverly, a sophomore point guard who's averaging 21 points, is thought to have an "impact fracture in his heel" and could be out four to six weeks. The Commodores are expected to battle Hazard, Knott Central and Cordia for the 14th Region title.
■ Bryan Station will honor former basketball star Jack Givens by retiring his jersey before Tuesday's game against Henry Clay. Givens led Bryan Station to the Sweet Sixteen in 1972 and 1974, and was Mr. Basketball in '74. He held the school scoring record (1,768 points) until Mike Allen broke it in 1989. Allen, now the coach of the Defenders, was born in 1971, so he doesn't remember Givens' high school exploits. He has seen film of Givens leading Kentucky to the 1978 NCAA title. "First of all, Jack's a classy individual, and second, he was a sweet player with a very high basketball IQ," Allen said.
■ Lexington Christian Academy's boys knocked off No. 14 Lexington Catholic 78-76 in double overtime Tuesday. It was only the second time in 41 tries LCA has beaten the Knights, who won the first 36 meetings before LCA beat them 61-57 two years ago.
■ No. 5 Covington Catholic beat No. 8 Holmes 87-77 Tuesday. Colonels freshman Cole VonHandorf had 25 points and senior Nick Ruthsatz had 21 points and nine assists. VonHandorf is a transfer from Villa Madonna where he averaged 14 points last season. Defending 9th Region champ Holmes was led by James "Beetle" Bolden's 28 points. CovCath plays host to No. 4 Newport Central Catholic on Friday.
■ There are no undefeated girls' teams left in Kentucky after Bishop Brossart lost to Newport Central Catholic 50-40 Wednesday night. My guess is they'll have a rematch in the semifinals of the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic in Frankfort in a few weeks.
■ Transylvania senior Madisen Webb (Scott County) had 16 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in a 103-91 win over Hanover on Tuesday night. It was the first triple-double in more than a decade for the Transy women.
■ The Kentucky-Indiana all-star basketball series has seen a decline in fan support over the last couple decades because old-style all-star games that accent team competition instead of showcasing individuals don't draw as they once did. The Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches and its Indiana counterpart have come up with an alternative way to highlight high school hoops: the Hall of Fame Challenge Cup. Five games pitting Kentucky teams against Indiana teams will be played Saturday at Freedom Hall in Louisville. Elizabethtown's girls face Indianapolis Roncalli at 11 a.m., followed by boys' games: Elizabethtown vs. Barr-Reeve, Covington Catholic vs. Corydon Central, Hopkinsville vs. Indianapolis Park Tudor, and Ballard vs. Guerin Catholic. Admission is $10. Ken Trivette of the KABC said the event will benefit the high school basketball halls of fame in both states, as well as the Wounded Hero's Program. Veterans and their families will be admitted free, and there will also be a job fair for veterans from noon to 6 p.m.
■ Highlands promoted defensive coordinator Brian Weinrich to head football coach. He'll succeed Dale Mueller, who retired after 20 seasons and 11 state titles. Weinrich, 41, is a Highlands grad and has been an assistant coach for 19 years. When Mueller missed the 2012 state finals because of a death in the family, Weinrich ran the show as Highlands beat Collins 47-0 for its 22nd state championship.
■ The seventh annual National Guard Border Bowl, an all-star football game matching high school seniors from Kentucky and Tennessee, will be played at the University of the Cumberlands on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
■ South Warren junior right-hander Cameron Shyrock, who has committed to play baseball at UK, has an 11-3 record with 93 strikeouts and 20 walks in 80 innings over the past two years. Spartans Coach Chris Gage said Shyrock threw consistently in the mid-to-high 80s last season, and that his lanky frame "has everybody believing he has a tremendous amount of potential to add more velocity." Gage thinks Shyrock's best asset is his "mental makeup." As a freshman Shyrock was the winning pitcher in the district finals against No. 3 Bowling Green, and against Russellville in the 4th Region semifinals. South Warren made it to the state tournament before losing to eventual champ Woodford County in the quarterfinals.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar's state championship boys' soccer team will be honored by the Army National Guard as part of the MaxPreps Tour of Championships. Todd Bretz and his Bulldogs will receive a trophy during a ceremony Friday at 2 p.m.