Twenty-five years ago, the first All "A" Classic was a couple hours from tip-off, and Stan Steidel, one of the founders of the small-school state basketball tournament, didn't know what to expect.
"It was kind of scary," Steidel said on that February morning in 1990. "What if only 100 people showed up for the first game? What then? Would all of our hard work come crashing down?"
Twenty-five years and more than a million fans later, Steidel can relax and take pride in knowing the All "A" Classic is a midwinter fixture on the landscape of Kentucky high school hoops.
The tournament has succeeded wherever it's been played — UK's Memorial Coliseum, Rupp Arena, EKU's McBrayer Arena and the Frankfort Convention Center. Total attendance: 1,052,532.
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Steidel said the event's unique appeal is reflected in how many of the original board members, besides himself, are still involved: Harold Combs, Dave Cowden, Mike Duncan, B.B. Kendrick and Gary Munsie.
The All "A" is much more than basketball. It's expanded into statewide competitions in baseball, cheerleading, softball, soccer, volleyball and golf.
The organization has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships. There are annual cash awards for art, too, and the winner's work is displayed on the cover of the tournament program.
Corporate sponsors have been the lifeblood of the All "A" Classic. Steidel said Touchstone Energy has supplied more than $2 million of support over two decades.
This is Touchstone Energy's last year as title sponsor, but Steidel said "they're leaving with our utmost respect. Where do you get a major corporate sponsor that stays with you 20 years? They've been great to us."
As for the basketball, it's given more than 100 small schools a chance to compete in a state tournament. Little ol' Augusta was making its first appearance in the All "A" Classic, 89 years after its first and only Sweet Sixteen.
The All "A" isn't the grand show of the KHSAA boys' and girls' state tournaments, but it's a big deal. The biggest deal, though, is that the All "A" may have saved Kentucky's one-class state tournament. By providing small schools a realistic shot at glory, the push to break basketball up into classes — as Indiana did — eased off.
■ Carson Williams became Owen County's all-time leading scorer in the Rebels' victory over Walton-Verona in the All "A" 8th Region finals last week. The 6-foot-6 junior followed that up with a triple-double (19 points, 16 rebounds, 10 blocked shots) in a win over Woodford County. Williams has 1,852 points, eclipsing the old mark of 1,782 set by Jason Sharp in 1996. Owen County Coach Devin Duvall said Williams' versatility is "really what sets him apart from other great players. He can play any position." Williams is averaging 23 points and 14 rebounds this season. "He's relentless on the offensive and defensive glass," Duvall said. "And his motor never stops." Williams is also a standout in the classroom. He has a 4.0 GPA and scored a 26 on the ACT.
■ Leslie County senior Katie Moore's 33 points in an All "A" victory over University Heights made her the school's all-time leading scorer. Moore's 3,110 points eclipsed Jody Sizemore's 3,105. Heather Benton (3,071) is third on the list, followed by Tim Couch (3,023). Katie Moore's fellow senior Brooke Asher is approaching 1,300 points.
■ UK signee Maci Morris of Bell County had 31 points in a win over Harlan County last Friday, putting her over 3,000 points for her career.
■ Taylor County junior point guard Quentin Goodin, who has scholarship offers from Louisville, Florida, Michigan and Western Kentucky, will play in the Jock Sutherland Classic at Lafayette on Feb. 7. Perry County Central junior point guard Braxton Beverly, who has offers from WKU, Samford, Cleveland State and Miami (Ohio), will also play at Lafayette. The schedule: Paul Laurence Dunbar vs. Doss, 3 p.m.; Lincoln County vs. Taylor County, 4:45; Scott County vs. Wayne County, 6:30; Lafayette vs. Perry Central, 8:15. There will be a reception for Lafayette's six state championship teams in the cafeteria at 7 p.m.
■ Wayne County senior Peyton Woods had eight three-pointers in three games in the Toyota Classic last week, pushing his career total to 329. That's third-most in state history among boys.
■ The 25th Joe B. Hall Prep Classic, which was snowed out last Saturday, won't be rescheduled. Ira Combs, the event organizer, couldn't get enough of the 10 teams to recommit to playing at Montgomery County in February. That means we won't get to see what might've been one of the best matchups of the season — Knott County Central vs. Hopkinsville.
■ Madison Southern will honor Luke Stocker at halftime of Friday night's game against West Jessamine. Stocker played basketball and football at Madison Southern, and football at Tennessee. A tight end, Stocker has been in the NFL with Tampa Bay the last four years. Madison Southern will present him with his framed Eagles jersey.
■ Johnny Miller, a 5-9 senior guard at East Ridge, scored his 2,000th career point in a game against Pikeville last week. He's averaging 19 points this season.
■ Less is more for Green County's Chad Emmons, a 6-6 junior who's gone from 254 pounds to 218 in the last year. He had a career-high 26 points and 12 rebounds against Caverna. Chad is the son of Dan Emmons, a star at DeSales in the 1990s.
■ Ballots will be sent out Friday to all coaches, members of the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches, and selected media to nominate players for Mr. and Miss Basketball. Final ballots will be sent out Feb. 16, with a Feb. 23 deadline. Mr. and Miss Basketball will be announced at a March 17 banquet, the night before the start of the Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena.
■ Pairings for the boys' and girls' state basketball tournaments will be drawn Thursday at 1 p.m. The draw show will be carried live on CW Lexington, and streamed online at KHSAA.tv and WKYT.com. The Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls' Sweet Sixteen is March 11-15 in WKU's Diddle Arena in Bowling Green. The Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen is March 18-22 in Rupp Arena. Full-session ticket packages ($80 upper arena; $124 lower arena) can be purchased at http://www.khsaa.org/payments/tickets/
■ Joe Prince, who coached Owensboro to a runner-up finish in Class 4A football last fall, has resigned. Prince is leaving the Red Devils to coach Fauquier High School in Warrenton, Va. Prince's daughter and son-in-law recently moved to Virginia, and they're expecting a baby. "Being close to my family is so important to me," Prince said. Prince, an all-state lineman at Mayfield who went on to play at UK, was head coach at Owensboro for 10 years and had a 94-53 record. He also coached at Ohio County, Union County and Eastern.
■ Former Corbin football coach Steve Jewell is the new defensive coordinator at the University of the Cumberlands, according to the Corbin Times-Tribune.
■ Football coaches Philip Haywood of Belfry and David Buchanan of Mason County have found time to write books about sports and life.
Haywood, the winningest coach in state history (389 victories), is the author of Faith, Family and Football. Haywood writes about how his faith and family have been a major part of his success in football and building lasting relationships with his players. The book is available at Amazon.com.
Buchanan, who's built Mason County into a consistent winner, is the author of Black Shoes and White Shoestrings. It's a collection of football stories, and life lessons offered by notable coaches, including Blanton Collier, Sam Harp, Alvis Johnson and Chuck Smith. Buchanan will be at the Boyle County Public Library in Danville on Saturday to sign his book. For each one sold, $1 will be donated to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Ministry of Steele and Lynn Harmon of Danville. Black Shoes and White Shoestrings can be purchased at http://blackshoesandwhiteshoestrings.blogspot.com/?m=1
■ Boyd County coach Geoff Stuart and former Corbin coach Chris Hart will be among those inducted into the Kentucky Prep Softball Hall of Fame on June 13 in Louisville, in conjunction with the annual East-West all-star games. The other inductees: coaches Belinda Ledford of Meade County and Stan Head of Livingston Central, and former players Hadley Clark of Owensboro Catholic, Emily Gaines of South Laurel, Leslie Garrett of Reidland, Nikki Nicholas of Henderson County and Kirby Soles of Corbin.