Jeron Dunbar doesn’t intend for Somerset’s basketball program to conform to the also-ran role it has played in the 12th Region in recent seasons.
Dunbar, who will turn 30 years old in two weeks, was recently named to the Somerset boys’ job after spending the last four seasons as an assistant coach under Allen Feldhaus Jr. at Madison Central. He’ll succeed Jeff Cothron, a former star at Somerset as a player who went 69-71 in five seasons in his second stint coaching the Briar Jumpers (he was there for the 1996-97 season, going 17-12).
Over the last five seasons Somerset went 2-12 against Pulaski County and 1-8 against Southwestern, two Class 5A programs with whom the Briar Jumpers share county borders. Somerset hasn’t had winning records against both “big brothers” in the same season since 2001-02, and has played in only one 12th Region tournament in the last nine years.
“We’ve gotta work to where we gain the respect back that Somerset once had,” Dunbar said. “We don’t want to play second fiddle and we’re not gonna play second fiddle to Southwestern and Pulaski County. We’re gonna do what we can to be the team in the area.”
Dunbar’s finishing up his teaching responsibilities at Madison Central for the school year but has already gotten a chance to speak with the returning players at Somerset. His goals for the team are straightforward: win the Class A 12th Region title (Somerset played in eight straight All “A” Classics from 2001-2008 but has since reached the field twice) and qualify for the 12th Region tournament.
The first-time head coach plans on instilling three basic tenets to put his kids in a position to reach those goals: hard work, toughness and great defense. Watching the “mini-state tournament” play out in the 11th Region the last four seasons informed him of how game-changing those factors can be.
“We’re not always gonna be the best team but if we do those three things — we work hard, we’re tougher and we guard better than anyone — we have a good recipe there to make a run,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar, a baseball and basketball player at Russell County in the middle aughts, returned to his alma mater as an assistant under Willie Feldhaus — Allen’s brother — for two seasons before joining Allen at Madison Central. He’s been “like a sponge” around those Kentucky coaching pillars.
“I’ve never been under anybody but a Feldhaus,” Dunbar said with a laugh. “I’ve learned more than I ever thought I could. There’s a lot of people that know X’s and O’s, but coaching, X’s and O’s is really about a quarter of it, about 25 percent of it.
“You’ve gotta know how to relate to these kids on a daily basis and the things they go through. You’ve gotta be like a father figure. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned.”
▪ Ballots by voting media for the Associated Press All-State basketball teams were to be submitted by Friday evening. Mine looked like this:
Boys—First team: Taveion Hollingsworth, Paul Laurence Dunbar (Player of the Year); Pedro Bradshaw, Russellville; Tim Dalton, Lawrence County; Terry Taylor, Bowling Green; Michael Moreno, Scott County. Second team: Damon Tobler, Perry County Central; Adam Kunkel, Cooper; Jake Ohmer, Scott; Jake Duby, Sayre; Luke Johnson, Lexington Catholic. Coach of the year: Tim Sullivan, Cooper.
As of Thursday afternoon the Herald-Leader abstained from submitting a ballot for the girls’ AP All-State balloting because multiple players of note (including Miss Basketball winner Lindsey Duvall) were not listed among the nominees on the ballot.
▪ Bethlehem Coach Artie Braden has resigned from boys’ basketball coaching job, ending his second stint with the program after seven seasons. Braden, who has been a fixture in the 5th Region for several decades, told the Herald-Leader he is not finished coaching and is keeping his options open.
▪ Fleming County did not renew the contract of boys’ coach Matthew Taylor, whose Panthers went 8-24 but reached the 16th Region tournament in his only season with the team. The school is set to hire its fifth boys’ basketball coach in the last eight years.