Scott County senior star Richie Phares didn't get to the Sweet Sixteen this year, but he has a nice consolation prize: He has accepted an invitation from Louisville Coach Rick Pitino to walk on with the Cardinals next season.
That's the word from Richie's dad, Ford Phares, who said they met with Pitino a couple of times and decided to take the offer.
"Rick was very positive about Richie's ability to compete at that level, in the Big East," Ford Phares said. "It's a terribly exciting opportunity for Richie. Louisville has a great program, and Rick is probably the best teaching coach out there. If you can't learn from him, you can't learn."
Richie Phares averaged 18 points and 8.8 rebounds for No. 1 Scott County before tearing his ACL in the region semifinals against Lafayette. He had to sit out the region finals, and Lexington Catholic knocked off the Cardinals.
He will have knee surgery in early April, and work toward being ready to begin pre-season practice in October.
Ford Phares said he doesn't expect his son to redshirt.
"Rick Pitino thinks he'll be ready to play right away, especially with (Louisville) losing Earl Clark (to the NBA) and Terrence Williams graduating."
Phares, who turned 18 in January, had scholarship offers from Jacksonville, Duquesne, Boston University, Marshall, Wofford, Northern Kentucky and Georgetown College.
Recruiting a Redhound
Corbin's Josh Crawford had an impressive performance — 33 points and nine rebounds — in the Redhounds' loss to Eastern on Wednesday.
Who's recruiting the 6-5 senior, who averaged 14.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists this season?
Corbin Coach Tony Pietrowski said Transylvania and Centre are among those going after the 4.0 student the hardest. Morehead State has shown a lot of interest, while Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky are evaluating him.
"The way Josh played against Eastern, I'd think a few more offers might be coming," Pietrowski said.
Crawford had a bone chip in his knee before his junior year, and it took a long time for him to regain his form after he had it worked on.
"That kind of knocked Josh off the radar last season," Pietrowski said.
Sanford's college list
Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie had a front-row seat to watch Vee Sanford rally Lexington Catholic to victory over Bowling Green in Rupp Arena on Thursday.
UK has yet to offer Sanford a scholarship, but plenty of other schools have.
After the game Sanford listed his main suitors: Baylor, Bradley, Georgetown University, Kansas State, Marquette, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, St. Louis, Charlotte, Virginia Commonwealth and Wyoming.
"I'm on Kentucky's radar, and Virginia's," Sanford said.
"At this time, I'm open. I've got to take visits."
Sanford said UK assistant coach Jeremy Cox told him a few days before the Sweet Sixteen "to just play, play with my swagger and play to win."
Rooting for Pitt
Former Bryan Station star Jaron Brown was in Rupp Arena to watch Sanford, his cousin, play for Lexington Catholic. Brown hopes Pittsburgh is the last team standing in his NCAA bracket.
Brown was a standout at Pitt a few years ago and helped elevate the program into a national power.
"I think they've got a good team and will make a good run in this tournament," he said. "I think it was good for them, losing to West Virginia (in the Big East Tournament), so they get a chance to rest their bodies.
"I'm looking forward to going to see them play up in Dayton" on Friday.
Brown hopes to get into college coaching someday.
"But I'll probably start off in the high school ranks," he said. "Last year I coached at Tates Creek Middle School. That was a pretty good experience."
Win one for Barb
Nobody was happier to see Lexington Catholic get to the Sweet Sixteen this year than its longtime athletic trainer, Barb Winters.
She had quadruple bypass surgery in February 2008, and was in Florida recuperating last March when the Knights made it to Rupp Arena.
After graduating nine seniors, Catholic wasn't given much of a chance to win back-to-back region titles for the first time in school history.
Winters admitted to getting emotional after the Knights upset Scott County in the 11th Region finals last week, especially when the players told her they did it for her.
Mason County's matchup with Shelby Valley in the Sweet Sixteen conjured up memories of 1982, when Mason County met Virgie in the quarterfinals.
(Virgie and Dorton consolidated into Shelby Valley in 1991).
In its first Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1981, Mason County was runner-up to Simon Kenton. The Royals made it back to Rupp Arena in 1982 but lost to Todd May-led Virgie in the quarterfinals.
Kelly Middleton was a star on those Mason County teams. His son Russ has been in three state tournaments for the Royals — as a freshman in 2006, as a junior when Mason County won the title last March, and now as a senior.
As a freshman, Russ suffered a broken leg in the first quarter of the Royals' first-round game, which left his dad wondering about the future.
"I didn't know if he'd ever get back (to the Sweet Sixteen)," Kelly said. "But now he's got a ring, and he's back again this year.
"He knows he's very lucky. A lot of great players never get to play here."
The same goes for Mason County's fans, who have seen their team win 13 region titles.
"At Mason County now it's kind of like old hat when we make the state tournament," Kelly said. "But back in 1981 and '82, it was unbelievable to get here."