Knott County Central
Region: 14th Record: 29-5 Enrollment: 606
B.B. King is 77-21 in his third season at the helm of the Patriots. He is a former assistant at Knott Central and Letcher Central
Player Height Class Points
Camron Justice 6-2 So. 25.4
Evan Hall 6-7 So. 11.7
Simon Christon 6-3 So. 7.5
Chance Cornett 6-3 So. 9.3
Corey Short 5-10 Sr. 6.6
Knott County Central, starting four sophomores, lost five games by a total of only 22 points. "We're young. ... That's probably our biggest weakness, is our mental toughness — to come to the games prepared to play every night," King said. "This team's had a tendency to play (at the level of) who they're playing against." The Patriots having plenty of pluses, though, starting with an ability to control tempo. "Our strength is getting the ball out and running with the ball," King said. "We like to run." KCC relies on man-to-man defense, picking up at half-court.
The Awe is gone
King knows all about being in the state tournament. He played in two Sweet Sixteens for Knott Central (1978, '80), was an assistant coach in three others (1991-93), and is making his second consecutive appearance as a head coach. "I've been going to the state tournament for years and I think you get to where you kind of know what's going on," he said. "The first time I went, probably in the third or fourth grade, I was just in awe. I think the more times you go, as a player and as a coach, it helps you."
Player to watch
Tennessee, UAB, Morehead State and Western Kentucky reportedly have made scholarship offers to Justice. Wake Forest, Virginia, Butler and Indiana are showing interest. "He's a shooter and a scorer," King said of Justice, a sophomore who already has scored more than 1,600 points. "He's probably one of the hardest-working kids I've been around. He just goes to the gym every day. If we practice or not, he's in the gym, and he just loves it."
This marks the Patriots' 10th time in the state tournament, and second in a row. They've made it to the quarterfinals three times, including last year.
Region: 13th Record: 26-6 Enrollment: 908
Robert Marcum is 72-27 in three seasons after serving as assistant for five years. He was a three-year starter for Clay County, helping the Tigers reach the state semifinals in 1990 and '92.
Player Height Class Points
Tyler "Chip" McDaniel 5-11 So. 18.4
Kody Reed 6-2 Sr. 10.3
Stephon Lyttle 6-2 Sr. 11.6
Marty Bowling 6-3 Sr. 11.7
Jarrod Rice 6-1 Sr. 6.6
Having four senior starters has been a bonus for the Tigers. "They seem to close out games really well. We've won a lot of our close games this year, if not all of them," Marcum said. "They're on a 15-game winning streak. They get along really well. There's no jealousy on the team. They play really hard. They just want to win." The one non-senior starter is sophomore McDaniel, who leads the team in scoring. Bowling tops the Tigers with 11.0 rebounds a game.
Marcum, a three-year starter under the legendary Bobby Keith, will have his retired mentor on the Rupp Arena bench in the role of honorary coach. "He has made Clay County basketball tradition, and the kids partly wanted to do this for him," Marcum said. "... He was the first one to come and hug everybody's neck when we won the region." Keith attends practice every two or three weeks. "They really look up to him. We utilize Coach Keith a lot, and they know about the tradition, the Clay County tradition," Marcum said.
Player to watch
As his nickname indicates, Tyler McDaniel knows how to Chip. Kentucky's Mr. Golf in 2011, he is a three-time all-stater in that sport and has made an oral commitment to golf for the University of Kentucky — where brother Todd plays now. Clay County great Richie Farmer is a cousin, and Chip's dad Todd played for Clay County in the 1984 state tournament. Chip is shooting 44.4 percent from the field, 38.2 from three-point range and 86.7 percent at the foul line. "He's just a very smart player, extremely hard competitor," Marcum said. "Makes great decisions, shoots the ball really well, sees the floor really well."
The Tigers are making their 28th appearance. They won the title in 1987, and were runners-up in 1985 and '88.