Sweet Sixteen notes: Mar. 19

Mason County family gets sweet news

Mike Murphy is Mason County's jack-of-all-trades.

"Murph," as he is known, keeps the clock at Royals basketball games and drives the team bus. He also coaches with the baseball team.

Before Thursday night's game between Mason County and North Hardin, Murph was watching from the stands and already feeling like a winner.

His son, Kenton, was diagnosed about a month ago with stage three throat cancer. Doctors found a baseball-size tumor.

The family was referred to a specialist in Boston where, last Friday, Kenton underwent blood work and a full body scan.

Kenton, a senior and four-year manager with the basketball and football teams, was on the Rupp Arena floor to take care of business. Father and son both seemed to have an extra hop in their step.

"We've got really good news," the elder Murphy said. "They're going to remove the lymph nodes (next Friday at Boston) and we'll do radiation treatments here in Lexington for six weeks. ... There's like a 95 percent no-return rate. And the people in Maysville have really got behind us."

In addition to working the Mason County bench Thursday night, Kenton picked up a PNC/ KHSAA $1,000 academic scholarship at halftime. He plans to attend Eastern Kentucky University next year, with an eye on majoring in either occupational therapy or speech therapy.

"It's really exciting to be here; we weren't supposed to be here — Clark County was supposed to beat us," Kenton said. "Being on this team and knowing that they love and support me as well, and the rest of the people in my community, it's great to be here. And to win this scholarship and be with my family, I just love it."

Cats in the house

A Fab Four of former Kentucky players was in Rupp Arena on Thursday afternoon.

Reggie Warford, who played on UK's 1976 NIT championship (and 1975 NCAA runner-up) team, was coaching Muhlenberg County.

Cameron Mills, who was on the Cats' 1996 and '98 NCAA title teams, was doing radio color commentary.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, one of the Unforgettables who returned the Cats to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1992, had a front-row seat.

And four rows up, at midcourt, was Jack Givens, who had 41 points in UK's 1978 NCAA championship victory over Duke.

Givens was seeing the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1989, the year he located in Orlando, Fla.

Why return this year?

"Partly because of Reggie, obviously, because we played a couple of years together (1975-76) and I'm supporting him," Givens said.

"But the Sweet Sixteen — there's no show like it, so it's really good to be back here and be in the building."

Givens, Mr. Basketball coming out of Bryan Station in 1974, was a Wildcat by the time Rupp Arena opened.

"When I played in the high school tournament we played in Freedom Hall, a special place obviously," he said. "But it's always good to be here in Rupp Arena. The kids love coming here to play."

Givens visits Lexington frequently to see family members, including his mother. He said he'd like to move back to his hometown within the next six months or so.

A real estate broker in Orlando, Givens looks like he could still play hoops. In fact, he does.

"I get the opportunity to get out and play a lot," he said. "I still love the game and I still love getting after it."

Put on the spot to list his favorite memories in Rupp, Givens came through in the clutch.

"Everything from the very first game here (his junior year). I remember my final game here as a senior, especially, playing against UNLV, who had a great team."

Special Olympian

Scott County's basketball players think they have a lot going on, competing in the Sweet Sixteen. But they've got an easy schedule compared to that of Ryan Barts, their team manager the last three years.

Barts, 20, played in the Special Olympics state basketball tournament last week. His team lost to a Bowling Green team in the first round.)

Barts (Scott County Class of 2008) is with his beloved Cards in Rupp Arena this week.

"It's a dream come true," he said. "I want us to win a state championship."

Barts is off to Lincoln, Neb., next week for the Special Olympics' nationals in track. He will compete in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, the long jump and 4x100 relay.

Ex-Lady Cards in NCAA

Three former Scott County girls' players are in the NCAA Tournament: Rebecca Gray (Miss Basketball in 2007) plays for Kentucky; Chelsia Lymon (Gatorade player of the year in 2006) is at Middle Tennessee, and Kayla Moss (all-state in 2008) plays for Dayton.

Football hoops fans

Bob Schneider of Newport Central Catholic, who has retired as the state's all-time winningest football coach with 345 victories, was among the spectators at Rupp Arena on Thursday.

While Schneider was chatting on press row, along came Bell County football coach Dudley Hilton, who has 332 career wins and probably has the best chance to break Schneider's record.

Schneider, who looks in great shape after heart surgery a few months ago, jokingly said he was sure Hilton couldn't wait for him to retire.

Hilton said that was untrue.

"I was sorry to see you go. I was hoping you'd coach another 10 years. I wanted you to get to 400 (wins) so that'd keep me going after that."