Even though Kentucky is our state’s only school to get into this year’s NCAA Tournament field, there are plenty other players, coaches and staff members with ties to the Bluegrass to follow during March Madness. A survey of the other 67 teams’ rosters included:
Gonzaga: Former University of Kentucky star Kyle Wiltjer, who was part of the Cats’ national championship squad in 2012, was named MVP of the West Coast Conference Tournament after the Zags defeated Saint Mary’s in Tuesday’s finals. The Bulldogs needed the victory to avoid being on the bubble ahead of Sunday’s announcement of the field.
“It was huge for us because nothing’s guaranteed,” Wiltjer said after the finals in a report by The Associated Press. “We didn’t want to be on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday and I’m proud of these guys for these past couple games, just having the will to win.”
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The 6-foot-10 forward, who was named first-team all-conference, leads Gonzaga in scoring with 21.8 points per game. He also averaged 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 42.4 percent from three-point range and 86.7 percent from the free-throw line.
Wiltjer likes his team’s chances despite its No. 11 seed.
“Anything can happen,” he told The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., last week. “When we have that approach where we try to take it game by game that’s when it’s really scary for teams because we can compete with anyone.”
Vanderbilt: Luke Kornet, a 7-1 junior center, is a Lexington native who averages 8.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. The Southeastern Conference’s coaches named him to their all-defensive team.
“Our best rebounder,” Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings said in January of the lightly recruited Kornet. “Our best defensive player. Our best shot blocker. Our best communicator.
“All things, honestly, I never, ever envisioned or imagined Luke would become. But Luke has become that for us.”
Luke’s dad, Frank, starred at Lexington Catholic and Vanderbilt and his sister, Nicole, is on UCLA’s roster.
Camron Justice, a freshman guard from Knott County Central who was Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball for 2015, averages 3.4 points in 9.8 minutes per game.
West Virginia: Jaysean Paige, who played his senior season at Perry County Central after moving from Jamestown, N.Y., has a starring role as a reserve guard for the Mountaineers. The 6-2 senior was named second-team All-Big 12 and won the conference’s Sixth Man Award after starting one of 33 games.
Paige leads West Virginia (26-7) in scoring at 14.1 points per game, and also averages 3.5 rebounds and shoots 78.3 percent from the line.
▪ Freshman guard James “Beetle” Bolden, who starred at Holmes, redshirted this season.
Austin Peay: Jared Savage, a freshman guard-forward out of Warren Central, is one of three Kentuckians on the roster for the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament champions.
Savage scored a career-high 24 points in the Governors’ finals victory over Tennessee-Martin. The Leaf-Chronicle of Clarksville, Tenn., reported that his performance came 20 years after his father, Jermaine, played a large role in the Govs’ 1996 title victory.
Jared Savage, who is fifth on the team in both scoring (6.5) and rebounding (3.0), said of his dad, “Whenever I committed here, he was like ‘I got a ring, you don’t have a ring so you have to try and do better than me.’ Now I’m even and still have three years to go, so I can outdo him.”
Austin Peay Coach Dave Loos, who coached both Savages, is excited about Jared’s future.
“It is almost scary to think what kind of player he could become witnessing that one game,” Loos told The Leaf-Chronicle. “A guy with that kind of confidence and talent. Wow. He could really be something.”
▪ Chris Porter-Bunton, also a freshman from Warren Central, averages 4.2 points and 1.9 rebounds. Former Louisville Trinity standout Tre’ Ivory, a sophomore, averages 0.8 points.
UNC-Asheville: Dwayne Sutton, a 6-foot-5 freshman guard from Manual, had season highs of 25 points and 18 rebounds in the Bulldogs’ Big South Conference Tournament victory over Winthrop.
“This is a great feeling,” Sutton told the Citizen-Times of Asheville after the victory. “To do it with these guys is so special. We didn’t panic.”
Sutton, who was named to the league’s all-freshman team, is second on the Bulldogs (22-11) in scoring (12.0 per game) and first in rebounding (7.8). He has led Asheville in rebounding in its last four games.
Butler: Kelan Martin is a sophomore forward out of Ballard who is second on the team in scoring (16.3) and first in rebounding (6.8).
Former Lafayette star Jackson Davis, also a sophomore, averages 2.5 points in 5.7 minutes.
Seton Hall: Senior guard Derrick Gordon, a high school teammate of former Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, starred as a freshman for Western Kentucky before transferring to Massachusetts, and then Seton Hall. Gordon was the first openly gay men’s basketball player in Division I. He will be the first player to play for three different teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Gordon, a reserve guard, averages 7.9 points and 3.2 rebounds for the Pirates.
Chattanooga: Peyton Woods, a 6-foot-3 freshman guard from Wayne County, has averaged 2.8 points and 6.5 minutes in 18 games for the winners of the Southern Conference Tournament.
UNC-Wilmington: Freshman forward Trey Grundy, who played at Henry Clay before finishing up at Hargrave Military Academy, has averaged 2.5 points and 1.2 rebounds in 7.2 minutes in 17 games.
Arkansas-Little Rock: Senior guard Jermaine Ruttley, who played at North Hardin, averages 3.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game. He spent his first two seasons at Kaskaskia College, then averaged 17.4 points and 6.7 rebounds as a junior for Florida A&M last season.
Xavier: Senior guard Remy Abell, who played his first two seasons at Indiana, starred in high school at Eastern. He averages 6.1 points and 1.5 assists in 23.8 minutes per game. Freshman walk-on guard Ashanti Burgess played for St. Xavier.
Indiana: James Blackmon Jr., who is out for the season with a knee injury, is the son of the former University of Kentucky star James Blackmon. He averaged 15.8 points in 13 games before getting hurt during practice.
Cincinnati: Zack Tobler is a junior walk-on forward out of Covington Catholic.
Coaches and staff
Arizona: Associate director of performance enhancement Chris Rounds was an assistant strength coach at Kentucky from 1997-2000. He earned his master’s in exercise science from UK in 2000.
Butler: Chris Holtmann, who played at Jessamine County in high school and spent part of his college career at Brescia, is in his second season as the Bulldogs’ head coach. He was an All-American at NAIA-level Taylor University in 1993-94.
California: Associate head coach Tracy Webster was an assistant during both of Billy Gillispie’s seasons at Kentucky. Assistant coach Wyking Jones spent the last four seasons at Louisville working for Rick Pitino.
Cincinnati: Head coach Mick Cronin was the associate head coach for Rick Pitino at Louisville for two seasons (2001-03) before leading Murray State, where he went 69-24 from 2003-06. Associate head coach Larry Davis, the dean of the Bearcats’ staff, is a Mount Sterling native who graduated from Asbury. His first head coaching job was at Cloverport High School in Breckinridge County. Assistant coach Antwon Jackson played at Pikeville College, where he graduated in 1993. Video coordinator T.J. Wolf played at Murray State.
Dayton: Head coach Archie Miller spent one season (2003-04) on Darrin Horn’s staff at Western Kentucky.
Florida Gulf Coast: Michael Fly, who played in high school for Fulton City and graduated from the University of Kentucky, is an assistant coach for the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament champions. While at UK, he was a volunteer assistant coach for Happy Osborne at Georgetown College. Lawrence Brenneman, the Eagles’ coordinator of video operations, spent seven seasons as an assistant at Western Kentucky.
Fresno State: Assistant coach Byron Jones’ previous stops include Eastern Kentucky. Nick Matson, the team’s director of basketball operations, was a graduate assistant at Murray State for Billy Kennedy in 2010-11. Special assistant Brandon Wiesemann graduated from Murray State, where he was a student assistant for the Racers for three years (2009-12).
Indiana: Head coach Tom Crean was an assistant under Ralph Willard at Western Kentucky from 1990-1994.
Iowa: Fifth-year video coordinator Al Seibert was an assistant coach at Western Kentucky from 1994-98.
Iowa State: Head coach Steve Prohm compiled a 104-29 record while leading Murray State from 2011 to 2015, and was an assistant coach for the Racers from 2006 to 2011. Assistant coach William Small spent four seasons with Prohm at Murray, and he has also worked at Western Kentucky where he recruited NBA player Courtney Lee to the Hilltoppers. Neill Berry, special assistant to the head coach, was on the staff at Western Kentucky from 2005-08.
Kansas: Assistant coach Kurtis Townsend was a point guard at Western Kentucky for two seasons (1978-80). He has also been an assistant coach at Eastern Kentucky.
Hampton: Daryl Sharp, the associate head coach for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament winners, worked for Denny Crum at Louisville as an administrative assistant for two seasons (1999-2001).
Maryland: Head associate athletic trainer Matt Charvat, an Ohio native who is in his 16th season with the Terrapins, earned his master’s degree in exercise science at Morehead State.
Notre Dame: Harold Swanagan, the Irish’s coordinator of men’s basketball operations, starred at University Heights before playing for Notre Dame from 1998-2002.
Oklahoma: Assistant coach Chris Crutchfield, a former Hopkinsville standout who played football and basketball for Nebraska-Omaha, is in his fifth year with the Sooners.
Purdue: Assistant coach Jack Owens played one season at Murray State before transferring, and he finished his playing career at Eastern Illinois.
Seton Hall: Head coach Kevin Willard played in high school at Bowling Green and in college at Western Kentucky when his father, Ralph, coached there. He was on Rick Pitino’s staff at Louisville for six seasons.
Syracuse: Director of operations Kip Wellman graduated from Transylvania and previously worked at Western Kentucky.
Texas: First-year assistant coach Darrin Horn starred in high school at Tates Creek and in college at Western Kentucky. He was an assistant at WKU, Morehead State and Marquette before taking over as head coach at Western and compiling a 111-48 record in five seasons from 2003-2008. He then spent four seasons as head coach at South Carolina.
Texas A&M: Head coach Billy Kennedy held the same job at Murray State from 2006-11. He compiled a 107-53 record with the Racers and was named the Ohio Valley Conference’s coach of the year twice. Associate head coach Rick Stansbury is a Bardstown native who played in high school at Meade County and in college at Campbellsville, where he started his coaching career as an assistant coach in 1981. Stansbury was also was an assistant at Cumberlands. Assistant coach Amir Abdur-Rahim worked with Kennedy at Murray State. Peter Warden, the assistant athletics director for men’s basketball, worked for Billy Gillispie as director of operations during both his seasons at Kentucky.
Texas Tech: Coach Tubby Smith won a national championship in his first year as Kentucky’s head coach in 1997-98, and he was there until 2007. Smith was an assistant at UK from 1989-1991. Red Raiders assistant Vince Taylor, a former Tates Creek standout who starred in college at Duke from 1978-82, is in his third season with the school. He was also with Smith at Minnesota and Rick Pitino and Denny Crum at Louisville. Zo Goodson, the director of operations, was a student manager at Kentucky from 2001-05 and was a special assistant to Smith with the Cats in 2006-07. He also worked with Smith for six seasons at Minnesota. Saul Smith, Tubby’s son, played for him at Kentucky from 1997-01 and was a special assistant on the Cats’ coaching staff in 2004. He directs video production. Former Kentucky player Derrick Jasper is the team’s assistant director of video production.
Tulsa: Assistant coach Dennis Felton led Western Kentucky from 1998–2003, including Sun Belt Conference Tournament titles in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
UNC-Wilmington: The Colonial Athletic Association Tournament champions are coached by Kevin Keatts, who was previously the associate head coach for Rick Pitino at Louisville. Assistant coach Casey Stanley has previously worked for Richard Pitino at Minnesota and Florida International, and at Louisville for Rick Pitino. Video coordinator Travis Hackert was a student manager at Louisville from 2010-14.
VCU: Assistant coach Rasheen Davis worked on Rick Pitino’s staff at Louisville in 2007-08, and for former UK walk-on Steve Masiello for three seasons at Manhattan (2012-15). Greg Goldin, director of sports performance, previously spent one season on Murray State’s staff.
Wichita State: Devon Smith, the team’s manager of player development, was previously on Rick Pitino’s staff at Louisville.
West Virginia: Graduate assistant coach Anthony Monaco played at Northern Kentucky from 2012-15.
Southern: Roman Banks, head coach of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament winners, is known for sinking a decisive free throw with 12 seconds left in Northwestern State’s defeat of Kentucky in Rupp Arena in 1988. After Reggie Hanson’s rebound basket cut the Cats’ deficit to two, UK called time with 12 seconds left. But Richie Farmer was called for a controversial intentional foul on the inbound pass. The official ruled that Farmer grabbed Roman Banks’ jersey and pulled him down seeking to get a charging call. UK lost 85-82.
Green Bay: Kerem Kanter, a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, is the brother of former UK player Enes Kanter. He averages 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in 9.4 minutes per game for the Horizon League Tournament champions.
UNC-Wilmington: Assistant coach Takayo Siddle, who played for Gardner-Webb, scored eight points and had three assists in that team’s upset of No. 20 Kentucky in Rupp Arena in 2007.
Dayton: Assistant coach Tom Ostrom has worked with John Pelphrey at South Alabama and Arkansas, Billy Donovan at Florida and Clem Haskins at Minnesota.
Baylor: Director of basketball operations Tim Maloney worked for Travis Ford at Eastern Kentucky and Massachusetts.
Colorado: Director of player development Sean Kearney started his collegiate coaching career in 1986 as a volunteer assistant for Rick Pitino on a Providence staff that also included Herb Sendek, Stu Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy.