The athletic department of the new Frederick Douglass High School, set to open in August, has added two new family members.
Kurt Young was introduced as boys’ basketball head coach and Shawn Ransom as girls’ basketball head coach on Friday during a press conference at a pizza restaurant just down the street from the school’s Winchester Road campus.
Young, who graduated from East Carter High School in 1990 after earning four letters in basketball, spent last year as boys’ head coach at Mercer County, leading the Titans to a 25-8 record, the 46th District championship and a runner-up finish in the 12th Region in his lone season with the program. He landed with Mercer County last October after leading Hopewell High School in Virginia to a runner-up finish in the state tournament.
Young spent 20 years as an assistant coach in the college ranks, including a two-year stint under Happy Osborne at Georgetown College and most recently a five-year run as the top assistant at Northern Kentucky University before moving to Virginia.
Frederick Douglass Athletic Director Garry McPeek said Young’s wealth of experience and successful track record make him a perfect choice to helm a fledgling program.
“The bottom line is we were looking for someone who has been there and done that,” McPeek said. “He’s had success on so many levels and he’s coached a wide range of diverse student-athletes and we feel like he’s the guy who can bring it all together and put an awesome product on the court.”
Young said he agonized over the decision to leave Mercer County, a perennial contender in the 11th Region, but that the opportunity to build a program from the ground up was ultimately too tempting to pass up.
“It was a very tough transition ... we weren’t looking to move,” Young said. “But this is unique. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if you’re a coach to have a challenge like this to start a program.”
Ransom, a native of Paris and graduate of Bourbon County High School, comes to Frederick Douglass after spending the last four seasons as girls’ head coach at Bryan Station. In 2016, he led the Defenders to the 42nd District championship and the 11th Region finals, where they fell to eventual state runner-up Franklin County. Ransom has spent 17 years coaching in the 11th Region, including stops at Bourbon County and Lafayette as an assistant coach.
McPeek said Ransom’s familiarity with the Central Kentucky basketball landscape made him an attractive candidate, but his energetic approach and infectious attitude put him over the top.
“Shawn’s done a great job at Bryan Station so the track record is there,” McPeek said. “ But also, he just lights up the room. When he came in to start the interview I immediately got excited, and when someone can excite me like that I can only imagine what he can do for that 16- or 17-year-old teenager he’s coaching. His attitude is contagious”
Ransom’s enthusiasm for his new challenge was evident as he spoke to the media.
“I may get emotional right now, I just can’t believe it, it’s like a dream come true,” he said. “Having the chance to be the first coach in school history and being able to lead students and be a role model and get this thing off the ground it pretty much was a no-brainer.”
Asked about the expectations for the basketball programs early on, McPeek emphasized that establishing the right type of culture was first on the agenda.
“We want to make sure that our kids are competitive, but the most important thing is we want to build character,” he said. “We want our kids to grow as people, so we’ll base everything we do off that goal.”
Frederick Douglass’ incoming student body will vote to decide the school’s mascot on the first day of classes this fall, McPeek told the Herald-Leader on Friday.
In January, the school announced that all boys’ and girls’ teams would be referred to as “Stallions,” but after receiving some negative feedback Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk announced that additional input would be sought and students would choose a “horse-themed” mascot.
They’ll make that choice during an assembly at the school’s auditorium, where they’ll likely use a mobile application to select from among a range of mascot options, McPeek said.