High School Sports

Mike Fields notebook: April 16

Jefferson County to keep middle-schoolers out of high school sports

It has always been discomfiting for me to see middle-school kids playing high school athletics, no matter how talented they are. It seems simple logic that high school sports should be for high school kids only.

Most states don't allow middle-schoolers to make that competitive jump, but Kentucky does. (That's why O.J. Mayo crossed the border from West Virginia to play basketball at Rose Hill Christian in Ashland. You can't convince me that was a good thing.) We even have a law — Kentucky Revised Statute 156.070 (subsection 2.C) — that allows middle-schoolers to compete on the high school level.

But Louisville has made a move to stop the practice. Starting with the 2010-11 school year, the state's largest school system will not allow middle-schoolers to play high school sports. Jerry Wyman, director of athletics for Jefferson County public schools, said the state law can be sidestepped by local policy. Louisville's high school and middle school principals came to a consensus on the new restrictions.

Wyman said Louisville's middle-school athletics are being expanded and upgraded so those kids have plenty of opportunities to compete. "We've worked extremely hard to get our middle-school programs up to snuff," he said. "We used to just have basketball, cheerleading and dance (teams). Now we have nearly everything."

Louisville's middle schools offer baseball, basketball, cross country, field hockey, flag football, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. Wrestling is offered at some schools, and Wyman is trying to get a limited swimming league going and possibly tackle football.

"Most of the negative feedback we've gotten is from parents of kids who are already playing up," Wyman said. "They're advocates for their kids, and I understand that.

"But we've had quite a bit of positive feedback, too."

Wyman noted that the new policy will open up more spots on high school teams for high school kids who might have previously been displaced by middle-schoolers.

Don't expect Fayette County to follow Jefferson County's lead on this issue. Lexington's middle-school athletic programs aren't nearly as extensive as Louisville's. Don Adkins, who oversees athletics for Fayette County's public schools, cited KRS 156.070 when asked about middle-schoolers playing on the high school level.

■ Lexington Christian grad Tyler Oliver is one of the leading home run hitters in junior college baseball. A sophomore at Wabash Valley in Mount Carmel, Ill., the 6-2, 230-pound sophomore has 16 homers in 31 games. Only two other players have more. Oliver's 52 RBI also rank in the top 10. Oliver began his college career at Marshall. He transferred to Morehead State before he wound up at Wabash Valley.

■ Corbin sophomore Trace Vorbeck found his long-ball groove against South Laurel this week. In a Monday home game, Vorbeck hit a grand slam against the Cardinals. In a Tuesday road game, he hit a pair of homers — a three-run blast and a solo shot — in one inning against South Laurel. Corbin had two other homers in that inning. "I've been coaching 20 years, and I don't think I've seen a team hit four home runs in the same inning before," said Redhounds Coach Rob Ledington, who noted that South Laurel's field has relatively short dimensions. "But I don't want to diminish what our kids did," he said. Corbin is a free-swinging team, which is reflected in their 114 strikeouts in 14 games. "We like to be aggressive at the plate," Ledington said. "I'd like to see us cut down the strikeouts, but I want us to keep swinging hard."

■ Lafayette senior outfielder/pitcher Chad Warner will attend Transylvania and play baseball. A 3.9 honors student, Warner accepted the academic Morrison Scholarship. He chose Transy over Centre and Asbury.

■ Paul Laurence Dunbar third baseman Ryan Heim will play college baseball at Olney Central in Illinois.

■ The Kentucky-Indiana all-star basketball games will probably mark the end of Tommy Adams' coaching career. He did not have his contract renewed after 20 years as girls' coach at Hart County, where his teams went 375-231 and won three region titles in 20 years. Adams, 62, is head coach of the girls' Kentucky All-Stars. Tryouts for the girls' and boys' all-star teams are Friday and Saturday at Campbellsville University. Mike Listerman of Covington Catholic is the boys' all-stars coach. The teams will be announced next week. Kentucky will play Indiana on June 11 at Bellarmine in Louisville, and June 12 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

■ Indiana's Mr. Basketball is Deshaun Thomas, a 6-7, 220-pound Parade All-American who has signed with Ohio State. Thomas averaged 32.5 points for Fort Wayne Bishop Luers this season, and he scored 3,018 points in his career. Former UK player James Blackmon was his coach at Bishop Luers.

■ Julian Tackett was a happy man Tuesday when he was named commissioner of the KHSAA, where he has worked since 1984. But he got emotional when he talked about three people not at his news conference: his mother, Sue Edmiston, who lives in Florida; Johnny Ginn, the KHSAA's longtime physical plant director, who was out getting a pacemaker; and Ray Brown, Tackett's father-in-law, who died last week. Tackett also noted what he learned from the four previous commissioners: Tom Mills — "How to be firm but fair." Billy Wise: "A firm handshake and learning people's first names gets you a long way." Louis Stout: "Being popular isn't near as important as doing what's best for kids." Brigid DeVries: "Little things really do matter, like taking time to say thank you, and reminding people of our purpose."

■ Mike Allen's hiring as Bryan Station's boys' basketball coach prompted memories of his senior season (1988-89) when he averaged 34 points for the Defenders. He topped 40 points in 12 games, and twice reached 50. He was an offensive machine the likes of which we haven't seen in Lexington since.

■ Kentucky's John Calipari isn't the only college coach who's showing interest in West Jessamine star Jarrod Polson. Colts Coach Damon Kelley said he's recently been contacted by Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, Nichols State, Montana State and Liberty about Polson.

■ Franklin County's Vance Hall was Kentucky's MVP in the all-stars' loss to Ohio at Thomas More College last weekend. Hall had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists. He also won the three-point shooting contest, beating Ohio State signee Aaron Craft in the finals. Hall has offers from Division II schools Lincoln Memorial and Gannon. He is also drawing interest from Appalachian State, Gannon, New Haven, Pacific, Kentucky Wesleyan and Chattanooga.

■ Holmes star Elijah Pittman signed with Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla., and he said he hopes to eventually wind up at West Virginia. Holmes' teammate Jeremiah Johnson, meanwhile, is headed to Campbellsville University. Pittman and Johnson were key players on Holmes' 2009 state title team, along with Ricardo Johnson, Jeremiah's brother. Ricardo signed with Ohio University.

■ Jeffersontown's Thomas Jackson committed to Kankakee Junior College in Illinois.

■ Bob Hall, who coached Maysville and Fleming County to the boys' Sweet Sixteen in the 1970s, died a couple weeks ago. He was 80.

■ Wishes for a speedy recovery to former college and high school basketball coach Guy Strong, who had quadruple bypass surgery last week. Strong, who'll be 80 in June, must wait a couple of months before swinging a golf club again.

■ Dave Fraley, who returned to coaching last season and led Knott County Central to the boys' Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1993, is calling it quits again. "The real difficulty was keeping my home in Somerset, living in Hindman, and having my kids and grandkids still in Somerset," he said. "It was more stress being separated from all of them than I wanted it to be." Fraley has a career record of 690-241 in 31 years. He also led Powell County and Pulaski County to the state tournament, highlighted by a state title at Pulaski County in 1986. Fraley, 67, got out of coaching twice before, only to return. That's why he won't rule out getting back in the game again. Knott Central has named Barry "B.B." King as its new coach. King played for the Patriots 30 years ago and is the program's second all-time leading scorer with 1,856 points. He was a Patriots assistant coach from 1989-93, and he was also an assistant at Letcher Central.

■ The Adidas Appalachian All-Star Classic is this weekend at Perry Central. The boys' tripleheader tips off Saturday, at 2 p.m., and the girls take the court Sunday at 3. The games will feature players, ranging from eighth-graders to seniors, from the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th regions. The boys' games will be televised on the Wazoo sports network.

■ The 8th annual Gene Lowe junior all-star game will be April 29 at 7 p.m. at Berea College. It will match the top seniors-to-be from the 10th and 12th regions, against the 11th and 13th regions.

■ Stan Steidel, former Dayton coach and athletic director, and the driving force behind the All "A" Classic, will be inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Sioux Falls, S.D., in June.