Christmas will come a little late for basketball stars Chris Gillispie of Bourbon County and Jay Johnson of Woodford County. They will probably have to wait a week or two to get the gift of resuming their hoops careers.
Gillispie and Johnson each suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in June, had knee surgery in July, and are now in the final stages of rehabilitation.
The standard timeline for playing basketball again after an ACL repair is six months. Gillispie had surgery on July 5, so Bourbon County Coach Jay Bordas hopes his 6-foot-2 junior guard is back in the lineup when the Colonels visit Augusta on Jan. 6. Johnson had his operation on July 13, so Woodford County Coach Scott Hundley hopes his big man returns for the Yellowjackets' game at Franklin County on Jan. 13.
"We're not going to make any rash decision," Hundley said. "We're going to make sure Jay is all the way healed up. Ultimately, it's about next year (when he's in college), not this year."
Johnson, a 6-7 senior who has signed with Tennessee Tech, tore his ACL in an AAU game at Kentucky Basketball Academy. "Six months is a long time to sit out," he said. "I hate just watching. I want to get back as soon as I can." Johnson, who averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds last season, said the mental part of trusting his repaired left knee will be the hardest part of his comeback. "But the doctor says there's no way I'll tear it again if I do everything right, so I'm doing everything right."
Gillispie, who averaged 20 points last season, injured his right knee in his home gym on the last day of summer hoops. He said it brought tears to his eyes when he was told that he'd be sidelined until January. "I wanted so bad to get back into the game. I know the mental part will be tough, but I'll just go out and play my hardest and everything will be OK."
Bordas, like Hundley, isn't about to rush his player's return. "As bad as we want him now or at the end of the season, we want what's right for Chris. He's like a son to me." Bordas said Gillispie, who had a school-record 51 points in a game last season, has taken an unofficial visit to WKU, and is also getting attention from EKU, Tennessee Tech, Cornell and Charleston Southern.
■ Perry County Central senior Kendall Noble is a great example of a player who's come back strong after ACL surgery. Noble suffered her injury in the Commodores' first-round game in the Sweet Sixteen last March. She had surgery April 15, worked hard in rehab for 61/2 months before resuming full basketball activity on Nov. 1. Coach Randy Napier said that while Noble's conditioning is "not quite there, she's playing at a real high level. It's remarkable how she's recovered." It didn't take long for Noble to regain the look of a Miss Basketball candidate. "The first game out she was a little tentative," Napier said. "But midway through the second game, she was back being Kendall. It was like the light went on and she realized, 'I'm OK.'"
Noble is averaging close to a quadruple-double -— 14.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 8.9 assists and 7.0 steals — despite playing a little more than a half in some Perry Central blowouts. Napier said the injury changed Noble's outlook on basketball. "Now she wants to play so bad. You can tell she's going to savor every second of it. You have to be happy for her."
College recruiters cooled off on Noble after her injury, but Napier thinks they'll be back once they see she's regained her form. "There's a lot of folks playing on the Division I level not as good as she is. She's just gifted."
■ Green County senior and WKU signee Micah Jones is another ACL comeback story. She missed her junior season with a torn ACL, but had a school-record 42 points in a season-opening victory over Barren County.
■ Carroll County star Hannah Devine, one of the top players in the 8th Region, suffered a torn ACL in the second game of the season and will miss the rest of her senior year. She is scheduled to have surgery Friday. Devine, who averaged 25 points as a junior, had 1,723 points and was on pace to break Whitney Ballinger's program scoring record of 1,853 points. Devine has a 4.0 GPA and ranks No. 1 academically in her senior class. "The good news," Coach Randy Mefford said, "is that she will play basketball again. She has verbally committed to Thomas More next season."
■ Pendleton County outlasted Covington Catholic 100-94 in four overtimes in a game that winning coach Chad Simms described as "crazy" and "nuts." CovCath's Nick Ruthsatz hit a three-pointer from almost half court to force the third OT. Pendleton County's Gabe Antrobus hit a long three to force a fourth OT. "Everybody was worn out," Simms said. "But every time our guys came to the bench in those overtimes, they were clapping. It was a fun kind of thing." Mason Monroe, who had cramps in both legs, led the winners with 37 points. Ruthsatz had 31 for CovCath.
■ Dixie Heights outscored Lexington Catholic 13-0 over the last 2:40 to pull out a 67-61 victory in the Kentucky Bank Shootout at Bourbon County last week. It wasn't the first time a Northern Kentucky team had staged such a dramatic comeback against the Knights. In 2004, Bishop Brossart outscored host Lexington Catholic 19-0 in the last five minutes to beat the Knights 50-42 in the quarterfinals of their holiday tournament.
■ Will Trinity, pre-season No. 1 in boys' hoops, become the first school to win a state football title and Sweet Sixteen championship in the same school year? The Shamrocks are off to a 5-0 start, including wins over No. 3 Scott County and No. 4 Rowan County. This weekend they begin play in the City of Palms in Florida, a 16-team holiday tournament that includes five teams in USA Today's Super 25 — No. 2 Miller Grove (Ga.), No. 6 Mater Dei (Calif.), No. 7 Montverde (Fla.), No. 9 Bishop Gorman (Nev.) and No. 25 Gill St. Bernard (N.J). Trinity will play in the Republic Bank Classic at Lexington Catholic the week after Christmas.
■ Mason County will honor the memory of one of its biggest supporters with the inaugural US Bank Mike Murphy Classic Dec. 20-22. Murphy, who died in February, was Mason County's baseball coach, and groundskeeper for the school's sports fields. He was also the basketball team's bus driver and timekeeper. Seven of the eight teams in the tournament have coaches who had a connection to Murphy, either as a player or assistant at Mason County. First-round on Dec. 20: Madison Central vs. Ashland Blazer, 4; Cooper vs. Simon Kenton, 5:30; Mason County vs. St. Patrick, Pike County Central vs. Russell County, 7; Pike Central vs. Russell County, 8:30.
■ Casey County senior Megan Pittman, who's had a double-double in all four games this season, tied her career high with 36 points, including 9-for-9 free throws, and had 11 rebounds in a win over Somerset on Tuesday.
■ Brandon Stockton, who was Mr. Basketball in 2002 at Glasgow, has joined the Scotties' staff as an assistant to Jeff Hall. Stockton played college ball at UK.
■ Anderson County's 6-1 senior center Sydney Brown, a four-year starter, signed with Jacksonville State.
■ Johnson Central senior J.J. Jude has made a quick transition from football to wrestling. After becoming the state's all-time leading rusher (8,637 yards) in football this fall, Jude was the MVP in a 32-team wrestling tournament in Kingsport, Tenn., last weekend. Jude, undefeated state champ at 171 pounds last year, is competing in the same weight class this year.
■ Highlands quarterback Patrick Towles, who has committed to UK, won the Paul Hornung Award as the top player in the state. Towles earlier was named Gatorade's player of the year in Kentucky, and he's the favorite to win Mr. Football honors.
■ Franklin County senior Abbi Stamper signed to play college golf at Murray State. She had a 77.8 scoring average this season and was Region 7 player of the year. Stamper helped the Flyers reach the state tournament where she finished sixth.
■ Will Branham of Pike-ville and Logan Hogge of Bath County will play college golf at Morehead State. Branham played in six state tournaments. Hogge qualified for three of the past four state tournaments.
■ The Greater Louisville all-stars beat the Kentucky all-stars 38-27 in the Best of the Bluegrass football game at St. Xavier on Sunday. St. X quarterback Alex Mattingly threw for 189 yards and four TDs on his home field, and ran for 69 yards and one TD. Scooter Hollis, who quarterbacked Bowling Green to the 5A state title, ran for two scores and threw for another to lead the Kentucky team. Bryan Station linebacker Everett Talbert was defensive MVP for the Kentucky squad.