Taylor County’s Quentin Goodin. Newport Central Catholic’s Ben Weyer. South Laurel’s Caleb Taylor.
Taveion Hollingsworth did something none of those Mr. Basketball finalists did Sunday, earning Sweet Sixteen MVP honors after leading Paul Laurence Dunbar to its first boys’ state championship Sunday afternoon at Rupp Arena. He averaged 21.5 points on 52.4-percent shooting en route to being named the top player when the dust settled.
After his four-game stint in Rupp, the junior will almost certainly enter next season as the favorite to win 11th Region Player of the Year honors and the Mr. Basketball crown.
“It didn’t feel any different at all,” Hollingsworth said of Dunbar’s 61-52 win over Doss in the finals. “It was just a normal game. I played my game like I usually play.”
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His game is distinct from that of his father, Maurice Hollingsworth, who was a 1,000-point scorer at Harlan Independent in the late 1980s.
“I was nothing like my son,” Maurice said. “He’s a lot better than I was. My game was quickness and going to the hole. He has the mid-range. That’s what’s different between me and him.”
It didn’t feel any different at all. … I played my game like I usually play.
Maurice added with a laugh, “Of course he’s 6-3 and I’m 5-11.” Maurice’s dad, also named Maurice, played college football at Morehead State after starring at Harlan in the 1960s.
Taveion’s mother, Kathy Sweat, also scored more than 1,000 points at Harlan. She played for the Dragons from 1994 to 1997.
Sweat has had a hard time sleeping because she knows the pressure Dunbar faced all week. She reached 13th Region finals as a player and also won her share of high school tournament MVP honors back in the day.
“I know the feeling. It is great,” Sweat said. “I’m so proud of my baby. Team Taveion all the way.”
Taveion’s dream would be to follow in the footsteps of a recent Sweet Sixteen MVP, Dominique Hawkins, and play his college home games in Rupp Arena. Among his current offers are Eastern Kentucky, East Tennessee State and Winthrop.
“That’s what he wants and whatever he wants, that’s what I want for him,” Sweat said.
Dunbar’s two-time champion
There was one two-time state champion on the pedestal as Dunbar posed with its championship trophy on Sunday.
Justin Kelley, the senior forward who seldom stuffed the stat sheet but often went the distance for the Bulldogs all season, was a sophomore on the Dunbar boys’ soccer team that won the state title in 2013. That squad, like this edition of the basketball team, was ranked No. 1 entering the tournament.
“Two rings, oh my God,” Kelley said. “ … We started 0-8 (last season). I never anticipated this. I knew we were gonna be good. I’m never thought we’d make it this far, but I’m so glad we did.”
Kelley, a member of the 11th Region All-Tournament soccer team this past fall, said he couldn’t choose which ring meant more to him.
“Equal,” he said. “I love them both. I love both sports.”