The first Mr. Basketball award was presented to Lafayette’s Vernon Hatton in 1954.
The first Miss Basketball award was presented to Newport’s Donna Murphy in 1976.
Winners before have hailed from the same region — Apollo’s Rex Chapman and Owensboro Catholic’s Kris Miller swept from the 3rd Region in 1986 — and six schools have produced a Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball winner in their programs’ histories.
But no school has swept the awards in the same season, which is what it appears Mercer County could do next Tuesday when the winners are revealed during a banquet at the Lexington Center.
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Trevon Faulkner, who’s headed to Northern Kentucky University, and Seygan Robins, a University of Louisville signee, were selected as the top player for their respective genders by coaches in the preseason and have done nothing in their senior seasons to dispel those expectations. Faulkner is 10th in the state at 25.9 points per game and has the boys again in contention for a 12th Region title. Robins averages a team-high 14.3 points for the girls, who on Saturday won their fourth straight region championship.
Josh Hamlin is in his first season leading the boys’ team, but he was an assistant on the girls’ side last season, so he has gotten to regularly witness both players firsthand.
“Having two players represent Mr. and Miss Basketball possibly that you were able to coach in back-to-back seasons is definitely something that’s pretty neat and I’m extremely happy for both of them,” Hamlin said. “... They’ve done a lot of things that kids in Kentucky dream of. Playing in Rupp Arena, winning a state championship, being Mr. and Miss Basketball finalists, hitting game-winning shots, going Division I. They’ve lived the high school dream, so winning Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball would cap that off.”
‘That’s just her game’
Robins has achieved a lot in her high school career. She has been named to the last two Herald-Leader All-State teams and is a lock for a third, and was named Sweet Sixteen MVP after leading the Titans to their first state title in program history. ESPN ranks the future Cardinal as a five-star prospect and as the 12th-best guard in the nation.
The biggest knock on Robins’ candidacy — her senior-season stat averages — is attributable to her playing style and a product of playing with four other college-bound players. Still, she has scored more than 2,500 points, dished out 800-plus assists and had more than 500 steals in six seasons of varsity action.
“She’s just the ultimate team player and that, to me, is what Miss Basketball’s all about,” Chris Souder, her coach, said. “If it’s just about points, she’s not gonna do that because we’ve got too many good players on our team and she wants them all involved. That’s what makes our team so special.”
Robins’ range of impact was perhaps not on better display than in a back-to-back situation on Feb. 9 and Feb. 10. She scored a game-high 25 points on 50-percent shooting in a win over Casey County on a Friday night. Less than 24 hours later she only took — and made — one shot in a rout of Butler. She had 11 assists that afternoon.
“The cool thing about Seygan is we get a running clock against a top-10 team and she scores two points and has 11 assists,” Souder said. “That’s just Seygan. We saw there late that she’s passing up shots to get it to other people. That’s just her game.”
The Sweet Sixteen MVP selection is a recognition exclusive to Robins in a deep class of Miss Basketball finalists. Molly Lockhart, a friend and fellow U of L signee, is the only other finalist with a state championship to her name; she came off the bench for the Butler squad that won it all in 2016.
Voting for the awards ended on Feb. 23, so any achievements after that will go unconsidered. That was another boost to Robins, who isn’t all that concerned about whether her name gets called next week.
“I want to win it, but it’s definitely not at the top of my mind,” Robins said. “It’s not something that I’m thinking about when I’m out there playing. I’m just thinking about winning the game I’m in and my ultimate goal is to win state.”
Faulkner has a chance to become a member of the 3,000-point/1,100-rebound club, a fraternity that currently only includes five players in the history of KHSAA boys’ basketball, if he gets at least 17 points and 10 rebounds against Somerset in the 12th Region semifinals on Monday.
As a sophomore he was the leading scorer for a 33-2 team that made the Sweet Sixteen — the school’s second ever — and was at times ranked No. 1 in the state. The downside? It met eventual champion Paul Laurence Dunbar in the first round, or perhaps Faulkner, like Robins, would have a Sweet Sixteen to bolster his résumé.
“Thinking about that has been driving me this whole senior year,” Faulkner said. “And I don’t want to go out losing in the 12th Region championship again. Every time I think about it I feed off of it more and I want these guys to get that feeling, too. To be on Rupp Arena’s floor, playing in front of all of those fans. It’s a great experience and I want these guys to have it, too.”
Faulkner was unable to lead the Titans back to the state tournament despite a 37-point outpouring in last year’s finals loss against Pulaski County. The senior could get another crack at the Maroons this season depending on how the rest of this year’s region tournament plays out.
Coming into the season, none of the Mr. Basketball finalists had won a state title, and only four others had played in the Sweet Sixteen. One of them was co-12th Region Player of the Year Steven Fitzgerald, a Samford signee with whom Faulkner possibly could split votes, though it’s also possible some pollsters could have docked Fitzgerald for his transfer from Southwestern to Pulaski County between his sophomore and junior seasons.
Faulkner has logged varsity minutes for Mercer County since he was in seventh grade. He also was a standout on the football field, earning first-team All-State honors as a defensive back in the fall. Notre Dame, Duke, UK and WKU were involved in his football recruitment at various times.
“He had numerous people that were extremely interested in him for football,” Hamlin said. “When he committed to NKU (for basketball) everybody was like, ‘Why are you doing it so early?’ and Trevon’s likem ‘That’s the best fit for me.’ Could he maybe play somewhere else? Yea, maybe. … He doesn’t care that other people say, ‘Oh, you could’ve gone here.’”
Both Faulkner and Robins agreed that bringing the awards to their school in the same season would be cool, but both have prioritized getting to the Sweet Sixteen over the individual honor.
They’re probably the best basketball players to ever come out of Harrodsburg, but they don’t hang out with one another too much.
“We have a couple classes together and talk some, but I wouldn’t consider us super close friends,” Robins said. “I don’t know? We’ve never really seen each other much at school or anything, so I guess that’s why.”
They’ve seen one another play, though, and have a mutual respect for one another’s abilities. And so do their coaches.
“I’ve been to more boys’ games this year because I wanted to see some of the other guys out there, and I can just say that Trevon plays the game hard and is real passionate about what he does,” Souder said. “I really haven’t seen a better player.”
Souder likened Faulkner’s ability to affect a game to Robins in the sense that his scoring could take a backseat if necessary. In a win this season over Southwestern, Faulkner passed out of a go-ahead opportunity to find a teammate for a game-winning shot.
“How many other best players won’t have too big of an ego to say, ‘No, this is my team, this is my ball,’” Hamlin said. “That’s the same thing that people look at with Seygan, too. They say, ‘Oh well, she’s only averaging 13 or 14 points.’ I promise you, if she wanted to, Seygan could score 25 or 30 points every game. But she’s a team-first player. And that’s what makes them so rare.”
Note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that Bell County’s Maci Morris and Knott County Central’s Camron Justice won Miss and Mr. Basketball out of the 14th Region. Bell County plays in the 13th Region.
Schools that have had Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball winners:
Apollo: Rex Chapman (1986), Laurie Townsend (1994)
Christian County: Arnika Brown (2006), Anthony Hickey (2011)
Elizabethtown: Steffphon Pettigrew (2007), Erin Boley (2016)
Highlands: Jaime Walz (1996), Ross Neltner (2003)
Holmes: Doug Schloemer (1978), Eric Hallman (2002)
Scott County: Ukari Figgs (1995), Rick Jones (1999), Scott Hundley (2000), Rebecca Gray (2007)