Are Kentucky boys’ basketball coaches experiencing déjà vu?
The preseason top three teams before the 2017-18 high school season were, in order, Scott County, Trinity and Covington Catholic. The preseason top three headed into the 2018-19 season, in order? Scott County, Trinity and Covington Catholic.
It was the No. 3 team, Covington Catholic, that ultimately won out, defeating Scott County for the state championship last season. Can the Colonels repeat after losing a triumvirate of stars? The state’s coaches certainly believe in them.
Or will the Cardinals make good on their favored status this season? They’ve played in the past two state tournaments, each time falling to the eventual champion. A wealth of battle-tested seniors want to make Scott County’s final year as the only high school in Georgetown one to remember.
Trinity should have a say in the proceedings. The Shamrocks were ranked No. 1 for part of last season and might have made the finals themselves if not for a heroic Scott County shot in the final seconds of the Sweet Sixteen’s first round. They’ll have to fend off Ballard, ranked No. 4, in the 7th Region.
Madison Central, ranked fifth by the coaches, hopes to keep Scott County from repeating in the 11th Region.
Preseason boys’ top 10 teams
(Last season’s record in parentheses)
1. Scott County (37-2): A spotless record against Kentucky opponents was spoiled in the finals. Scott County lost three seniors, among them now-Charlotte freshman Cooper Robb, but return four other starters from last year’s team. That list includes Michael Moreno, a walking double-double who will contend for Mr. Basketball honors.
2. Trinity (30-4): The Shamrocks last season went undefeated against 7th Region competition, something they hadn’t done since winning a state title in 2012. They lost Justin Powell, a would-be star junior, to Montverde Academy in Florida, but boast a Mr. Basketball favorite in Louisville commit David Johnson and several other experienced seniors.
3. Covington Catholic (35-4): CovCath ended last season on a 23-game win streak and didn’t lose to an in-state opponent after December, but all five of its starters from last season graduated. Nick Thelen, a 6-foot-8 forward who’s headed to Bellarmine, moves from the bench into a starting role along with 6-6 junior Michael Mayer, who’s committed to play football for Notre Dame.
4. Ballard (27-7): The Bruins have reason to root for a recent trend to continue: Since 2012, they and Trinity have traded championships in the 7th Region, and 2019 would be Ballard’s turn. The program did not have a single player named among the top 60 in the Herald-Leader’s survey but has been a perennial threat under Chris Renner, and there’s no reason to expect anything less this season.
5. Madison Central (25-8): Isaiah Cozart, soon to be the state’s all-time career leader in blocked shots, will try to lead the Indians back to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since they won it all in 2013 (that was also the last time they played in the 11th Region finals). Seniors Quae Charlton and Deion Cox should step up in the guard spots after Central’s top two scorers graduated.
6. University Heights Academy (23-8): UHA last season ended a nine-year drought without an appearance at the state tournament, but that trip was short-lived despite a 31-point eruption from sharpshooter KyKy Tandy. The Blazers are favored to get back but will have to fend off Christian County and Madisonville in the 2nd Region.
7. Clark County (29-5): Can Josh Cook in his third season coach the Cards to their first state tournament since 2012? Campbell County twice overcame the Cardinals last season, the second time securing the 10th Region title with an overtime victory. Clark County was projected as a top-10 team last season, too, while the Camels weren’t ranked at all (as is the case this year).
8. Lexington Christian Academy (27-8): The Eagles lost two of their literal “big” three, but Kyle Rode is still around along with several key guards who led them to an All “A” Classic championship and the 11th Region finals last season. Coach Nate Valentine plans to rely more heavily on guard play but says expectations remain high.
9. Butler (27-4): Back-to-back losses capped what was otherwise a campaign to remember for the Bears, who before last season hadn’t reached 20 wins since 2013. They graduated seven players, but leading scorer Maurice Tolley (14.5 ppg) was not among them. Butler hasn’t won the 6th Region since 2010.
10. Fern Creek (27-7): The Tigers, who before 2017 had never won a region title, enter this season as the two-time defending champs in the 6th Region. Darius Washington, a 6-foot-6 forward, is a name to watch along with guards Devean Franklin and Jaden Rogers. All three are sophomores who will get to learn on the fly as they challenge Butler for regional dominance.
The next 15
With result of final contest last season.
11. Warren Central (31-6): Lost to Scott County in quarterfinals of state tournament.
12. Male (17-14): Lost to Ballard in first round of 7th Region Tournament.
13. Collins (22-10): Lost to Oldham County in first round of 8th Region Tournament.
14. Walton-Verona (26-6): Lost to South Oldham in first round of 8th Region Tournament.
15. South Laurel (22-9): Lost to Corbin in finals of 13th Region Tournament.
16. Cooper (25-6): Lost to Covington Catholic in semifinals of 9th Region Tournament.
17. Pendleton County (24-8): Lost to Paris in first round of 10th Region Tournament.
18. Hopkinsville (13-14): Lost to University Heights Academy in first round of 8th District Tournament.
19. Pleasure Ridge Park (21-11): Lost to Jeffersontown in semifinals of 6th Region Tournament.
20. LaRue County (29-3): Lost to John Hardin in finals of 5th Region Tournament.
21. Paul Laurence Dunbar (12-15): Lost to Lafayette in semifinals of 43rd District Tournament.
22. Henry Clay (18-12): Lost to Bryan Station in semifinals of 42nd District Tournament.
23. Bowling Green (23-11): Lost to Warren Central in finals of 4th Region Tournament.
24. Lexington Catholic (18-10): Lost to Lexington Christian Academy in semifinals of 43rd District Tournament.
25. Mayfield (26-7): Lost to McCracken County in semifinals of 1st Region Tournament.
Our annual survey was emailed to all 271 KHSAA boys’ basketball coaches in Kentucky, using their email registered with the KHSAA. Multiple attempts were made to encourage every school to participate. Coaches were asked to select their top 10 teams, and points were assigned based on a team’s position on the ballot (10 points for No. 1, nine points for No. 2, eight points for No. 3, etc.), and tabulated across all ballots received; some schools participated in the survey but declined to vote due to unfamiliarity with players and teams outside of their own.
A total of 127 schools (46.9 percent) responded to the survey and are recognized here: Adair County, Allen County-Scottsville, Ashland Blazer, Atherton, Ballard Memorial, Bardstown, Barren County, Bath County, Beechwood, Belfry, Berea, Boyle County, Breathitt County, Breckinridge County, Brown, Buckhorn, Butler County, Campbellsville, Carlisle County, Central, Central Hardin, Christian Academy of Louisville, Christian County, Clark County, Clinton County, Collegiate, Collins, Cooper, Corbin, Covington Catholic, Covington Holy Cross, Danville, Daviess County, DeSales, Dixie Heights, Eastern, Elliott County, Estill County, Fairdale, Fleming County, Floyd Central, Franklin County, Frederick Douglass, Fulton County, Gallatin County, Garrard County, Glasgow, Graves County, Grayson County, Greenup County, Hancock County, Harlan County, Harrison County, Henderson County, Henry Clay, Hickman County, Highlands, Hopkinsville, Iroquois, John Hardin, Johnson Central, Kentucky School for the Deaf, Knox Central, Lafayette, Lawrence County, Letcher County Central, Lexington Catholic, Lexington Christian Academy, Louisville Holy Cross, Ludlow, Madison Central, Madison Southern, Madisonville, Male, Marshall County, Mason County, Mayfield, McCracken County, Mercer County, Metcalfe County, Middlesboro, Monroe County, Montgomery County, Muhlenberg County, Newport, Newport Central Catholic, North Laurel, Owen County, Owensboro Catholic, Paintsville, Paris, Pendleton County, Perry County Central, Phelps, Pineville, Portland Christian, Prestonsburg, Rowan County, Sayre, Scott, Shelby County, Shelby Valley, Sheldon Clark, Simon Kenton, Somerset, Southern, South Oldham, Spencer County, St. Mary, St. Patrick, St. Xavier, Tates Creek, Trinity, University Height Academy, Villa Madonna, Waggener, Walton-Verona, Warren Central, Warren East, Wayne County, West Jessamine, Western, Western Hills, Whitesville Trinity, Williamsburg, Wolfe County, Woodford County