High School Basketball

‘It’s a joke.’ Former player defends suspended Kentucky high school basketball coach.

Western Kentucky’s Justin Johnson had a standout career for the Hilltoppers out of Perry County Central. In high school, Johnson played three seasons for embattled Floyd Central coach Kevin Spurlock - two at Sheldon Clark and one at Perry County Central. Johnson defended his coach against allegations of bad conduct in a Twitter post this week.
Western Kentucky’s Justin Johnson had a standout career for the Hilltoppers out of Perry County Central. In high school, Johnson played three seasons for embattled Floyd Central coach Kevin Spurlock - two at Sheldon Clark and one at Perry County Central. Johnson defended his coach against allegations of bad conduct in a Twitter post this week. AP

Justin Johnson, a former standout basketball player for Sheldon Clark and Perry County Central who went on to star at Western Kentucky University, defended his former high school coach on Twitter this week after news broke about his suspension at Floyd Central.

Kevin Spurlock was suspended three games for “conduct unbecoming of a coach” by the Floyd County Board of Education after an investigation into allegations leveled against him this season. The allegations came from players and parents. Eight players subsequently left the team after the board refused to dismiss Spurlock.

Johnson, now a pro player in Italy, played for Spurlock at Sheldon Clark and Perry County Central.

“I have been contacted and asked about the Kevin Spurlock situation multiple times. I personally think it’s a joke. This man is family to me,” Johnson wrote in a lengthy post on his Twitter account. “I played for him 3 years and he changed my life. I can call him right now and he would do anything for me. People do not see how he cares.”

Johnson went on to say that parents are too caught up in team politics and players today have become soft.

“We went at it every day in practice. We argued, and he was tough on me,” Johnson explained. “But without him I don’t know that I would be making a living playing the game of basketball right now.”

Johnson, a 6-foot-7 forward from Hazard, signed a pro contract this summer with Cagliari Dinamo Academy, a second-tier team in Italy’s professional league. At WKU, Johnson was a first team All-Conference USA selection and the team’s leading scorer and rebounder his senior year. He is 10th on WKU’s all-time scoring list and fifth on its all-time rebounding list.

Johnson prefaced his post by saying his comments might cause him to take some heat and lose some friends, but “I’m fine with it.”

Spurlock led Hazard to the All “A” Classic title in 2004 and the Sweet Sixteen in 2006, but his 14-season head coaching career has been marked by abrupt changes and other controversies.

In Spurlock’s first season at Sheldon Clark when Johnson was a freshman in 2010-11, the Cardinals’ leading scorer and “a couple of other players” quit the team early in the season, according to a report in the Herald-Leader. B.J. Moore averaged 25.4 points as a sophomore and was averaging about 20 points per game as a junior before bowing out in December. He was likely a leading candidate for 15th Region player of the year.

“I got along good with him,” Spurlock told the Herald-Leader of Moore at the time. “There were no blowups between us. I just don’t think his heart’s in basketball.”

Moore returned for his senior season and averaged 16.9 points per game alongside Johnson. It would be Spurlock’s last season at Sheldon Clark.

The next year, Spurlock took the Perry County Central job and Johnson, a junior, followed him there, sitting out the first month of the season due to transfer rules.

Spurlock led the Commodores to a 26-8 record and a runner-up finish in the 14th Region, but resigned after one season in what was reported to be a “mutual decision” with the administration.

“It’s probably best for them and best for me,” Spurlock told the Herald-Leader, also noting the decision was difficult for Johnson.

“The biggest regret is not being able to finish it off with Justin,” Spurlock said. “We had kind of a father-son relationship. He’s hurt about this.”

In Spurlock’s 14 seasons as a head coach, he’s been with six different programs, including a one-year stint at Trimble County, four seasons at Hazard, four seasons at Clay County, two seasons at Sheldon Clark, one season at Perry County Central and the last two seasons at Floyd Central. He’s had eight 20-plus win seasons, compiling a record of 267-136.

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