Kentucky high school seniors Kilian Ledford and Maaliya Owens will walk away with some significant hardware after this year’s Mr. and Miss Basketball awards ceremony.
Ledford, of Harlan Independent, and Owens, of Scott County, were named this year’s winners of the Wah Wah Jones Award and Donna L.J. Murphy Award, respectively, by the Kentucky Lion’s Eye Foundation on Friday.
Ledford is the second Wah Wah Jones Award winner out of Harlan, where Jones starred as a prep athlete. The award, named for the University of Kentucky star, is annually presented to a male athlete who excels in multiple sports for his high school while also performing well in the classroom and in the community. Jones, who died in 2014, was an All-American in basketball and football while at UK and won a gold medal in the 1948 Olympics.
While at Harlan, Ledford has played basketball, baseball, football and ran track while also keeping a 4.0 GPA. He finished his junior football season with a broken wrist and played part of his junior basketball season with the injury, but not before scoring his 1,000th career point prior to having surgery.
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Ledford is averaging 15.9 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Dragons in his final basketball season. He scored an average of 18.3 points a game for the football team in just seven games as a senior.
“He is a four-sport athlete, a Governor’s Scholar, a MathCounts scholarship winner and a student who possesses outstanding character wherever he is placed,” Harlan track-and-field coach Tara Posey said in a news release. “There have been times when I’ve pushed him out of his comfort zone and asked him to run a middle distance race when he is a sprinter. Just as I suspected, he rose to the challenge and posted a time, in that unfamiliar distance, that shot him to third in our region.”
The Donna L.J. Murphy Award is given each year to a female senior basketball player who exemplifies the meaning of being a great student athlete. Murphy was the state’s first Miss Basketball winner after averaging 35 points and 20 rebounds as a senior at Newport in 1976.
Owens, a possible finalist for the Miss Basketball award, is the first recipient from Scott County and the fifth recipient overall. A Tennessee Tech signee, she leads the Cardinals with 19.3 points per game and has shot 44.3 percent from the 3-point line on 203 attempts, a team high. She’s maintained a 3.9 GPA and is one of four girls to reach 2,000 points at Scott County.
“As an aspiring orthodontist who has played varsity since eighth grade I’ve learned that strong commitment to discipline is required to succeed,” Owens said in the release. “Basketball has taught me many important life skills including the importance of being goal-focused and the ability to handle adversity on and off the court. As a result, I’m better prepared for college and my career.”
Both honors will be presented to their recipients during the Kentucky Lion’s Eye Foundation Mr. and Miss Basketball ceremony in Lexington on March 5. Nominations for those awards were submitted last month and the final ballot will be revealed Monday.
WAH WAH JONES AWARD WINNERS
2014: Blake Ellis (Russell County)
2015: Justin Graham (Rowan County)
2016: Landon Young (Lafayette), Ray Zuberer (Owensboro Catholic)
2017: Noah Busroe (Harlan)
2018: Cooper Robb (Scott County)
2019: Kilian Ledford (Harlan)
DONNA L.J. MURPHY AWARD WINNERS
2015: Morgan Rich (Allen County-Scottsville)
2016: Emma Young (East Jessamine)
2017: Jordan Brock (Harlan)
2018: Ciaja Harbison (Male)
2019: Maaliya Owens (Scott County)