The mountains of Eastern Kentucky have produced an abundance of high school hoops stars, but they've never celebrated a Mr. and Miss Basketball in the same year.
There's a chance that could happen this season.
Camron Justice of Knott County Central and Maci Morris of Bell County have a shot at being crowned the best players in Kentucky.
Justice, a 6-foot-3 senior who has signed with Vanderbilt, is rated the No. 2 player in the state behind Trinity senior Ray Spalding.
Morris, a 6-0 senior who has signed with Kentucky, is rated No. 2 behind Elizabethtown junior Erin Boley.
Justice and Morris have similar backgrounds. Both are children of coaches. Both basicially grew up in the gym and learned the game at an early age. Both always competed against older kids.
Justice first drew notice as a skilled-beyond-his-years seventh-grader when he led Feds Creek to the Pike County middle school championship. That same year he also led East Ridge High School's junior varsity in scoring
As an eighth-grader, Camron led East Ridge's varsity, coached by his dad Raymond Justice, with a 20-point scoring average. He transferred to Knott Central before his freshman year and has led the Patriots to three consecutive 14th Region titles. (His dad is an assistant to Knott County Central Coach B.B. King.)
Camron begins his senior season just over 200 points shy of 3,000 for his career.
"My dad never pushed me. I just loved being around the game," he said. "He gave me the best opportunities."
Justice has always thrived on competition. "Even when I was young, every time I stepped on the floor I wanted to win," he said. "I've dedicated myself to the game."
He plays with a cool, even-keel attitude on the advice of his dad.
"I've always told Camron to try his best not to show his emotions," Raymond Justice said. "Camron's got a good poker face. He doesn't let anybody see him upset or too excited. That's how you play cards."
Morris got an early start playing against older kids. As a second-grader at Right Fork Elementary In Bell County, she played on the fifth- and sixth-grade team coached by her mother.
Morris has basketball in her blood. Her mom, Patti (Myers) Morris, was a standout at Harlan and went on to play at Transylvania. Her dad, Lewis Morris, starred at Cumberland High School and went on to play at East Tennessee State and Cumberland College. He's now the boys' coach at Bell County.
"I think Maci gets her skills and basketball IQ from her dad," Patti Morris said. "But I think her attitude is a lot like mine. I was real aggressive.
"I don't know if that's a good thing or not," she added with a laugh.
Maci said she was drawn to the game. "I grew up in the gym and I grew up loving it."
Lewis Morris remembers his kindergarten daughter tagging along with him to his summer camps. She'd be the only girl there, but she'd go through the drills and compete against the boys.
Maci averaged 7.5 points as a seventh-grader on Bell County's varsity. She's averaged 20 points over the past four seasons to boost her career total to 2,549.
"My dad taught me dribbling and shooting, and he taught me to be humble," Maci said. "I always go out and play my hardest and try to do my best."
If Lewis Morris drew up a scouting report on his daughter, it would note her unselfishness.
"She does a lot of good things. She's not one- dimensional," he said. "One of the best things she does is pass. She sees the floor real well, she's good off the dribble She's an all-around player."
Morris and Justice both had high school role models in Eastern Kentucky.
Morris became a Sara Hammond fans when she was a seventh-grader and played against the Rockcastle County star. Hammond went on to lead the Rockets to the 2011 state title and was named Miss Basketball.
"It was awesome watching her play and grow as a player, even though she's at Louisville now," Morris said with a smile.
When Justice was in middle school, he took note of a rising high school star across the county, Shelby Valley's Elisha Justice (no relation).
"I started watching him, a mountain boy moving up the rankings," Camron said.
Elisha led Shelby Valley to the 2010 state championship and was named Mr. Basketball. He went on to play at Louisville and Pikeville.
Along the way Elisha struck up a friendship with Camron. This summer he offered to help him work out.
"We're close friends now, and I have to give him a lot of credit for helping me step up my game," Camron said.
Justice and Morris have the same primary goal this season — to lead their teams to the state tournament.
As for personal goals, they said Mr. and Miss Basketball has a nice ring to it.
"That'd be awesome for the mountains," Lewis Morris said.