Mark Story

Wandale Robinson to Dwane Casey to Leah Edmond, what voters said about finishers 11-25

Leah Edmond was sold on UK volleyball from the start

Sophomore all-American Leah Edmond talks about her volleyball beginnings and how UK won her when she was a prized recruit.
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Sophomore all-American Leah Edmond talks about her volleyball beginnings and how UK won her when she was a prized recruit.

What media members who cast votes for the 2018 Lexington Herald-Leader Kentucky Sports Figure of the Year award said about those who finished outside the top 10:

11. Justin Thomas

2018 claim to fame: PGA Tour golf star from St. Xavier led the 2018 money list ($8,694,821) and won three tournaments.

What voters said: “Thomas followed up his historic 2017 season by leading the PGA Tour money list in 2018.” — T.J. Walker, WXVW-AM 1400, Louisville/Jeffersonville, Ind.

“Another solid year from one of the best on the PGA Tour.” — Michael Compton, The Bowling Green Daily News

12. Jeff Walz

2018 claim to fame: Coached Louisville women’s basketball (36-3) to ACC regular-season and tournament championships and to the Final Four for the third time.

What voters said: “Jeff Walz coached Louisville to two wins over (eventual) national champion Notre Dame.” — Ed Peak, freelance sportswriter, Louisville

“Jeff Walz led Louisville to its third Final Four in the last 10 years and third in his tenure. Only three other programs have gone to three Final Fours in the last decade — UConn, Notre Dame and Stanford. Elite company.” — Nick Curran, Louisville Bats and U of L women’s basketball radio play-by-play announcer

“Walz has built a program to compete annually on a national level.” — Dennis George, The Kentucky Standard, Bardstown

Jeff Walz cutting down nets in Rupp Arena
Louisville Coach Jeff Walz held up a Rupp Arena net after the Cardinals blasted Oregon State 76-43 in the women’s NCAA Tournament round of eight in Lexington on March 25 to advance to the Final Four for the third time in school history. James Crisp AP

13. Wandale Robinson

2018 claim to fame: Western Hills High School football star was chosen Mr. Football, Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year and won the Paul Hornung Award after senior season in which he ran for 1,973 yards and 30 touchdowns and had 725 yards receiving with 11 TDs.

What voters said: “I can’t remember watching a high school player in Kentucky with as much on his shoulders every week who delivered.” — Dan Rieffer, WDKY-TV, Lexington and the Dan & Mary Jo Show podcast

“An exceptional high school football talent.” — Beau Robinson, WLAP-AM 630, producer of the “Conversations with Oscar Combs” podcast

“The state’s most electrifying recruit.” — Jamey Johnson, WMDJ-FM 100.1, Allen

14. Lamar Jackson

2018 claim to fame: Ex-U of L star took over as Baltimore Ravens starting quarterback mid-season and led team to 6-1 record and first berth in NFL playoffs since 2014.

What voters said: “Proved all the critics wrong. The man can play quarterback in the NFL.” — Fred Cowgill, WLKY-TV, Louisville

“Better give (Jackson) the respect he truly deserves, because one day, he is going to be a star in the (NFL).” — Ivan K. Rice, Bourbon County Citizen, Paris

“U of L product seized the opportunity of Joe Flacco’s injury and ran with it, literally, dragging a not-so-good Ravens team to the playoffs.” — Mike Rose, WJSN-FM 97.3, Jackson

Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, quarterback for the University of Louisville, accepted the Lexington Herald-Leader's 2016 Kentucky Sports Figure of the Year award at Wednesday night’s 2017 Bluegrass Sports Awards banquet in Lexington.

15. Montana Fouts

2018 claim to fame: East Carter High School star was named Miss Softball after compiling a 37-1 record as a pitcher and a .566 batting average with 12 home runs and 71 RBI as a hitter.

What voters said: “You can’t argue with the numbers from Montana Fouts, who will likely go down as not just one of the best softball players, but one of the best athletes in KHSAA history.” — Mike Stunson, Lexington Herald-Leader

“Forget her 0.09 ERA. She won 37 of 38 decisions and fanned 481 (more than two per inning). Anytime your pitching overshadows a .566 batting average with 12 home runs and 71 RBI, you’re legit.” — Rick Bentley, University of Pikeville radio play-by-play announcer

“One of the most dominant softball players in Kentucky in several years.” — Scott Brown, WKDZ-FM 106.5, Cadiz

Montana Fouts
East Carter star Montana Fouts was named 2018 Kentucky Miss Softball after going 37-1 as a pitcher and hitting .566 with 12 home runs and 71 RBI as a batter. Edward Marlowe The Paducah Sun

16. Craig Skinner

2018 claim to fame: Named SEC Coach of the Year after leading UK volleyball (26-5) to an undefeated SEC championship (18-0) and the NCAA Tournament round of 16.

What voters said: “(Skinner is) a master tactician, tireless recruiter and relentless competitor.” — John Huang, Nolan Media Group

“Led Kentucky volleyball to another SEC title, running the table in conference play.” — Shawn Smith,

Craig Skinner
Kentucky volleyball coach Craig Skinner led the Wildcats (26-5) to the SEC championship and the NCAA Tournament round of 16. Michael Reaves

17. Vince Tyra

2018 claim to fame: In 2018 calendar year, new University of Louisville athletics director hired Chris Mack to coach men’s basketball and Scott Satterfield to lead Cardinals football.

What voters said: “Had the difficult job of replacing Tom Jurich and did wonders in quickly signing Chris Mack and Scott Satterfield after Jeff Brohm turned him down.” — Bob White, Courier Journal (retired)

“Fans can no longer say it is Tom Jurich’s athletic department. Vince Tyra has made it his own, by changing the culture of the program and making many coaching decisions.” — Andrew Chernoff, WLKY-TV, Louisville

18. Dwane Casey

2018 claim to fame: Ex-UK and Union County High School guard was chosen NBA Coach of the Year by both the writers and league coaches after leading the Toronto Raptors (59-23) to the best record in franchise history.

What a voter said: (Casey) put the Raptors on the map, despite getting fired by the team (after the season).” — Tyler Dixon, The Kentucky New Era, Hopkinsville

Dwane Casey
Former UK guard Dwane Casey coached the Toronto Raptors to the best record (59-23) in franchise history last season and was named NBA Coach of the Year. Tony Dejak AP

19. Damien Harris

2018 claim to fame: Ex-Madison Southern football star led Alabama in rushing (819 yards) for the third straight season and became the eighth player in Crimson Tide history to go over 3,000 yards (3,070) in a career.

What a voter said: “Joins Shaun Alexander as Kentucky greats on the high school gridiron that turned into all-time greats for the Tide.” — Bobby Norman, East Kentucky Broadcasting, Pike County

20. Seygan Robins

2018 claim to fame: Mercer County girls’ basketball star was Sweet Sixteen MVP for a second straight year and Kentucky Miss Basketball after leading Mercer (36-3) to its second consecutive Kentucky high school state championship.

What voters said: “(Robins) led one of the best home-grown basketball teams in Kentucky high school girls’ basketball history.” — Matthew Overing, The Advocate-Messenger, Danville

“One of the most impressive girls’ basketball players I’ve ever watched.” — Daniel Hopkins, WRNZ-FM 105.1, Lancaster/Danville

Mercer County’s Seygan Robins cut the net after the Titans defeated Mercy for their second consecutive state championship. Gary Landers

21. Kendra Harrison

2018 claim to fame: Ex-UK hurdles star won her first World Championship in the 60-meter hurdles (7.70 seconds, to tie American record) at World Indoor Championships.

What a voter said: “Few people can claim to be the best in the world at one thing, let alone two. But Harrison, the 100-meter hurdles world record holder, can do just that after tying the American indoor record in the 60-meter hurdles as she won her first World Championship.” — Josh Sullivan, Lexington Herald-Leader

22. Leah Edmond

2018 claim to fame: UK volleyball star led the Wildcats (26-5) to an unbeaten SEC title (18-0) and was named SEC Player of the Year and Second Team All-America by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

What voters said: “An All-America player who serves as a tremendous face for Craig Skinner’s program.” — Gary Moyers, The Cats’ Pause, Lexington

“The best player in a historic season for a UK program that continues to do incredible things. So much fun to watch play.” — Mark Buerger, WLAP-AM 630, Lexington

Leah Edmond
Kentucky volleyball star Leah Edmond was named SEC Player of the Year after leading the Wildcats to an undefeated (18-0) conference championship. Michael Reaves Michael Reaves

23. Anthony Davis

2018 claim to fame: Ex-UK star led New Orleans Pelicans to second round of NBA playoffs and was First Team All-NBA and third in MVP voting after averaging 27.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.8 blocks and 1.7 steals a game.

What a voter said: “Forget that he was third in MVP voting. All you need to know about how good AD is is this: He ‘led the New Orleans Pelicans to the Western Conference semifinals.’ That is greatness. — Shawn Seay, WLXG-AM 1300, Lexington

24. Henrik Larsen

2018 claim to fame: UK rifle star helped Wildcats win 2018 NCAA team title and was named NCAA Shooter of the Year and Freshman of the Year after winning NCAA individual title in Air Rifle.

What voters said: “Kentucky is a rifle school!” — Brad Munson, WVLK-AM 590, Lexington

“(Larsen) had an Anthony Davis-esque freshman season.” — Vinny Hardy, Cats Talk Wednesday podcast

25. Kelsi Worrell Dahlia

2018 claim to fame: Ex U of L swimming star broke two American records in 2018 in the 50-meter butterfly (25.48 seconds) and the 100 butterfly (56.83) and was the most decorated performer at the FINA Short Course World Championships with nine medals.

What a voter said: “Her pair of American records in 2018 are something that hardly happens to any other athlete in the United States.” — Chris Leach, The Anderson News, Lawrenceburg

Below are comments about some who received first-place votes but finished outside the Top 25:

Mitch Barnhart

2018 claim to fame: University of Kentucky Athletics Director presided over a department that produced an NCAA team title (rifle) and a 17th-place finish in The Directors’ Cup standings in the 2017-18 school year.

What a voter said: “It’s time to recognize that UK is one of the very best athletic programs in America and the person responsible is Mitch Barnhart — the most under-appreciated AD in college athletics.” — Larry Glover, WVLK-AM 590, Lexington

Rick Erdmann

2018 claim to fame: Retired as Eastern Kentucky University track and field and cross country coach in 2018 after having led the Colonels to 73 Ohio Valley Conference team titles during his career.

What a voter said: “As a rule, I usually vote for athletes rather than coaches, animals and administrators. Erdmann warrants an exception. Laboring in a sport that gets little attention from the mainstream media and bare-bones financial support, he put EKU track and field (and cross country) on the map long ago, and then continued to produce year after year.” — Mark Maloney, Lexington Herald-Leader (retired)

Brandon Smith

2018 claim to fame: Coached South Warren (15-0) to an undefeated football state championship capped by an upset of Covington Catholic in the 5A finals.

What a voter said: “In five seasons, (Smith) has a 63-8 record, two 15-0 seasons and two state titles since 2015 in two different classes, 4A and 5A. Pretty remarkable.” — Dominique Yates, Courier Journal


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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a H-L sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.