2000-2001 Kentucky High School Basketball Preview
© 2000 Ron Harrison
This should be an interesting year for high school hoops in the state of Kentucky. My pre-season top fifteen teams are as follows:
#1 Male is coming off a 28-7 campaign and appears to be a solid choice for an early number one ranking in the state. Coach Bryce Hibbard won a state championship in 19997 with Eastern and has the talent to add another one this year. Larry O'Bannon, a 6-5 Sr. wing player who averaged 18 ppg last year, will lead the Bulldogs on their title quest. Another important cog in the machine will be all-everything 6-3 So. Mike Bush. 5-11 Jr. point guard Johnny Mathies will be back to quarterback the team. The center position should be ably manned by 6-6 230 pound Jr. LeVar Carter. 6-0 Sr. Leslie Powell, 6-4 Jr. Greg Ballard, 6-3 Jr. Brandon Blackerby, 5-11 Jr. Adam Burks, etc. will help provide a deep bench. Scott Green, a 6-6 Fr., could b a name to remember. Male has the talent and if they develop the proper team chemistry and can avoid injuries, should live up to their lofty ranking.
#2 Ballard finished 27-4 last season, lost three excellent players in 6-8 Mac Wilkinson, 6-5 Cedric Knight, and 6-1 Spencer Graeter but are still a solid choice for the No. 2 spot. Coach Chris Renner's cupboard is hardly bare as he returns a potential lethal duo in Srs. 6-9 Brandon Bender and 6-1 Adam Chiles, who should improve on their 14 ppg averages last year. Other players who should be key contributors are 5-11 Jr. David Bryant, 6-6- So. David Cornwell, 6-0 Sr. Nick Jones, 6-1 Sr. Antuan Sartin, 6-2 Sr. Thomas Davis, and 6-1 So. Sean Booker. When Brandon Bender plays hard, he creates a difficult match-up for any one in the state.
#3 Lexington Catholic finished 32-5 last season, lost to Elizabethtown in the state championship, and graduated all five starters. The popular thought would be that Coach Danny Haney will suffer a long and frustrating season. That will not be the case as the Knights pressing up-tempo style requires a deep bench and a lot of players get minutes. Leading Lexington Catholic this year should be 6-3 Sr. Brendon Woody, a smooth left hander, who has a scorer's mentality and should put up good numbers this season. 6-4 Jrs. Ryan Morton and Klint Rose should take care of the inside game, and the point guard position should be capably handled by 5-11 Sr. Clay Wolford and 5-10 So. Brian Smith. 6-4 Sr. Jack Heissenbuttel adds a nice outside shooting touch. The future looks bright for Catholic with some outstanding young players in 6-2 So. Joe Harden, 6-3 Fr. Demetrius Green, 6-2 Fr. Harrison Morton. Also remember the name -- 6-1 Fr. William Graham -- he could be a good one in the future. Graham, Green, and Harrison Morton should provide the nucleus for outstanding Lexington Catholic teams for the next few years.
#4 Bowling Green Coach Ernie Simpson's squad finished 25-5 last season and have even higher aspirations for this season. They are led this season by 6-5 Sr. Josh Carrier, a Kentucky signee, who averaged 23.8 ppg last season and has unlimited range, 5-11 Sr. Brandon Wardlow is a cat-quick point guard who averaged 16.6 ppg last year. Terrez DeWalt, a 6-5 Sr. wing player, added 15.6 ppg and 12 rpg last year. Simpson also has an excellent Jr. class with 5-11 Seth Wilson, 6-6 Jason Stonebreaker, and 6-0 Kyle Sledge. Bowling Green also has a future star in 6-7 So. Tyler Ray. The Purples play a very aggressive invitational tourney schedule and should definitely be tournament tested by March.
#5 Scott County Coach Billy Hicks' Cardinals are coming off a fine 32-5 campaign. Coach Hicks has lost two consecutive Mr. Basketball winners in Rick Jones and Scott Hundley. He lost two first team all-state selections from last year's squad in Hundley and Casey Alsop so I'm nervous about ranking them #5 -- that might be a bit low. Scott County still has a lot of talent returning for this year. They will be led by 6-8 Sr. Nate Austin, 5-10 Jr. scorer Clenard "C-3" Brown, and 6-3 Jr. Coy Zerhusen. The Cardinals have a 6-6 Bosnian exchange student, Muris Mulahahillavic, who should be an asset. Other players expected to help this year are Marcus Reed, Nick Reed, and Brian Smith. 6-3 So. Jeremy Nettles should help on the boards and 6-0 Fr. Tyler Hicks should be a very good point guard in the near future. Never count Scott County out with Billy Hicks at the helm. He won a state championship in 1998, lost in the championship game to Ballard in 1999, and lost to Lexington Catholic in the semifinals last year. They lost a lot of talent from last year but don't show any signs of returning to the pack.
#6 Paducah Tilghman finished 23-7 last year and Coach Bill Chumbler should have another good team this year. Tilghman returns sharpshooting 6-3 Sr. Brett Jones who averaged 17 ppg last season. 6-6 Sr. Kyle Miller also is very capable of scoring from outside. Orlandus Hill, a powerfully build 6-5 Jr., will provide Tilghman with a force inside the paint. Other players expected to contribute are Rashaud Wilson, Quemar Daniels, Ches Gibson, Chris Clarke, Brian Hamilton, etc. While Paducah Tilghman lost some of their inside strength they still have the athletes and offensive firepower to be an outstanding team.
#7 Moore finished 17-12 last year but Coach Larry Miller should have a vastly improved squad this year. 6-2 Sr. Carlos Hurt, one of the premier guards in the nation, transferred from Texas and should be a top contender for Mr. Basketball. 6-1 Jr. guard Petie Brown averaged 15.9 ppg last year and 6-2 Sr. Chuckie Sweeney added 13.5 ppg. Coach Miller also got two foreign exchange players: 6-10 Cheikou Ba and his cousin 6-7 Tasmir Ba who could develop into solid contributors this season. Other players expected to contribute are 5-10 Sr. Josh Medford, 6-3 Rantae Wilkins, 6-4 Jr. Jumane Rhodes, 6-2 Jr. Charles Hickman, 5-9 Jr. Raynal Jackson, etc. Moore expected to have a decent team this year but with the transfers should move into the top ten.
#8 Madison Central finished 24-8 last year and Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. has a team that could be a real “sleeper” this year. Madison Central has an excellent group that can shoot, pass, handle the ball, and will get after you on defense. The leader of this group is 6-3 Sr. guard Eric Broomfield, a vastly underrated player, who averaged 17 ppg last season and a good defensive player. Other players expected to contribute this year are 6-2 Sr. Josh Land, 6-0 Sr. Nick Stephens, 6-0 Jr. Dustin Gayheart, 6-4 Sr. Joe Cornett, 6-3 Sr. Jeff Stratman, 6-1 Sr. Lloyd Walker, etc. Shawn Ballard, a highly touted 6-4 Fr. point guard, should also be a key contributor to Madison Central this season. I had the pleasure of watching this team play during the AAU season and they had the same type of team as the 1999-2000 Lexington Catholic squad. Coach Feldhaus always gets a maximum effort from his teams and despite graduating a lot of talent the last two years, he should enjoy another fine season.
#9 Pleasure Ridge Park finished 28-6 last year, graduated seven of their top eight players, but Coach Dale Mabrey will reload and enjoy another good season. The PRP system is in place and different players are plugged in each season to continue the tradition. 6-4 Sr. Jeremy Kelly had an excellent summer and is expected to star this season. 6-7 Jr. Brad Lightle is vastly improved and should control the boards for the Panthers. 5-9 Sr. point guard Stevie Gaines is back for his final season and should provide solid leadership for the Panthers. Other players expected to contribute are 6-2 Sr. LaDavid DeLorch, 6-3 Sr. Nick Bibelhauser, 6-3 Jr. Duwan Bukar, 5-9 Sr. Marlon Hodge, 5-11 Sr. Scott Whitenack, 5-11 So. Carlos Williams, 6-7 Fr. Terrence Farley, etc. Another key contributor should be 5-11 Sr. Greg Caudell, a transfer from Ballard High School. Coach Mabrey should have another good team this year and will have to be as the city of Louisville is loaded this year.
#10 Madisonville is coming off a 20-6 season and Coach James Davis expects the Maroons to be better this year. Madisonville returns one of the top players in the state, 6-6 Sr. Michael Haney who averaged 18 ppg and 14 rpg last year. Other key contributors are expected to be 6-5 Sr. Spencer Johnson, 6-4 Sr. Rob Baumgardner, and 6-5 Sr. Scott Ashby. The “Cat’s Pause” has Haney, Johnson, and Baumgardner ranked among the top ten players in their 2nd region preview.
#11 Paul Dunbar finished 19-11 last season and Coach Eddie Oakley’s squad won the 17-and-under AAU tournament this summer, establishing the Bulldogs as a team to watch this season. 6-4 Sr. Rod Lyvers is a very gifted athlete who can take over a game when he plays under control. 6-3 Sr. David Byars had a great summer and is an excellent medium range shooter. 6-3 Sr. Clay Tate gives the Bulldogs an excellent outside threat. 6-0 So. Marcus Conner will quarterback the club and a vastly improved 6-6 Jr. Kenny Fox will be an inside threat. Other expected contributors this season are 6-0 So. Mike Matthews, 5-8 Jr. Steve Greene, 5-9 So. Jamie Adams, 5-8 So. A. J. Johnson, 6-2 Jr. Allen Penn, 6-0 So. Kenny Hale, 6-2 Jr. Kenny Bledsoe, 6-2 Sr. David Kovacic, and 5-7 Jr. Chaz-lee Clifford. Dunbar has tons of talent and some outstanding athletes. The key to their success is maintaining the team chemistry they displayed during the summer AAU tournament.
#12 Lafayette finished 25-6 last year and Coach Don Adkins has enough firepower returning to have another fine season. The Generals have eight returning seniors and enough quickness to continue their pressure defense. The Generals should be led by 6-3 Sr. Robert Madison who averaged 14 ppg last year. 5-9 Sr. James Gentry and 6-0 Sr. Quinton Roberts are both experienced guards who can score. 6-6 Sr. Dudley Hall, 6-7 Sr. Vernard Hazard, and 6-5 Sr. Jerod Smith are expected to help inside the paint. Other expected contributors are 6-0 Sr. Jeff Floyd, 5-11 Jr. Brandon Riley, 6-2 Sr. J. D. Beck, etc. 6-2 Sr. Nick Everman suffered a knee injury and if he is indeed lost for the season his intensity and hustle would be missed. Lafayette must develop a bench and inside board work to complement their perimeter players.
#13 Fairdale finished 24-8 last year and Coach Lloyd Gardner should have the returning athletes to make things interesting for his opponents this year. 6-4 Sr. Coric Riggs, one of the finest athletes in the state, should lead the Bulldogs. 6-5 Jr. Anthony Milan will provide a major threat inside after the recovers from an injury. He is expected to be available in January. 6-2 Sr. James Peterson, 6-2 Sr. Antonio Thomas, and 6-0 Sr. James Brice should also be important cogs in the machine. Other players expected to contribute this year are 6-1 Sr. Chris Hancock, 6-3 Sr. Ricky Mills, 5-9 Jr. Scott Greschel, 6-2 So. Shamon Maux, 6-3 So. Anthony Chism, and 5-7 So. Antwan Moore. Fairdale will need to develop a strong bench to be successful this season and there should be plenty of available candidates from a very successful JV and freshman team.
#14 Newport Central Catholic finished 30-6 last season and Coach Ron Dawn returns nine seniors, most of whom can shoot the ball. 6-1 Sr. Ronny Dawn averaged 21.3 ppg last year. 6-2 Sr. Seth Lynn averaged 11 ppg last year and is deadly from long range. 5-9 Sr. Vince Bonhaus is another key contributor for the Thoroughbreds. 6-5 Sr. Corey Myers is an underrated inside player who averaged 10 ppg and 6 rpg last season. Newport Catholic will miss the hard-nosed style of 6-1 Tony Bacigalupo who graduated but they have plenty of talent and experience available to contribute their winning tradition.
#15 Iroquois finished 30-2 last season and lost some excellent players off that team. However, Coach Jimmy Just’s team should have enough talent and quickness to continue their success in the very tough city of Louisville this year. The Raiders will be led this year by 6-4 Sr. Anthony Johnson, who averaged 20.3 ppg last year. Anthony is a slasher who can either shoot from outside or take it to the basket. Other key contributors this year should be 5-10 Sr. Demar Williams, 6-3 Sr. Steve Bartlett, 6-0 Jr. Bobby Fuqua, 5-8 Gary Houston, 6-1 Sr. Demetrius Fuqua, etc.
Why am I worried? I have omitted several teams that could overtake my top fifteen choices. Anything can happen in Kentucky high school basketball and usually does. I will probably view 100-125 games this season plus summer camps and the AAU circuit. I regularly read articles from one of the best sportswriters in the business, Mike Fields. I respect the opinions of fellow basketball junkies Dave Zuberer, Nathan McCauley, Vic Malone, etc. I have learned much from Rick Bolus, one of the best talent evaluators in the game. I regularly talk to coaches and assistant coaches who have taught me so much. Some of my team capsules are longer than others – simply because more info was available. However one thing is certain: Predictions and the ranking game will teach you humility. Some of the teams I have ranked have been beaten soundly in recent scrimmages. What does all this mean? I don’t know – but all the uncertainty is what in my opinion makes high school basketball great.