2001-2002 Kentucky High School Basketball Preview

2001 Ron Harrison

This should be an interesting year for high school hoops in the state of Kentucky.  I will attempt to provide my pre-season top teams based on several factors:  last year’s performances, returning players, summer play, etc.  I also value the opinions and observations of the people who contribute to BluegrassPreps.  My pre-season top 15 teams are as follows:

             1.     Male

             2.     North Hardin

             3.     Lexington Catholic

             4.     Ballard

             5.     Pleasure Ridge Park

             6.     Scott County

             7.     Ashland

             8.     Shelby County

             9.     Butler

         10.     Paducah Tilghman

         11.     Glasgow

         12.     Mason County

         13.     East Jessamine

         14.     Oldham County

         15.     Corbin

#1 Male is coming off a 32-4 record and will probably start the season ranked number one in most of the polls.  Male has been ranked as high as number twelve in the nation in some pre-season polls.  Coach Bryce Hibbard must replace All-State player Larry O'Bannon and overcome the disappointment of losing to Lafayette in the championship game last season.  However, Coach Hibbard won a state championship with Louisville Eastern in 1997 and has the talent to add one at Male this year.  Male should be led this year by multi-talented swingman 6-3 Jr. Michael Bush, who averaged 15 ppg last season.  6-6 Sr. LaVar Carter will provide a strong inside presence and 5-11 Sr. point guard Johnny Mathies is lightning fast and penetrates at will.  Adam Burks, a 5-11 Sr. guard, provides the Bulldogs with a long range bomber.  6-4 Sr. Greg Ballard is a workhorse who will contribute inside the paint.  6-3 Jr. Casey Shumate, 6-5 Jr. William Ford, 6-7 So. Scott Green, 6-3 So. Stephen McKinney, etc. should all contribute to a successful campaign.  Male has the talent and if they develop team chemistry and can avoid injuries they could be tough to beat.

#2 North Hardin is coming off a 30-4 campaign and Coach Ron Bevars’ squad is loaded this year.  Cedric Burton will be missed but 5-10 Sr. guard Quentin Smith returns and he can do it all – scores, passes, and handles the ball.  6-8 Sr. Matt DeMasters is a defensive stopper inside.  6-4 Sr. Jarius Sykes is a rebounder who can score inside.  6-6 Jr. Andre Woodson is a swingman capable of putting up big numbers.  5-6 Sr. Larry Fox provided a valuable spark off the bench for North Hardin last year.  North Hardin appears to have all the necessary ingredients to make a serious run for top honors this year. 

#3 Lexington Catholic is coming off a 25-8 record and won this year’s Kentucky 17-and-Under and 15-and-Under AAU championships.  Coach Danny Haney’s squad will be led by 6-4 Sr. Ryan Morton, but everybody raves about the underclassmen.  5-11 Jr. Brian Smith, son of UK Coach Tubby Smith, had an excellent summer and should be ready for a breakout year at point guard.  6-3 So. Demetrius Green is very athletic and has all the tools to be a good one.  He was a starter last year.   6-3 So. William Graham is one of the most improved players in the state and stroked the outside jumper this summer.  Graham is the son of former NBA player and Kentucky State great William Graham.  6-3 So. Harrison Morton can either start or come off the bench.  Harrison is very capable of providing instant offense.  If Catholic can get consistent outside shooting and develop their normal 10-12 man rotation that executes their trademark press they will be hard to handle.  Graduation losses always hurt but under Coach Haney’s system so many players get significant minutes the experience is always there. 

#4 Ballard is coming off a 32-2 year and Coach Chris Renner must replace two All-State selections in 6-9 Brandon Bender and 6-1 Adam Chiles.  Don’t feel sorry for the Bruins because replacements are on the way.  They only lost two games this summer and won the prestigious Derek Smith Shootout title.  They will be led by 5-11 Sr. David Bryant who can handle the ball, dishes well, and can take it to the basket.  6-6 Jr. David Cornwell is an athletic inside player who should make a name for himself this year.  6-1 Jr. Sean Booker is a big-time athlete who is very active and could develop into a very special player.  Fr. Jordan Newby, 5-8 Sr. Terrell Shelton, 6-3 Sr. Robbie Watterson, Jr. Alex Hedges, 5-10 Jr. Jordan Whitaker, etc. will also be in the mix.  Male and Ballard are both in the Seventh region, which gives you an idea of the strength in the ‘Ville.

#5 Pleasure Ridge Park finished 26-4 last year, graduated seven seniors including three starters, but Coach Dale Mabrey will merely reload and put another pressing high-octane team on the floor.  6-7 Sr. Brad Lightle will give PRP an effective inside scorer.  6-3 Sr. Duwan Bukar and 6-2 Sr. LaDavid DeLorch will also be heavily counted on this year.  The Jr. class is very strong with 6-2 Marcus Blakey, 6-5 Donte Sweatt,  6-2 Kevin James, and  5-11 Carlos Williams.  6-9 So. Terrence Farley has unlimited potential and should be a defensive and rebounding force as he develops his offensive game.  5-11 Fr. Jujuan Spillman is a jet and should develop as another in a great line of PRP point guards.  PRP has the talent but must achieve team chemistry.  The “Panther Press” is a given and this veteran coaching staff will push the right buttons. The Panthers also need to get consistent shooting to achieve their lofty goals. 

#6 Scott County finished 24-6 last year and Coach Billy Hicks should have a team that is deep and very quick.  The Cardinals will be led by 5-10 Sr. Clenard "C-3" Brown who averaged 16.5 ppg last season.  "C-3" is jet-quick and is capable of lighting up the scoreboard.  5-10 Jr. Von Fields, a transfer from Harlan, averaged 18 ppg last year and will help the team once he recovers from a football injury.  Coach Hicks’ son. Tyler, a 5-11 So., started last year and should develop into one of the best point guards in the state.  6-3 Sr. Coy Zerhusen and 6-3 Jr. Jeremy Nettles will provide inside strength and 6-10 Jr. Justin Lee should be a contributor.  6-0 Jr. Steve Mazzoni is greatly improved and may prove difficult to keep out of the lineup.  The bench is deep and talented with a good combination of size and quickness.  5-10 Sr. Marcus Reed, 5-9 Jr. Nick Reed, 6-6 So. Zach Van Guilder, 6-0 So. Ross Bowen, 6-0 So. Matt Jarvis, 6-0 So. Ryan Bailey, 6-0 So. Troy Harris, and others will all add depth.  This team should be to Coach Hicks’ liking as it should be capable of turning up the heat on defense.

#7 Ashland finished last season 22-10 and made it to the State Tournament Quarterfinals.  Coach Mike Flynn could have the Tomcats ready for a return to the big show this year.  6-8 Sr. Mark Surgalski is a power type inside player who averaged 16 ppg last season.  6-0 Sr. Arliss Beach had a great summer and really turned it up as a scoring threat.  5-10 Sr. Josh Cook also returns at the 2-guard position.  Other players expected to contribute are 6-3 Sr. Zach Davis, 6-4 Sr. Billy Hendrickson, 6-4 So. Matt Johnson, 6-1 Jr. Ryne Salyer, 5-10 Jr. Jeremy Howell, 5-9 So. Adam Howard, etc.  While the Tomcats have plenty of options, rest assured that the big man Mark Surgalski will get plenty of touches on the offensive end. 

#8 Shelby County finished 25-7 last year and Coach Champ Ligon should direct the Rockets to another outstanding campaign.  Any discussions about the Rockets must start with the “dynamic duo” Brian Silverhorn and Robert Daniels.  6-5 Sr. Brian Silverhorn averaged 16.5 ppg last year and takes the ball to the basket very well.  6-4 Sr. Robert Daniels averaged 22.5 ppg last year and is capable of putting up huge numbers.  6-0 Sr. Zane Williams is a slasher who also defends well.  5-10 Sr. Juannie Jackson is a newcomer at point guard and looks like a good one.  Others expected to help include 6-1 Sr. Keith Jones, 6-3 Jr. Tory Lancaster, 6-3 Jr. Shane Masters, 5-11 Jr. Matt Shemo, etc.  Shelby County is in the tough Eighth Region with Scott County and Oldham County, but the firepower of Silverhorn and Daniels allows them to be competitive with anyone.

#9 Butler finished 17-11 last year and Coach Mike Campbell is really looking forward to this season.  Veteran observers believe the Bears may be able to overtake Pleasure Ridge Park and Fairdale in the Sixth Region this year.  Butler defeated Pleasure Ridge Park convincingly in the Derek Smith Shootout this summer.  The Bears will be led by 6-4 Sr. Dustin Cape, who utilizes a nice ball fake to take the ball to the basket.  6-1 Jr. Trey Cape is rated as one of the most improved players in the region.  Other players expected to contribute are 6-2 Sr. David Peercy, 5-10 So. Antonio Drane, 5-9 Jr. Justin Cunningham, etc. 

#10 Paducah Tilghman finished last season with a 28-5 record and lost sharpshooters Brett Jones and Kyle Miller.  While Tilghman lacks the size and firepower of previous teams, Coach Bill Chumbler finds a way to make Paducah Tilghman one of the better teams in the state.  6-4 Sr. Orlandus Hill must lead the way this year.  Orlandus can be a dominating force but must be consistent this year to lead Tilghman’s inside-outside game.  6-5 Jr. Chris Clarke has star potential.  Brian Hamilton, Ches Gibson, Armand Cooper, and Fred Perry should add support. 

#11 Glasgow finished 26-6 last year and Coach Bart Flener’s squad should challenge for 4th region top honors this year.  They will be led by 5-11 Sr. Brandon Stockton, who is a top candidate for Mr. Basektball.  Stockton, who signed with Kentucky, averaged 29.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 5.1 apg.  6-6 Sr. Ty Bowles can score and play good inside defense.  6-3 Jr. (12 ppg) Ryan Landrum has a nice all around game and can score both inside and out.  6-1 Jr. (10 ppg) Nick Whitlow is a nice leaper and rebounds well.  6-0 Sr. (8ppg) Ryan Durham is a good outside shooter and a good on-the-ball defender.  6-2 Sr. Drew Thompson is also expected to be a key contributor.

#12 Mason County finished 25-7 last season and Coach Kelly Wells’ Royals are expected to make a serious run at the 10th region title this year.  This is probably the most talented squad Mason County has had since 1994.  The Royals will be led by 6-2 So. Chris Lofton who averaged 14 ppg last season and is the complete package.  5-10 Sr. guard Robert Myrick is excellent from three point range and 5-10 Sr. point guard Tee Commodore passes well and can take it to the basket.  6-2 Sr. D. J. Chambers, 6-0 Jr. Nathan Myrick, and 6-1 So. Dustin Grutza are also key contributors.  Another important factor for this team could be the play of 6-5 255 pound Sr. G. G. Lofton.  Lofton could provide the muscle inside the paint that the Royals were missing last year.

#13 East Jessamine finished 22-7 last year and Coach Chris O’Bryan’s Jaguars are poised to challenge Lexington Catholic for 11th region supremacy this season.  Any discussion about the Jags must start with 6-3 Sr. Butch Jointer, who averaged 17 ppg and 8.5 rpg last season.  Jointer is a prime-time performer who can get it done both inside and  out.  6-2 Sr. Gordon Duke is another outstanding athlete for the Jags.  6-2 Sr. Gary Wade, 5-11 So. Brandon Waford, and 5-11 Sr. Stephen Wayne provide outside shooting while 6-8 Sr. Curt Vernon, 6-4 So. Patrick Hunt, and 6-3 Sr. Kris Kleinsasser add size inside.  The Jaguars have all the ingredients – quickness, depth, athleticism, and a go-to player in Jointer to compete with the state’s elite.

#14 Oldham County finished 28-5 last year and Coach Gary Forrest;s Colonels should be back to challenge some tough opponents in the 8th region in an attempt to return to the Sweet 16.  6-5 Sr. Donta Smith averaged 15 ppg and 8 rpg coming off the bench last year and is ranked as one of the top players in the state this season.  6-6 Sr. Travis Liedtke averaged 10 ppg last year and his inside play and rebounding complement Smith’s scoring ability and athleticism.  Other players expected to contribute are 6-4 Jr. Matt Jacobson, 6-8 So. Max Kuiper, 6-3 Jr. Brock Neal, 5-10 Sr. Brad Koenig, 6-0 Sr. Stephen Ensor, 5-10 Jr. Jarriott Huddleston, and 5-10 So. Brandon Berry.

#15 Corbin finished 24-8 last season and first year coach Tony Pietrowski should have the talent to contend for the 13th region title.  Coach Pietrowski got an early Christmas present when 6-9 Jr. (10 ppg) Isaiah Mills moved back home from Indiana.  Mills should get help inside from 6-3 Sr. Steven Cook, 6-3 Sr. Tim Gore, and 6-5 Jr. Tyler Faulkner.  The backcourt is loaded with 6-2 Jr. (17.7 ppg) Johnny Hammons, 5-10 Sr. (10.3 ppg) Bobby Hendrickson, 6-1 Sr. B. J. Foley, 6-0 Jr. Jeremy Farmer, and 5-8 So. Anthony Haban.  5-11 Jr. Tyler Henson is also expected to contribute.

 

Why am I worried?  I have omitted several teams that could overtake my top ten choices.  Russellville is always tough and has 6-2 Sr. Maurice Hampton back for his senior campaign.  Bowling Green has a new coach, Mike Deaton, and lost three outstanding starters including Josh Carrier.  However, they return 6-7 Sr. Jason Stonebreaker and 6-7 Jr. Tyler Ray.  Seneca has some tall timber inside with 6-6 Sr. Larry Williams and 6-8 So. Robbie Simpson (remember this young man).   

There are several food teams in the Ninth Region – who will survive?  Dixie Heights is led by 6-5 Sr. Joe Bramlage and 6-0 Jr. Russ Bramlage.  Covington Catholic has a good one in 6-5 Sr. Brian Lewin and they are tough when the trifectas are falling.  Highlands will be led by 6-7 Jr. Ross Neltner, who stepped his game up even more this summer.  Coach Scott Chalk has a good team at Frankfort, led by 6-3 Sr. Chris Current.  Bell County has an excellent trio in 6-7 Sr. Eric Ely, 6-3 Sr. Trae Winkler, and 6-4 Sr. Jimmy Corum.  South Floyd will have plenty of firepower with Rusty Tackett and Michael Hall.

I usually view 100-125 games a season plus summer camps and the AAU circuit.  I read anything I can find about high school basketball.  I respect the opinions of all my fellow basketball junkies.  I have learned much from Rick Bolus, one of the best talent evaluators in the game.  I regularly talk to coaches who have taught me so much.  However one thing is certain:  Predictions and the ranking game will teach you humility.  Some of my teams will go down but in my opinion uncertainty is what makes high school basketball great….Let the games begin.