2003-2004 Kentucky High School Boys’ Basketball Preview

2003 Ron Harrison

This should be another interesting year for boys’ high school basketball in the state of Kentucky.  Mason County will enter the season ranked number one in most polls with Lexington Catholic nipping at their heels.  There are several worthy contenders throughout the state waiting to pounce if the frontrunners falter.  However, as history has taught us, pre-season predictions can be extremely risky and the games are still decided on the floor.  I have listed twenty teams that I believe will have excellent seasons, but I left out another 20 that could be very good.  I have based my observations on past performance, returning players, transfers, and a lot of time spent at the Kentucky Basketball Academy watching AAU events.  I have read everything I could find and perused the internet sites on a daily basis.  What will happen once the season starts?  We should at least have an idea by late December as many of the top teams will be playing in major invitational tournaments.

My pre-season top 20 teams are as follows:

1.

Mason County

 

11.

Covington Catholic

2.

Lexington Catholic

 

12.

Ballard

3.

Pleasure Ridge Park

 

13.

Elizabethtown

4.

Hopkinsville

 

14.

Ashland

5.

Warren Central

 

15.

Madison Central

6.

Apollo

 

16.

North Hardin

7.

Fern Creek

 

17.

Butler

8.

Wayne County

 

18.

DeSales

9.

Scott County

 

19.

Clay County

10.

Tates Creek

 

20.

Lafayette

 

#1 Mason County – Coach Kelly Wells’ Royals finished 35-2 last season and captured the Sweet 16 Championship.  The Royals will enter the season as a strong favorite to capture the 10th Region crown and ranked No. 1 in the state.  They return four starters including 6-3 Sr. Chris Lofton (21.1 ppg).  Lofton shot an amazing 47% from the three point line and is a leading candidate for Mr. Basketball this season.  Some of Lofton’s accomplishments last season include 10th Region Tournament MVP, Sweet 16 Tournament MVP, King of the Bluegrass MVP, and 5/3 Tournament MVP.  6-3 Sr. Dustin Grutza (12.9 ppg) is a solid guard who is solid at all aspects of the game.  6-3 Sr. Jarrod Litzinger (10 ppg) is a versatile forward who can shoot, dribble, pass, defend, and rebound.  6-1 Jr. Wes Jones was a standout in the Sweet 16 Tournament last year and should only improve this season.  Mason County has several other capable players including 6-3 Jr. Drew Stahl, 5-11 Jr. Andrew Tibbs, and 6-2 Jr. Chris Schumacher.

#2 Lexington Catholic – Coach Bart Flener’s Knights finished 24-8 last season and this team should challenge for the Sweet 16 crown this season.  The Knights will be led by 6-4 Sr. swingman Demetrius Green who averaged 19.2 ppg and 6.2 rpg last season.  6-3 Sr. Harrison Morton averaged 17.6 ppg and 6.7 rpg last season.  6-3 Sr. William Graham (10 ppg) is jet quick in the open court and an excellent finisher off the Knights’ press.  6-4 Sr. Mark Balthrop (6.1 ppg) also return for his final campaign.  6-2 Sr. Jason Azubuike transferred from Dunbar and is expected to help on both ends of the court, provided he is ruled eligible by the KHSAA.  5-10 Sr. Drew Morton (4.6 ppg) will probably man the point for Lexington Catholic this season.  Other players expected to contribute include 6-4 Sr. Joe Tunde, 6-0 Jr. Joe Boneau, 6-5 Jr. Rob Riddell, 6-2 Jr. Kevin Vogelsang, 6-0 Jr. P. J. Wilson, and 5-10 Jr. Chad Buchignani.  The Knights also have several other players that could contribute to this deep and talented squad this season. 

#3 Pleasure Ridge Park – Coach Dale Mabrey’s Panthers finished 27-4 last season and are favored to capture the 6th Region crown this year and challenge for state supremacy this season.  6-10 Sr. Terrance Farley (10.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg) has committed to play at Louisville.  Farley has the agility to run the floor and guard people out on the perimeter.  His strength at this stage of his career is rebounding and the ability  to block shots.  5-11 Jr. JaJuan Spillman is one of the best to ever play the point guard position at Pleasure Ridge Park.  6-2 Sr. Thomas Porter transferred from Butler and is expected to be a solid contributor.  Other key contributors for PRP are expected to include 5-4 Sr. DeShondre Watters, 5-9 Sr. Phillip Morrison, and 5-11 Jr. Jazz Neal. 

#4 Hopkinsville  – Coach Terry Hayes’ Tigers finished 33-2 last season, captured the 2nd Region title, and made it to the final four of the Sweet 16.  Hopkinsville graduated their top two scorers in Rontreal Braxton and Lartavious Banks but still have enough talent returning to challenge for state honors.  6-2 Sr. Keon Grant averaged 13 ppg last season and is an excellent defensive player.  6-5 Jr. Curtis Pulley, who is also an excellent football player, averaged 15 ppg last season. 5-11 Sr. Josh Artis returns at guard and averaged 11 ppg last season.   5-10 Sr. Blaine Lynch, 6-3 Sr. Adam Woodard, and 6-5 Sr. Adam Willis are also expected to contribute this season.

#5 Warren Central – Coach Tim Riley’s Dragons finished 26-4 last season and should be ranked near the top in pre-season rankings this season.  Warren Central will be led by 6-6 Sr. Lonnell DeWalt, an athletic forward who plays above the rim and averaged double figures in both scoring and rebounding last season.  DeWalt is also an excellent football player who is being heavily recruited.  6-8 Sr. Matt Maresca is a late bloomer who possesses a nice shooting touch for a big man.  6-0 Sr. Ryan Anderson is a true point guard and handles, passes, and sees the floor well.  6-3 Sr. Brock Whitney and 5-10 Jr. Troy McFarland are expected to be key contributors.  The Dragons also have some excellent young talent moving up led by 6-2 Fr. Jeremy Anderson  and 5-10 Fr. Nick Britt.  The Dragons have a tough schedule this year but it should only prepare them for a long tourney run in March.

#6 Apollo – The Eagles are coached by Greg Baughn and finished 27-4 last season.  Apollo is not only expected to be one of the favorites to capture the 3rd Region title, but are expected to be one of the best teams in the state.  5-9 Sr. Michael James is a true point guard who utilizes his explosiveness and court awareness to take the Eagles to another level.  James averaged 11.2 ppg and 6 apg last season.  5-11 Sr. Richard Long averaged 18.4 ppg, 5 rpg, 4.3 apg last season and is an excellent defensive player.  6-4 Sr. Travis Johnson averaged 11.8 ppg and 7 rpg and is an excellent leaper.  6-5 Sr. Ryne Mantooth averaged 11.8 ppg and shot 47% from the three point line.   Other players expected to contribute include 6-0 Sr. Aaron Whitmer, 5-11 So. Doug Denton, and 6-2 So. David Howard.  (Note: Michael James is reportedly no longer a member of the team.)

#7 Fern Creek – Coach Gary Shourds led the Tigers to a 17-12 record last season but the Tigers could claim the 7th Region crown this season.  Shourds returns his top nine players and picked up 6-0 Sr. Camron Brown, a talented transfer from Ohio.  6-6 Sr. Mario Urrutia (15 ppg, 8 rpg) is virtually unstoppable in the paint.  6-5 Sr. Branden Hamby (13 ppg, 8 rpg) teams with Urrutia to give the Tigers a terrific one-two punch.  Other key players on this talented squad include 6-1 Sr. Turrell Cleaves (12 ppg), 6-0 Sr. Rod Kelsey (10 ppg), 5-7 So. Terrance Britt, 6-4 Jr. Brandon Mullins, and 6-3 Sr. Quentin Sweeney.

#8 Wayne County – The Cardinals are coached by Rodney Woods and finished 25-3 last season.  Wayne County only graduated one player, had an excellent summer in AAU play, and will be a strong contender for the 12th Region title this season.  The Cardinals return four of the best players in the region in 6-2 Sr. Jerrod Gibbons, 6-2 Sr. Tyrone Greene, 6-1 Jr. Steven Sexton, and 5-10 Sr. Bradley Bell.  6-2 Sr. Seth Frost or 6-3 Fr. John Perkins could help inside and Coach Woods should get some minutes from 6-10 Jr. Drew Guffey.  6-1 So. Tyler King will also log time this season.  Coach Woods has a talented 7th grader on his roster in 6-0 Ty Perkins.

#9 Scott County – The Cardinals finished 17-9 last season and sat home during the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive year.  Expect Coach Billy Hicks to return to his trademark up-tempo game and pressure defense.  Hicks has three starters returning, a deep bench, and a group of talented youngsters nipping at the heels of the veterans for playing time.  Scott County has a dandy guard combination in 6-0 Sr. Tyler Hicks (18 ppg) and 6-1 Sr. Troy Harris (14 ppg).  Hicks is an excellent floor general and Harris has a nice shooting stroke.  6-8 Sr. Zach Van Guilder possesses a nice outside shot but is hard to handle when he goes down on the blocks.  6-4 Sr. Alex Cassady is a strong inside player and the Cardinals will also get a lot of help from 6-5 Jr. Anthony Coote, 7-0 Jr. Jarrod Carter, 6-3 Jr. Cody Courtney, 6-1 Sr. Matt Jarvis, 5-10 So. Jesse Thompson, etc.  The future looks extremely bright with some talented newcomers including 6-2 Fr. Matt Walls, 6-1 Fr. Rodney Haddix, and 6-5 8th grader Jordan Lee.

#10 Tates Creek – Coach Joe Pat Covington’s Commodores finished 21-6 last season and had a very successful summer campaign.  Tates Creek captured the AAU 15-and-Under title and finished runner-up in varsity AAU competition.  6-3 Sr. Justin Taylor averaged 15 ppg last season and has started since his freshman campaign.  Other expected starters are 6-2 Sr. Cameron Cross, 6-3 Sr. Tyson Dixon, 6-5 Sr. Dwight Harris, and 5-10 Sr. Jeremy Brown.  The Commodores have some young talent moving up, including 6-4 Fr. John Watkins, 6-4 So. Patrick Workman, 5-8 Fr. Tyson Boyd, 6-1 8th grader Michael Sparks, 6-2 Jr. Jeremy Shelby, and 6-5 So. Pete Nochta.    

#11 Covington Catholic – Coach Mike Listerman’s Colonels finished 18-10 last season and are favored to capture the 9th Region crown this season.  Coach Listerman loves to play with a deep rotation and utilizes an up-tempo style of play.  The Colonels have six returning seniors who contribute significant minutes last season.  6-0 Sr. point guard Matt Nestheide averaged 14 ppg last season.  5-11 Sr. Ryan Kennedy had an excellent summer and will play the 2-guard position.  6-6 Sr. Stephen Muck is a big man who strokes the “three” at a 43.8% rate.  6-5 Sr. Ryan Wachs and 6-5 Sr. Ross Votel are finally healthy and should be key contributors this season.  6-6 Jr. Brennan Votel could have a breakout season this year.  6-3 Sr. Greg Erpenbeck is a blue collar warrior who will to all the little things to help his team win.  6-3 Jr. Scott Jacobs and 5-11 Jr. Jeff Witzgall both have the ability to shoot the ball.

#12 Ballard – The Bruins are coached by Chris Renner and finished 27-8 last season.  Although Renner graduated eight players from last year’s 7th Region championship team, he has enough talent returning to challenge for the title again.  The Bruins have a lot of talent returning in the frontcourt with 6-3 Jr. Ra’von Lee, 6-6 Sr. Greg Grimes, and 6-5 Jr. Wilbert Reeves.  6-1 Jr. Jordan Newby, 5-11 Jr. Nick Puzey, and 5-10 So. Garnett Phelps are expected to be key contributors in the backcourt.  While this is considered a rebuilding year, Ballard has a lot of young talent but will face strong competition in the 7th Region including a very talented Fern Creek squad.

#13 Elizabethtown – The Panthers are coached by James Haire and finished 28-3 last season.  Elizabethtown lost three key performers off last year’s team but still has the talent returning to challenge for the 5th Region crown.  5-10 Sr. PG Jerry Turner is an excellent floor leader who should increase his scoring this season.  Turner averaged 11.1 ppg and 4.6 apg last season.  6-8 Sr. Kyle Martin (10.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg) can either score in the paint or shoot from outside.  6-5 Sr. Robert Broughton transferred from Ft. Knox and sat out last season but brings athleticism and talent to the Panthers.  6-2 Sr. Zack Pitts was a key contributor off the bench last season.   Other players expected to contribute this season include 6-2 Sr. Zack Estes, 6-1 Jr. Chris Todd, 6-4 Jr. Zipp Duncan, 5-10 So. Todd Atcher, 6-0 Warren Lively, and 6-2 So. Charlie Baldwin.

#14 Ashland – Coach Mike Flynn’s Tomcats finished 21-9 last season and are favored to capture the 16th Region crown this season.  They will be led by 5-11 Sr. point guard Adam Howard, an excellent floor leader with the ability to score.  6-3 Sr. Matt Johnson had a good summer and should help with point production.  5-10 Sr. Andrew Wheeler, 6-0 Sr. Mike Irwin, 5-11 Sr. Chad Cook, and 6-3  Sr. Andrew Hancock also add experience.  Ashland has some excellent young talent including 6-8 So. Brett Miller and 6-2 Fr. Drew McDavid.  6-1 8th grader Matt Thomas transferred from Rose Hill and could be a future star.  Coach Flynn has a nice blend of depth and talent that could make the Tomcats an excellent team.

#15 Madison Central – Coach Allen Feldhaus, Jr.’s squad finished 15-12 last season but return a senior-dominated squad that could challenge for the 11th Region title.   6-5 Sr. Shawn Ballard averaged 18 ppg last season and is a deadly three point shooter.  6-4 Sr. Matt Cornett averaged 10 ppg and should be a force in the paint this season.  Other players expected to contribute include 6-3 Sr. Brad Cain, 6-2 Sr. Chris Stunson, 6-3 Sr. Michael Champ, 5-10 Jr. Buddy Stone, 5-11 Sr. Brett Carman, 5-6 So. Andrew Mathis, and 6-0 Jr. Steven Ballew.

#16 North Hardin – The Trojans finished 25-8 last season and are coached by Ron Bevars.  Coach Bevars has 11 regional championships and his teams have a record of 622-230 over a 28 year period.  The Trojans will be led by 6-5 Sr. Demetrius Guions, who averaged 15 ppg and is an athletic slasher who is difficult to defend.  6-6 Sr. Reggie Soileau is another athletic frontliner who showed marked improvement over the summer and should have an excellent senior campaign.  North Hardin graduated their senior backcourt but are expecting help from talent moving up from the JV team that went 20-0 last season.  The Trojans should have another good squad but the Fifth Region will be strong this season.  (Note: Reggie Soileau is no longer a member of the North Hardin basketball team)

#17 Butler – Coach Mike Campbell’s team finished 17-11 last season and graduated star Trey Cape, but the Bears have the talent to challenge for the 6th Region crown this season.  Coach Campbell has depth and balance on this team, plus players who should provide senior leadership.  5-11 Sr. Antonio Drane, 5-9 So. Darren Petty, 5-10 Jr. Andrew Fisher, 6-2 Sr. Armond Edmondson, 6-3 Sr. Jeremy Mayes, 6-2 Sr. Nathan Evans, 5-11 Jr. Daniel Johnson, and 6-5 Jr. Aaron Menefee are some of the players expected to contribute this season.

#18 DeSales – The Colts are coached by Tom Crews and finished 16-13 last season, playing in the 6th Region.  The Colts graduated five players from last year’s squad but Coach Crews is optimistic about this team.  6-0 Sr. Thomas Britt (8.0 ppg) is expected to have a breakout year.  6-4 Sr. Kyle Reed moved here from Australia and is an excellent passer who could be among the region’s best performers.  6-0 Sr. Keith Belt (9.0 ppg) and 6-2 Jr. Beau Braden (4.0 ppg) are expected to have good seasons.  Other players expected to contribute include 5-10 Fr. Aaron Tandy, 6-3 Jr. Joe Mattingly, 6-2 Sr. Patrick Booth, 6-0 Sr. Brandon Hibbs, 6-2 Sr. Adam Smith, 6-4 Jr. Brandon James, and 6-0 Jr. Ryan Crowdis.  DeSales is expected to be able to get to the basket this year and will no longer live or die on the three point shot.  

#19 Clay County – The Tigers are coached by Mike Jones and finished 16-12 last season.   The Tigers are picked to capture the 13th Region crown this season.  This will be a veteran team led by four seniors and three juniors with the ability to score from all positions.  6-5 Sr. Brian Griffin (17 ppg) is an excellent shooter who has already scored over 1,100 points.  6-7 Jr. Rodney Mitchell (14.5 ppg) can score either in the paint or from outside.  5-9 Sr. Brian Sizemore is a strong ballhandler who must be able to run the point this season.  6-3 So. William Jones averaged 8.2 ppg and 8.4 rpg as a freshman and could be a very good post player. Other players expected to contribute include 5-9 Jr. Trey Bowling, 6-0 Jr. James Patterson, 6-3 Sr. Zack Siler, 5-8 So. Anthony Hibbard, 6-2 So. Dylan Sizemore, 6-1 So. Anthony T. Hibbard, and 6-3 So. Desmond Swafford.

#20 Lafayette – Coach Damon Kelley’s Generals finished 18-9 last season and could be one of the best teams in the very competitive 11th Region this season.  6-8 Sr. Darnell Dialls has the potential and athleticism to be one of the top players in the state.  6-1 Sr. Marcus Barron appears poised for an excellent senior campaign.  6-0 So. Pete Gifford is an excellent outside shooter while 6-6 Sr. Nic Mullins provides additional strength in the paint.  6-4 Jr. Blake Miller is a transfer from Dunbar and brings additional athleticism to the team.  6-1 Jr. T. J. Chinn, 6-0 Jr. Nathan Ayers, and 6-3 Jr. Keith Johnson are also among the players expected to contribute.

 

Conclusion

This preview was supposed to be posted on December 1st, 2003.  However, due to a heavy workload of games, events, and event previews I am three weeks late.  This preview is based on info received prior to the season and does not take into consideration games played to this date.