1999-2000 Kentucky High School Basketball Preview

© 1999 Ron Harrison

This should be an interesting year for high school hoops in the state of Kentucky.  My pre-season top ten teams are as follows:

  1. Ballard
  2. Pleasure Ridge Park
  3. Lexington Catholic
  4. Scott County
  5. Paducah Tilghman
  6. Fairdale
  7. Male
  8. Elizabethtown
  9. Madisonville
  10. Muhlenberg North
#1 Ballard, coming off a 31-7 record and the reigning Kentucky high school champions, should be an overwhelming early choice for number one as well as a top ten national ranking.  Coach Chris Renner returns four starters fro last year's squad.  Brandon Bender, a 6-9 Jr. and ranked high nationally, averaged 15.1 ppg and 5.4 rpg last year.  6-8 Sr. Mac Wilkinson, returns at forward with a 13.4 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Cedric Knight, a 6-5 Sr. guard/forward who can play inside or out, averaged 11 ppg and 5.4 rpg last year.  Adam Chiles, a 6-0 vastly improved Jr. 2-guard should improve on his 8.4 ppg average from last year.  5-10 Sr. Spencer Graeter will move from the 2-guard to the point this year.  Spencer averaged 6.8 ppg last year.  Key reserves for the Bruins will be 5-10 So. guard David Bryant, 5-10 Jr. guard Greg Caudill, 6- Sr. guard Drew Davis, and 6-1 Jr. guard Antwan Sartin.  One pre-season ranking had three Ballard players - Bender (No.1), Wilkinson (No.3) and Knight (No.8) ranked among the top eight players in the state.  Last year's point guard Will Partin will be missed but Ballard is loaded this year.

#2 Pleasure Ridge Park was 31-5 last year and should challenge for top honors in the state again this year.  PRP lost the terrific trio Duane King, Michael Griffith, and Kevin Paschel.  However, Dale Mabrey just reloads and merrily rolls along.  PRP had a great summer, winning both the Derek Smith Shootout and the prestigious Steamboat Classic.  PRP will be led by 6-5 Blake Downing, a Sr. who averaged 8.2 ppg and 7.1 rpg last year.  Blake really came on this summer and the basketball version of "Rambo" should be one of the best players in the state this year.  5-6 Sr. guard Keyonn Tutt has blazing speed and should have a great year.  6-2 Jr. guard Stephen Koger, the athletic dunking machine, brings excitement and scoring to the game.  Jeremy McBroom, a 6-2 Sr., averaged 4.7 ppg last year, and will be a very important cog in the Panther machine.  Other key players are 6-6 Sr. forward Johnny Brooks, 5-9 Jr. guard Jeremy Kelly, 5-11 Sr. guard Matt Morris, 6-2 Sr. guard Lucas Palmer, 6-3 So. Duwan Bukar, 6-2 So. LaDavid DeLorch, and others.  Pleasure Ridge Park, as usual, will depend on their press and team depth.  Stephen Koger returns to PRP after averaging 17 ppg at Colbert County Alabama.  Kelly transferred from Waynesville, Missouri and should provide additional scoring punch for the Panthers.

#3 Lexington Catholic Coach Danny Haney finished 26-5 last year but lost three key players - Nathan Popp, Don Offutt, and Lawrence Board.  So, why is Coach Haney smiling?  Catholic won the State AAU 17-and-under championship this summer.  THey basically start five guards who can pass, shoot, and handle the ball.  Catholic will be led by 6-4 Sr. Matt Heissenbuttel who averaged 11 ppg last year and will play all five positions at one time or another.  6-3 Sr. Ben Wilson is a deadly shooter who had a great AAU campaign.  6-5 Sr. Will Harris and 6-2 Sr. Kip Wellman also bring three point range to the game.  5-11 Sr. David Hewitt and 5-11 Jr. Clay Wolford will share the point position.  Other key players will include 6-2 Jr. Brendon Woody, 6-5 Jr. Jack Heissenbuttel, 6-5 So. John Rompf, 6-4 So. Klint Rose, and 5-9 Fr. point guard Brian Smith.  Catholic pressure defense will still create a lot of  their fast break offense.  Catholic may have problems at times matching up against tall athletic teams, but they will also create match-up problems against these same teams.

#4 Scott County Coach Billy Hicks' Cardinals finished 36-2 last year and were the runner-up in the state tournament.  The Cardinals graduated Rick Jones, A.W. Hamilton, Bryant Harris, and Chris Wallace, but it is still difficult to rank Scott County as low as No. 4.  Billy Hicks and his assistants have an excellent system in place and they have a fine mixture of veterans and rising young players.  Scott Hundley, a 6-5 Sr. and leading contender for Mr. Basketball, returns for his farewell tour.  5-10 Sr. Casey Alsop, who has fought a nagging back injury this summer, returns with a a deadly jumper and unlimited range.  6-8 Jr. powerhouse Nate Austin could develop into a special player.  6-0 Kenneth Chisley and 6-1 Todd Oser will add to the frontcourt mix.  5-10 so. "C-3" Brown, also brings scoring punch to the Cards.  A strong freshman class led by 6-1 Joe Harden will keep the Cardinals very competitive for the next few years.  If you want a win against the Cardinals, plan on doing it early in the season because once Billy develops his rotation they will be very tough to handle.

#5 Paducah Tilghman  Coach Bill Chumbler's squad finished 30-6 last year and should be excellent again this year.  Chumbler lost guards  Chris Wilson and Chauncy Kelly from last year's squad.  They also lost team leader George Wilson but the cupboard is far from bare.  Tilghman returns 6-3 Jr. sharpshooter Brett Jones who averaged 16 ppg last year.  They also return 6-4 Jerick Carruthers and Quemar Daniels.  6-5 Sr. Bobby Holt will move to enter and a 6-4 So. transfer from Carlisle County Orlandus Hill is expected to provide immediate help.  6-6 Kyle Miller is also expected to help up front.  Luke Adams and Chisley Gibson are expected to be the point guards.  Tilghman appears to have the shooting and inside strength an if they can maintain their trademark pressure defense they will make a lot of noise come tournament time.

#6 Fairdale Coach Lloyd Gardner's team finished 13-12 the last two years but based on their strong runner-up finish in the State AAU this summer they should be among the state's elite.  Fairdale has a very solid starting five consisting of 6-5 power player Ed Robinson, 6-4 Sr. Adrian Milam, 6-3 Sr. Leroy Hickerson, 5-10 James Wynn, and 5-9 Sr. Montez Cox.  5-10 Jr. James Brice, 6-3 Jr. Coric Riggs, and 6-2 Sr. Mike Thomas provide quality depth.  Cox, Riggs, and Thomas are all capable three point shooters and Milam is the defensive stopper.  This is a physically imposing team and should be able to play with any team in the state.

#7 Male  Coach Bryce Hibbard inherits a team that finished 19-10 last year and things should be even better this year.  Male is very athletic which should fit well with Hibbard's up-tempo style of coaching.  They will be led by 6-5 Jr. Larry O'Bannon and 6-6 So. LeVar Carter.  Other  contributors should be 6-2 forward Ryan Bridgeman, 5-10 So. guard Adam Burks. 6-3 Sr. forward Jermaine Burks, 6-1 Sr. guard Brad Eisert, 5-11 So. guard Johnny Mathies, 5-11 Jr. guard Leslie Powell, 6-4 Sr. center Casey Smallwood, and 6-2 Sr. forward Jeff Young.  Also keep your eye on 6-3 Fr. Mike Bush; he could be a good one.  Coach Hibbard has a lot of talent at his disposal and could surprise a lot of people.

#8 Elizabethtown  finished 21-7 last year and should be even better this year.  Coach James Haire returns a trio of stars that could take his team a long way this year.  6-7 Sr. Nathan Sexton averaged 21.3 ppg and 12.3 rpg last season.  Nathan runs the floor well and handles the ball making him very capable of playing both inside and out.  6-2 Sr. Chris Williams averaged 12.4 ppg last year, is very athletic, and manages to find a way to score.  6-5 Sr. Antwain Barbour may be the biggest sleeper in the state.  He experienced a growth spurt this summer and is actually three inches taller than last year.  Barbour is an excellent leaper as well as possessing great quickness.  He handles the ball well and should definitely improve on his 9.1 ppg average of last year.

#9 Madisonville Coach James Davis's squad finished 23-5 last season and they should be on the prowl again this year.  The Maroons will return most of their key players from last year.  6-5 Jr. Michael Haney averaged 14 ppg and 13 rpg last year.  6-5 Jr. Spencer Johnson averaged 7 ppg and Michael Phillips chipped in with 11 ppg and 8.5 rpg last year.  Phillips is the son of former University of Kentucky player Mike Phillips.  6-3 Sr. Brandon Hightower averaged 9 ppg, and Trevor Rhye also returns for Madisonville.

#10 Muhlenberg North Coach Steve Sparks coached the Stars to a 27-8 record last year.  Jr. Point guard Patrick Sparks averaged 18.9 ppg last year and is ranked in the top five state players.  Muhlenberg North also returns 6-2 B.J. McCoy and Nathan Brothers, a 6-4 Sr.  They play an ambitious schedule which makes them tournament tough in March.

Why am I worried?  I have omitted Bowling Green, Iroquois, Perry Central, Henderson County, Lafayette, etc.  Anything can happen in high school basketball and usually does.  I will probably view 100-125 games this season and I watched basketball all summer from camps to AAU play.  I regularly read articles from two of the best sportswriters in the business, Mike Fields and Bob White.  I respect the valuable opinion of Dave Zuberer, coach of the Derek Smith All Stars, and also the viewpoint of Nathan McCauley who is a walking encyclopedia of high school basketball players.  I regularly talk to coaches and assistant coaches who have taught me so much.  However one thing is certain; predictions and the ranking game will teach you humility.