The Zip Zone Express Tip-Off Classic

The title is a mouthful but it is the most well-known pre-season Panorama in the basketball realm — and has been for over two decades.

Its host — Sheldon Clark High School — has done an incredible job of bringing in incredible talent each year. You can always expect to see Kentucky High School Basketball’s top teams of that year on the schedule — plus some elite out of state schools — and in doing so, it has featured big name recruits like Rajon Rondo, Allan Houston, O.J. Mayo, Damien Fishback, Tim Couch, John Pelphrey, J.R. VanHoose, and many more.

2015’s lineup had an appearance from John Calipari himself — who was there recruiting Sacha Killeya-Jones.

The game has also had some legendary contributors and staff. The most noteworthy being Robin Harmon Newsome. Robin is a former Kentucky All-Star, 4-time Regional Champion, and legendary coach. She said, “Along the way, the Tip-Off Classic became a first class event in which we really didnt have to invite teams. I had a waiting list of schools all over state who wanted in it.” Robin ran the tournament as Sheldon Clark Athletic Director from 2005-2017.

This year’s schedule may be one of the event’s best, as we will be seeing Pendleton County — led by Senior Dontaie Allen, who is the University of Kentucky’s first in-state recruit since 2013 — when Cal signed Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis.

For the Louisville fans, you’ll also get a chance to see UofL’s latest in-state recruit: David Johnson of Trinity — and he is a joy to watch; UHA’s KyKy Tandy, an Xavier commit who plays some extremely smooth basketball; and last but not least, a highly skilled Michael Moreno of Scott County, who is currently uncommitted but sitting on several offers. Also participating, a bit of local talent: Lexington Herald-Leader Top 25 players 6’11” Sophomore Trey James and Senior Jacob Rice.

The Zip-Zone Classic Full Schedule
Saturday, November 24th 2018
Booth Energy Center (Formerly Sheldon Clark High School)

9:15  – Martin County Middle vs Logan, WV
10:15 – Sheldon Clark vs Prestonsburg (Girls)
11:55 – Pikeville vs Greenup County
1:20 – Shelby Valley vs Elliott County
2:45 – Scott County vs University Heights
4:10 – George Rogers Clark vs Trinity
5:35 – Johnson Central vs Knott County
7:00 – Pendleton County vs Chapmanville, WV
8:25 – Sheldon Clark vs East Ridge

For the first time in a couple of years, this tournament will be back in its original location, only under a new name: Booth Energy Center. Those of you familiar with the area will know it as Sheldon Clark’s old gym.

Martin County entrepreneur Jim Booth purchased and renovated the old building — and this will be the first event held in the newly named Booth Energy Center.

Jim and his family have contributed to the community of Inez in just about every way imaginable — from sporting events to providing jobs for the area — they’ve been a key part of what gives this tournament its longevity and success.

James Mills, VP of Operations for Zip Zone Express, Inc., says “Zip Zone Express is excited to continue our tradition of hosting the Tip-Off Classic. For over 20 years, we have been dedicated to putting together an exciting program that showcases high school basketball talent from around the state. Furthermore, Zip Zone Express has always been dedicated to our community, and we are looking forward to donating the proceeds from the event to the Sheldon Clark Athletic Department.”

Tickets for the Tip-Off Classic will be $5 for general admission, first come first serve — and like Mr. Mills said, the Zip Zone event is charitable — 100% of the proceeds from both ticket and concession sales go directly to Sheldon Clark Athletics. Programs will be available as well, make sure you snag one!

Now, for the good stuff. While you’re around, you’ve gotta eat. And maybe you or the kids will need a break from the roundball — so let this native Martin Countian give you an insider’s guide on what to do while you’re in town.

Lodging:

The Brookshire Inn
2965 KY-40
Inez, KY 41224

Now through November 24th, you can mention the Tip-Off Classic and get $10 off your stay. The Brookshire Inn is 1 mile away from the gym where the games will be played and puts you next to a Zip Zone location, where you can get fuel or grab some Papa Johns pizza!

Things to Do:

Main Street Cinemas
387 Main Street
Inez, KY 41224

You would be hard-pressed to find another theatre this clean and accommodating in this neck of the woods. Located in the Roy F. Collier Community Center Main Street Cinema hosts movie-release themed activities for kids and neighbors an arcade and indoor playground.

God’s Promise Trail

If you’re up for a good hike, right beside of the Roy F. Collier Community Center mentioned above, there’s a beautiful trail you can climb and really experience the joy of the beauty in the area. It is a wonderful spot to get back in touch with nature.

Dining:

Cloud 9 Cafe
2960 Airport Road
Davella, KY 41214

One of Coach Cal’s personal favorites is the Cloud 9 Cafe. Nestled on Route 3 South before arriving in Inez, it’s beside of Martin County’s very own airport. The view on the drive to the restaurant is picturesque — and if you drive slowly enough, you just might see a few Elk. Try the Monte Christo!

Inez Dairy Bar
402 E Main St
Inez, KY 41224

If you’re looking for a sit-down, local burgers-and-ice-cream joint, look no further than Inez Dairy Bar. They have a long menu with a lot of options for everyone — and make sure you try Mrs. Judy’s homemade desserts sitting right there in the case at the counter.

Pizza Stop
1488 Blacklog Rd.
Inez, KY 41224

Anybody that was raised in Inez and moved away will always tell you — their “must have” on a visit home is Pizza Stop. A wide variety of pizza flavors and sub sandwiches, you can’t go wrong with just about anything you choose. If you stop by, ask for the local favorite — the Ham Wedge.

Of course if you’re in a hurry, there are quite a few Fast Food choices in town. McDonald’s is just across the way from the gym, and in downtown Inez you’ll find Taco Bell, KFC, and a Subway — right across from the movie theater. If you stop by Subway, tell them you’re here for the Zip Zone Tip-Off Classic, and you’ll get a free cookie with your purchase.

I’ll be on site most of the day, hopefully enjoying some competitive basketball all while soaking in the nostalgia of the re-opening of my alma mater’s gym. See you all there!

Kayla Moore VanHoose
Bluegrass Basketball
Follow @BluegrassBball on Twitter!

Thanks go to Tiffany Nichols Fannin, Dwayne Sweeney, and Robin Newsome for your contributions of information for this article.

The King and I

Today is the 80th Birthday of Kelly Coleman —- one who basketball fans and aficionados alike know as “King” Kelly. B99C2F39-1004-4534-9AF8-946E91095F49 He graduated high school in 1956 and was named our first ever Mr. Basketball.

To you, he may be the KHSAA all-time leading scorer. He may be that legend and lore you’ve heard all of your life as a basketball player. To you, he may be the Greatest High School Basketball Player that Ever Lived. He absolutely is all of those things. You know what else he is?

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My best friend. He’s a shot at getting to enjoy a grandfather figure as I get older (because Lord knows mine were gone way too soon.) He’s someone I can ask about “back then”, someone I can talk about life, today’s struggles, and a simpler time.

Someone I get to laugh with, smile with, and as of lately — cry with, too.

I’ve only known Kelly for about 4 years but it feels like a lifetime.

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I could never replicate the joy he brings to my days as I grow older and begin to appreciate his wisdom, his troubles, his jokes, and even his choice in movies.

You see, King Kelly is a great basketball legend, and that will carry on for lifetimes in the record books and stories… but he is so much more than that, too, and that will carry on in my heart for the rest of my days.

I hope it has been the absolute best birthday anyone could experience. And I hope I get to see many, many more.

Happy 80th Birthday, old man.

We’re Back: The Kentucky/Indiana All-Star Game

In 2017, the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches became the Administrators of the Kentucky/Indiana All-Star Game. The game was held at the Civic Center in Frankfort, giving the now-demolished building one last hoorah.

In the last 10 years, interest in the game has waned on our state’s side, we’ve seen attendance down below 500 in recent games.

The KABC plans to change that.

If you attended last night’s game at Bellarmine University, you’ll understand. If you didn’t — let me paint a picture for you.

Knights Hall holds 2,181 patrons and approximately 30 members of the media. The arena was full of fans — just 100 tickets shy of a complete sell out crowd.

The game directors pulled out all of the stops. The programs, with interactive QR codes and historical blips/videos/photos weaved in and out of current information, sold out long before the boys game tipped off. T-shirts flew off their respective tables and fans from all over filled the gym.

The game committee chose an elite Cheerleading squad from Pikeville High School to bring some spirit to the gym. PHS cheer donned tank tops to match the Kentucky teams and performed floor cheers to get the crowd involved.

KABC also decided to bring back a tradition that had been lost in recent times by inviting All-Star Game alumni back and honoring them at center court.

Former Girls All Stars such as Miss Basketballs Geri Grigsby, Jamie Walz Richey (All-Star game coaching staff), and Lindsay Duvall joined Candace Bingham and several others to have their name called and gave the crowd a wave.

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Boys All-Star alumni were well represented — Kentucky Wildcats Derek Anderson and Anthony Epps joined prime time prep stars such as Mr. Basketballs Ralph Richardson and J.R. VanHoose. Louisville basketball great James Boo Brewer, an All-Star Assistant Coach, also stepped out of the locker room to join his fraternity of players.

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Adding a nice nod to our history, video interviews of All-Stars of old played during Media Timeouts. Fans turned to the video board to listen to stories from long ago.

To cap the evening off — both Kentucky teams came out hot. Our girls team brought it during both halves and grabbed their win. The boys, up against 5+ Big 10 commits from Indiana were predicted to lose by a large margin. With team chemistry and grit, they commanded a lead early. Several Kentucky boys answered the call and came out victorious.

The magic in the room did not go unnoticed. Kentucky fans enjoyed the atmosphere, the lore, and most importantly, the win.

For a game that has all but had its Death Certificate signed by the sports realm’s most heavy hitters — it sure seems like it’s  not ready for the end.

The Kentucky/Indiana All-Star Game is back, folks. Hop on the bandwagon, I’ll scoot over and make some room.

Kayla Moore VanHoose
Bluegrass Basketball

Dear Coach Cal

Dear Coach Cal,

Please care more about Kentucky High School Basketball.

Now, hear me out — this is not a letter to insult or berate you in any way. This letter is to tell you exactly where you stand in Kentucky hoops: the top.

You ARE Kentucky basketball… and I don’t mean the University of Kentucky. I mean that you are the face for the roundball across our entire Commonwealth.

You see, we are having a problem in our great state. Every year, less and less fans care about getting out to a high school game. Our Sweet 16 — the greatest high school tournament in the world according to my friend Jim Host — is seeing a decline in numbers. Our local rivalry games are hit hard, too. I can’t help but think if Coach John Calipari — the state’s basketball icon — cared about high school hoops, everyone else would follow suit. 

Coach, maybe you know how big your influence is. Maybe you don’t, I don’t know… but I do know one thing. I was in attendance the year you showed up to the Zip Zone Tip-Off Classic in Eastern Kentucky and your presence changed the environment for the entire weekend. When you showed up to watch a player this season… the attention to that game increased tenfold. Imagine what buzz you could generate all season long just by offering some insight, attention, or maybe just starting a conversation about it?

I know you’re a busy man. Beyond busy! But what I would love to see is you and your love for this sport cause a snowball effect and bring back the passion across Kentucky. I’d love to see you at our Mr/Miss Basketball event, at our All-Star games in the summer, at anything. But if you can’t be present I’d love to see encouragement and chatter from your social media, inciting the people of Kentucky to get involved again.

I also know you’re not obligated to do any of these things. But Kentucky fans love you… and Kentucky fans have kids/family that play in High School. What a win-win.

Respectfully,

Kayla VanHoose
Bluegrass Basketball

Dear Governor Bevin.

Governor Bevin,

The Kentucky Public Education System made me who I am. I come from two hard-working parents who divorced when I was 7, my brother 13, and after that, life got hard on everyone financially. I am one of those kids that could not have afforded a Private or a Charter School. On paper, our working-class income would not have awarded me or my brother a “waiver” for tuition — and we definitely would not have been the “ideal” students whose family could make generous contributions. What kind of education would we have received if it was not for Kentucky Public Schools?

My brother and I both began our educational journey at Inez Elementary School — taught and guided by some of the most amazing ladies I know. I am thankful for Mrs. Ida Smith, Mrs. Teresia Crum, and countless others for laying such a strong foundation. I owe it to Inez Elementary for giving me a love of learning — I haven’t stopped.

I like to think Middle School was/is awkward for everyone and I wasn’t immune — but I had an artistic side, an out-of-the-box learning style. I will never forget Mr. Mark Grayson and Mr. Rick Osborne for nurturing, appreciating, and accepting me for my lack of sameness. They taught me it was okay to have an identity.

And my fine educators at Sheldon Clark High School — most retired, a few passed on, and some still going to bat for their students every single day — I owe them everything. Mrs. Carolyn Bentley is responsible for every ounce of literary knowledge in my brain, because I just could not tell a story in order to save my life. She is the sole reason so many people compliment my articles for being “beautifully written” (and the reason I’ve edited this article twice already!) I cannot forget the late Mrs. Sylvia Six, whom I miss every single day — she was this freshman’s biggest cheerleader… and Mrs. Pat Sluss — I wish I had told her before she passed that she introduced me to my favorite book and that I haven’t stopped reading since. Finally, Mr. Freddie Napier — who had the patience of Job when teaching me how to do Math: I am thankful for him because I get to apply those skills he taught me every single day to students in my own school district — and change their path for the better the way they changed mine.

Today my husband and I work in one of the greatest school systems in the state: Johnson County. We are home to international academic champions and some of the finest educators you can find. He and I, and our colleagues, go beyond the call of duty every single day. We have kids in college that are not biologically ours that still look for our guidance. One in particular refers to us as her “second parents.” That’s because we love her beyond the confines of standards, tests, and books, Mr. Bevin.

You see, Governor, children from all walks of life have a story. Much like me, their teachers are often chapters in their novel of life — and I hope I am putting countless chapters in the books of this generation.

Mr. Governor, you may look and see selfish, lazy, uninformed, short-sighted — but you have never experienced what they do on a personal level. Because of that, you will never value our educators. You can take away, insult, belittle, do whatever you wish — but your position is the least permanent of us all. After you’re gone, it will only be us rebuilding — trying to erase the bad memories of a man who tried to dismantle one of our state’s most precious resources.

So here I am, Matt Bevin, loudly and proudly supporting the Kentucky Public Education System — because everyone has a favorite teacher — nobody has a favorite Governor.

 

Regards,

Kayla VanHoose