Mr. and Miss Basketball: The Process

BY KAYLA MOORE VANHOOSE

After some constructive dialogue, it occurred to me today that most people do not understand the process of how the Mr. and Miss Basketball award is nominated for/voted on/announced.

If you care to go further, you’ll gain an insight into the system and probably think “hey, I like the way they do this.”

First — there are two parties that contribute to the Mr. and Miss Basketball selection. The Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation (KLEF) and the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches (KABC).

KLEF is a non-profit organization that works to provide financial help to families who cannot afford vision screenings, treatment, etc. In short: they work miracles. KLEF has named Mr. and Miss Basketball since it became a voted-on award and because most of us are proud of holding on to Kentucky’s high school basketball heritage — they have an important role in the voting process.

KLEF gives a voice to media, former Mr. and Miss Basketball Recipients, and also does something unique that most are overlooking — they provide Head Coaches with a chance to nominate a Mr. or Miss Basketball outside of their Region. Their nomination form goes out first and runs for 1 week.

The KABC is our state’s coaches association. I don’t say this only because I am employed by the KABC — you’ll not find an entity that advocates for players and coaches across the state the way they do. They host a yearly Coaches Clinic and conduct regular Board meetings to hear voices of Coaches all over. Since the KABC has a close, working relationship with high school coaches — they have a key role in the voting process as well.

The KABC has an end of season award — Region Player of the Year. Only their members — which consist of Head and Assistant Coaches alike — have a vote on this award. This vote is made by all member coaches and they may only vote for players within their Region — but cannot vote for their own players.

The two parties doing their separate processes brings us the most accurate, non-biased selection of what players should be on the final ballot for the big ticket. KLEF gives us a statewide picture of whose name should be out there and KABC gives us the name of the best player in every single region. If we eliminated the KLEF nomination, you would only get the opinions of coaches in each Region. If we eliminated the KABC ballot, you would only have a list of 3-4 kids consistently nominated and likely all from the same area. The two systems balance one another out.

Once the KABC Player of the Year voting and the KLEF Mr./Miss Basketball nomination is complete — both parties get together and compare their data — which is why you end up with Co-Player of the Year in some Regions. Once names from all Regions are collected — The Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation puts out a final ballot — and a mix of Media, Past Recipients, and Coaches place their vote to crown the next winner.

Hopefully this lays it out for a better understanding from all. And remember, we are all working together each season to make the process better.

I hope to see all of you at the Mr. and Miss Basketball Banquet, it’s a wonderful evening celebrating our State’s most talented athletes, the money raised goes to a fantastic cause, and it is a wonderful excuse to dress up and spend an evening in Downtown Lexington.

A Celebration of Owensboro’s Sportscenter

BY GREG LAWSON

Owensboro is the host city for this year’s inaugural 2 A Championships. The city of Owensboro has been a spectacular host for the tournament and the historic Sportscenter is a great venue for most any event. The Sportscenter is celebrating its 70th year drawing fans of all types to western Kentucky. The venue seats 5,500, many of them chair back. Even these seats give a visual representation of the history that is a part of the Sportscenter. There is the modern blue, plastic seats that surround the lower sections of the arena. As you move up to the mezzanine, there are wooden chair back seats with metal frames harken to the first days of the Sportscenter. They are the original 1949 chairs. The top section features wood bleacher seating. Well over 75% of the seating is original to the building.

The nostalgia of the Sportscenter permeates the air. The smell of popcorn wafting through the building while imagining in years gone by all of the fans that had the same sensation when they were watch Adolf Rupp’s University of Kentucky Wildcats or E.A. Diddle’s WKU Hilltoppers host opponents at the Sportscenter. “Did Rupp sit here?” “Did Diddle use this sink or give a pre-game speech in this locker room?” These are real possibilities at the Sportscenter. UK and WKU both hosted home games in the 1950’s at the Sportscenter.

The Sportscenter was the home of the Owensboro Senior High Red Devils boys and girls’ basketball until the 2010-11 season. It continues to be the home of both the Aces and Lady Aces of Owensboro Catholic. In addition, Kentucky Wesleyan College plays their men’s and women’s home at the Sportscenter, where the Panther Men’s teams have eight national championships (1966, 68, 69, 73, 87, 90, 99, and 2001). There is also a semi-pro team, the Owensboro Thoroughbreds (of the TBL) that call the Sportscenter home. The 10th District Tournament (Owensboro, Daviess Co, Apollo, Owensboro Catholic) and the 3rd region tournament are annual staples here.

As I compose these words, I sit on a stage that countless graduates have walked across. Over the decades, area high schools and colleges have used this venue to recognize the outstanding leaders and learners that have matriculated through their institutions. Countless comedians, musical artists, and others continue to perform at the Sportscenter. Nationally-known comedian Bill Engvall will be saying, “Here’s your sign.” On this stage February 15. Comedians have been bringing laughs to Owensboro since the early days of the Sportscenter. Bob Hope performed here in the 1950’s. Country-Western stars Gene Autry (who would later own MLB’s California Angels) and Roy Rogers have made appearances at the Sportscenter. Musical artists from Louis Armstrong to KISS have graced the Sportscenter stage (and yes, the building did catch on fire the night KISS performed). Aaron Lewis, former front man for the band “Staind”, will be giving a concert at the Sportscenter March 15.

Jessica Wilson Beckmann, Director of the Sportscenter, was brought on six months ago to oversee the Sportscenter’s operations. She shared that there are typically 90-100 events a year at the Sportscenter. Many that often last over multiple days. “We see a lot of potential for what we can bring into the facility, renovate it, but keep the historic aspect.” Jared Bratcher of “Visit Owensboro” shared that the economic impact of the Sportscenter for Owensboro and the region easily reaches into the millions of dollars per year. It is estimated that the 2 A Championships alone will bring in around $600,000.00 to the local economy. Mrs. Beckmann also has a lot of personal history with the Sportscenter. She was born and raised in Owensboro and played basketball for Kentucky Wesleyan in the Sportscenter, “My grandfather was the coach at KY Wesleyan (Robert R. Wilson) when they started playing here and he is a

Kentucky Wesleyan Hall of Famer. And when Ray Harper was at (KY) Wesleyan and Bruce Pearl at USI (Southern Indiana) there were 5,000 people here and it was rocking.”

Mr. Bratcher added at the end of our discussion, “This place is a historic landmark in Owensboro. It’s an old venue but it a great venue for basketball. About 10 years ago there was talk about getting rid of the Sportscenter and building a new facility. At the end of the day, we did not want to get away from the history of the place.” It’s good to know that Owensboro knows how important it is to smell the popcorn, see the original seats, and feel the history of the Sportscenter.

The 2A Classic: Thoughts

BY: GREG LAWSON

Last spring I first became aware of movement by some school administrators to make Class 2 A Championships a reality. I felt it was an interesting idea and a neat opportunity for student-athletes at schools with smaller populations. I have always been a fan of the “All A Classic” that does the same thing for Kentucky’s smallest schools. Yet, the first two people I spoke to were adamantly against the development of the 2 A Championships. One of the opposition was a colleague at Bluegrass Basketball. I was surprised with their push back. Both expressed they were opposed to the 2 A championships because of their belief that having these events for these schools and athletes are a move to class basketball state champions.

When the idea of the 2 A was brought to my attention, it never crossed my mind that this would be the ruination of Kentucky’s athletic crown jewel – The Sweet 16. Kentucky continues to be only one of two states in our country that offers a single state championship. It is a unique and wonderful experience for players, coaches, and fans around the Commonwealth. I have had the opportunity to coach in the Boys’ Sweet 16 twice, have had friends that have competed and won state tournaments, and can attest that there is nothing more special in this state for players and coaches that being on that stage. There is nothing that can replace the Sweet 16. I would never support anything that would take the feeling of walking on that floor or standing with that trophy.

The pushback against the 2 A continues to be people who are opposed to class basketball championships. The 2 A Championships are not a move to class basketball. It is another opportunity for smaller schools to compete in a post-season like environment during the season. It is no different than the King of the Bluegrass, Toyota Classic, the “All A”, or any other regular season tournament. I have not been made aware of any pushback against the “All A” because it was destroying the Sweet 16. In the 29 year history of the “All A”, there has only been one team that was both the “All A” and Sweet 16 champion – Shelby Valley in 2010. Though in 1992 it was close – Lexington Catholic won the “All A” but lost to the team they defeated, University Heights in the Sweet 16 finals. It is one of the more forgotten championship games because the end of the third quarter of that final coincided with a shot by the University of Kentucky’s Sean Woods and a subsequent shot by Duke’s Christian Leattner. 27 years ago, two teams met in the “All A” championship matchup and the Sweet 16 finals. There was no cry to eliminate the “All A” because it was taking away from the Sweet 16. The last 2 A team to compete in the finals of the Boys’ Sweet 16 was Rowan County in 2011. When talking with multiple teams during the quarterfinal round of the inaugural 2 A Championships in Owensboro, all of them spoke positively regarding the experience. Christian Academy of Louisville Girls’ Coach Perry White expressed his appreciation for the 2 A Championships after his Lady Centurions defeated Mercer County 66-51 in their quarter final matchup. “This has been a great experience…It is good for our kids to not only play in this tournament environment, but to play on a college floor.” Coach White talked about how the 2 A is a great preparation ground for their upcoming games in the L.I.T. and the postseason. Scott High School’s head coach Steve Fromeyer called their run in the 2 A Championships a “great bonding experience” and said he felt it was good for his team to travel and play a quality opponent to push you out of “your comfort zone.” Every team that was interviewed and asked about the 2 A experience echoed similar sentiments about the quality of the tournament and the value in preparing them for a postseason run. The only time the Sweet 16 was brought up was in the context of the 2 A Championships being an important tool for preparing teams for their regional tournaments and the Sweet 16.

“This has been a great experience…It is good for our kids to not only play in this tournament environment, but to play on a college floor.” Coach White talked about how the 2 A is a great preparation ground for their upcoming games in the L.I.T. and the postseason. Scott High School’s head coach Steve Fromeyer called their run in the 2 A Championships a “great bonding experience” and said he felt it was good for his team to travel and play a quality opponent to push you out of “your comfort zone.” Every team that was interviewed and asked about the 2 A experience echoed similar sentiments about the quality of the tournament and the value in preparing them for a postseason run. The only time the Sweet 16 was brought up was in the context of the 2 A Championships being an important tool for preparing teams for their regional tournaments and the Sweet 16.

“Great to see the hard work of so many of our ADs see their vision fulfilled. With the first day of the Kentucky 2 A Tournament. Good work on behalf of kids. And thanks to local partners Jared Bratcher and the folks from Kentucky Legend for their help.”

When speaking with the Athletic Directors that comprise the Board for the 2 A Championships, none of them have voiced that this tournament is an effort to move Kentucky to class basketball state champions. Jon Kasten, Henry County High School Athletic Director, sits on the board and, has served as a media liaison for this first 2 A Championship. He states adamantly that the 2 A is not a vehicle to divide state champions into classes. “This is a mid-season tournament for schools that are slightly larger than Class A. The purpose is not to take away from the Sweet 16. It is in my opinion, one of the best tournaments in the country. Being raised in Indiana, I have seen what class champions have done to basketball there. I like the purity of Kentucky’s Sweet 16.” The KHSAA Commissioner, Julian Tackett, is a supporter of the 2 A championships. He attended the quarterfinals at the Sportscenter in Owensboro and posted on social media,

Jeremy Tackett, Athletic Director at Union County High School and Chair for the 2 A Board shared that the 2 A Championships are an effort to push back against calls for class basketball state champions. The 2 A Board wants to build something great for their 2 A schools and student-athletes while keeping the sanctity of the Kentucky Sweet 16. “Our goal is to give teams that fit the criteria a great environment to prepare for the postseason and the KHSAA Sweet 16, which is the ultimate goal of every athlete in the Commonwealth.”

There is nothing as special in high school basketball as the Sweet 16 state tournament. The experience of the 16 regional tournaments and a 16 team championship that crowns a single winner has become a unique and special feature of athletics in the Commonwealth. This championship is not going to crumble and disappear as a result of the 2 A Championships. The 2 A Championship is just another opportunity to prepare teams for the challenge and excitement for the real state tournament. Hopefully, the 2 A championships will grow and serve student-athletes across Kentucky the same way that the “All A” has for years and that both tournaments will serve to prepare teams for a special run at the Sweet 16.

Bluegrass Basketball Season 2, Episode 4

Bluegrass Basketball – Season 2, Episode 4.

Kayla and Jon are back after a much needed extended break. They recap the King of the Bluegrass tournament along with other Holiday matchups that you may not have heard about. The injury bug has bitten the whole state, it seems, so Kayla and Jon weigh in on what that means for the Mr. Basketball award. They end with a quick All A preview and are ready for next week!

Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play to get our Podcast first!

Former Floyd Central Coach Kevin Spurlock Opens Up About Allegations

In early December, a small school in Langley, KY made statewide headlines. Eight players left the Floyd Central basketball team, only returning on one condition — that Kevin Spurlock wasn’t the coach. The accusations were of verbal abuse, “crossing the line” beyond cursing — Parents claimed that highly graphic language was used. One parent’s complaint was with a verbal altercation with a fan during a game. No claims of physical abuse transpired; simply that the things Kevin Spurlock said and did somehow crossed the line for their children.

Floyd Central’s administration, along with Floyd County’s Superintendent and Athletic Director, investigated the matter, meeting with each child, and ultimately deciding that Spurlock in fact broke their Zero Tolerance Policy for swearing, and the decision was made to give Coach Spurlock a 3-game suspension. Administrators did not find enough corroborating evidence to other allegations brought forth.

The kids and parents were not satisfied with that decision; Players did not return. Posts on social media continued to ridicule the investigation and Spurlock himself. It became clear that they were accepting nothing short of termination.

The administration of Floyd County Schools found no evidence of offenses worthy of firing Kevin Spurlock — yet trouble persisted. Darkness loomed over the program; Players who stuck with the program suffered through 12 losses: Spurlock knew what he needed to do.

On Friday, January 4th, 2019 — Kevin Spurlock gave his resignation to the administration of Floyd Central High School.

A local radio station, WMDJ, did an interview this morning with Floyd County Superintendent Dave Adkins who said: “When I met with Coach Spurlock… he was never forced to resign, he was not fired, he did this on his own accord and I think his concern was for the program and for the school. I think that led to his decision.”

With so many instances of Coaches fading into the background when controversies occur — taking the role of villain in silence — Kevin Spurlock is sharing his perspective on the story.

While Kevin admits guilt in a few of the complaints — the verbal altercation with a fan, the cursing at players — he also denies several of the accusations. He shared how this has affected him personally, how his family has been impacted, and how some time off may do some good.

Spurlock also acknowledges that possibly he just wasn’t the right fit for this program — and what he would have done differently if he knew then what he knows now. He admits that maybe he pushed these kids too hard — or pushed the wrong ones. He claims a level of fault in the matter but knows his style works — he has the resume to back it up.

He closed his interview with well wishes and a statement that he would still do anything for those kids despite the recent controversy — and he will prove it next week as he presents Ethan Smith-Mills with his 1000 Point milestone commemorative basketball — at Ethan’s request.

You can watch Kevin’s story at-length below.

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.