Sweet 16 Champs: All in the (Ruthsatz) Family

Coach Scott Ruthsatz never had a plan to be the Head Coach at Covington Catholic High School, but when the opportunity came for him to be closer to family in Ohio, he seized it.

Developing his passion for basketball under Coach Bob Hurley, Sr. at former New Jersey powerhouse St. Anthony High School in Jersey City. After winning a National High School Championship in 2011 as an assistant, Scott Ruthsatz was looking for a way home. He perused openings in the Kentucky/Ohio area and saw the opening. He began making phone calls — first to Chris Mack, to ask his advice. His question? Could Covington Catholic become a St. Anthony? Coach Mack deferred to Joe Fredrick — whose sons were both CovCath grads. His answer? Absolutely yes. Scott Ruthsatz threw his name into the hat and quickly became the top choice of Covington Catholic High School.

From going 17-14 his first season as a Colonel in 2012, to having an amazing 27-7 record in 2013, to winning the school’s first ever Sweet 16 in 2014, Coach Ruthsatz has officially made Covington Catholic a staple of the KHSAA Boy’s Sweet 16 Tournament. He takes minimal credit for their success:

“You know, I give all the credit to the kids. There’s a culture already in place there, and you’re trying to change it, put your thumbprint on it, but the kids are the ones that changed things around in a single year. That was them — total credit to the kids for buying into a system.”

Coach Ruthsatz is a family man. A father of 7 and a husband to a lovely wife — who he brags is always “mom first” — says it is an unbelievable experience to coach both Nick and now Aiden to State Championships. 

“Outside of just being a Dad, but being on the sidelines, going through the state tournament as it’s structured in Kentucky, crowning one champion, and having an extension of me on the court, it’s an unbelievable joy,” said Ruthsatz.

I asked him about the trials of coaching your own children, “I had a few, but you know, Nick played his freshman year under Coach Hurley, so he got to experience that whatever it takes mentality, understanding roles, and knowing how hard you have to work to


“Winning was one of my most fulfilling and rewarding moments, especially because it’s family.” – Nick Ruthsatz Photo Courtesy of Nick Ruthsatz

succeed. I have to say that Nick set the tone for the rest. Aiden was in the stands as an 8th grader when Nick was a Senior — so he got to see first-hand the role he had to play”

Few Dads get to experience what Coach Ruthsatz has experienced with any of their children. Scott has experienced it twice — Nick was a senior in 2014 and now Aiden, a senior this season, who contributed heavily to CovCath’s Sweet 16 Victory. I asked Ruthsatz if he had hopes for a repeat with the next in line, Nolan, a 5th grader, who left the Sweet 16 victory for a tournament at the KBA in Lexington.

“You know, I hope to continue this success for many years, and I’d love to have it with Nolan, but that’s up to him. If basketball is what he wants to play, then great. I like for my kids to do what makes them happy.”

With four sons, two as state champions, and a younger one leaving a major moment to compete in a game of his own — it’s pretty clear that the name Ruthsatz might be one we basketball fans hear for years to come.

Aiden Ruthsatz is currently a Senior at CovCath and has committed and signed to Christian Brothers in Memphis, Tennessee. Coach Ruthsatz says he thinks that’s a great fit for Aiden, there are a lot of Cincinnati/Northern KY kids on the roster, and the coach runs a similar system.

Nick Ruthsatz graduates from Findlay College this May and is already having some business and basketball success of his own — he has started a fundamental basketball program called Heart Over Height Hoops, where he provides individual skill development to youth basketballers, and with about 150-200 clients, Coach Ruthsatz says he’s teaching fundamentals to the kids, something he feels is missing from the game today.

I know one thing: Both Aiden and Nick have been a joy to watch. The art of being a true Point Guard seems all but lost — until you see these two play. I look forward to what Coach Ruthsatz does with the program from here forward. Next up: Nolan.

Kayla VanHoose
Bluegrass Basketball
@BluegrassBball on Twitter

A Beginner’s Guide to Sweet 16

This is the 12th consecutive year I’ve attended the KHSAA Sweet 16. While I love basketball and am thrilled to watch the games, the experience is much, much more than going into Rupp Arena and watching high school basketball.

The experience, if done correctly, is like one big family reunion each year. 

I have had several people ask what is so thrilling about spending 6 straight days inside Rupp Arena. Once I’m finished, hopefully people get it. And if only one of you get it — that’s one more person added to the family.

Stay Close

I have experienced the Sweet 16 as a Lexington resident, as a participating school affiliate, and as a fan who decided to spring for a room at the Hilton or Hyatt. This year I did an AirBnB on West Maxwell — walking distance. (Shout out to Ben for being the BEST host ever.) After 12 years of trial and error, staying close actually saves you money and time in the long run. Hotels outside of downtown take awhile to get back to between sessions if you need a quick nap or want to change clothes and it’s nice to be close to your belongings if you’ve forgotten something.

Parking is always tricky unless you are cool with paying $10 per day to park next to Rupp — if you are, that’s cool. If not, take it from me, stay close. Park your vehicle for the week and adventure to all the cool places downtown or utilize Uber for anything not in walking distance.

Get Tickets to the Mr. and Miss Basketball Event

For the last few years, the kick-off has been an incredible ceremony hosted by the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation on Tuesday evening. This is where they announce this year’s Mr. and Miss Basketball. Coaches, media, and fans all across the Commonwealth get dressed in their best and will socialize in the reception hall until time to enter the Ballroom to find a seat. A 3-course meal, catered by the Lexington Center and always delicious, is served. There’s typically a special guest handing out the award, and each Region’s player of the year is given an award. The moment of joy when the winner’s name is announced — remarkable.

The First Day

Wednesday morning I wake up and pack my necessities. For you, that’s probably tickets and wallet. For me, it’s a small bag gifted to me by the KHSAA 3 years ago — my first year in this media gig — perfect size for an iPad, chargers, notebook, and pens. Pack light, they check your bags upon entering and the last thing you want to do is mess with a coat or huge purse — extra items quickly become cumbersome.

With my things in tow, I make the trek to High St and enter the Hyatt Lobby. To my right is a crowd of folks all after the same experience. A crowd of them will say hello and give hugs — after all, we haven’t seen each other since this time last year. Each year I meet new regulars, they join the family, too. After I say hello to the bartenders — the same ones that have been there for years — it’s time to head to Game 1.

I head back outside and down to the underbelly of Rupp to the Media entrance and sign my name for the first time that week. The kind ladies behind the table hand me a lanyard, credentials, hospitality passes, and then I’m on my way.

I walk out from underneath the stands. There it is: THE court. The floor of Rupp Arena, the Mecca of Basketball in Kentucky. I head down the sideline to my normal spot — same place every year — the auxiliary media section at the baseline.

Get to Know the People Around You

I am greeted with an excited smile, handshake, and hug by a man in a Blue Blazer. He’s another friend I’ve made over the years, only he’s not a spectator, he’s in the infamous Committee of 101 at Rupp — his name is Dennis. I look forward to his company and kind conversation.

Last year, I was fortunate to hang with some basketball legends like WKU greats Bobby Rascoe and Darrel Carrier, NCAA Champion Heshimu Evans, and received many warm hugs in passing from Coach Joe B. Hall. My experience isn’t because of my special seating, media credentials, last name, or anything like that. Any single person that is outgoing and friendly enough could enjoy the company of many of these people. When you meet your heroes, take a chance and say hello. That’s what I do and it has paid off more often than not.

Enjoy the Basketball No Matter What

The games start. A student section is always to my left. Sometimes I engage them, take some videos, post them to twitter. They like that… so do I.

No matter who is playing, whether its a blowout or not, the magic is still the same. We are all sitting in Rupp Arena watching kids fulfill their dreams. Making it to the Sweet 16 is the pinnacle of Kentucky High School Basketball — the excitement is something that is electric. At this level, any team is capable of beating another. You never know who isn’t ready to go home.

Eat the Ice Cream

Rupp’s soft serve (I recommend the swirl) is arguably the best ice cream of all time. Several agree — in fact, we make a run at #RuppIceCream trending on twitter each season. This is our year!

The Lexington Center

Basically anything you might need can be found downstairs in the Lexington Center, located between Rupp Arena and Hyatt’s lobbies. Ride the escalator down and you’ll see a shopping mall-esque space with a Food Court, an Old Kentucky Chocolate store, and several boutiques/shops geared toward all different walks of people… especially Kentucky fans. #BBN.

Become a Frequent Flyer at the Hyatt

After the first session, I exit Rupp and trek back to the Hyatt Lobby. There they are, my Sweet 16 family. Think of a yearly Cheers reunion. We have about 4 hours to kill before evening games and often we sit at the Hyatt restaurant the entire time — catching NCAA games, eating food, reminisce about our favorite Sweet Sixteens (mine is when Ken-jah Bosley hit that last second shot and the whole stadium went wild!!) The best part is catching up on what we’ve all done for an entire year.

Make the Hyatt your home base. All the regulars meet there year in and year out — and that’s your goal — to become a regular. Pro tip: the tables have built in outlets. Score! You can charge your phone here. Trust me, you’ll need it.

Explore Downtown

With that large break between sessions and if you’re a night owl like me, there’s all kinds of time to see Downtown Lexington. Sometimes you’ll find me at The Paddock or Tin Roof on S. Limestone catching the Cats in the NCAA tournament. Oh, and Two Keys Tavern — it has a Goodfellas inside. That is THE best pizza in Lexington. Don’t @ me.

Long gone are the days I used to find myself at the Pavillion walking down to my favorite basement bar — Redmon’s — as it was sold a few years back. If that’s your scene, you can check out Bluegrass Tavern, the best Bourbon bar in the state. After all, what’s a visit to Lexington without Bourbon?

My favorite Downtown Lexington dining spots:

Pies and Pints on W Main St — unique pizzas and a wide variety of craft beers
Parlay Social at the Pavilion — food and live music in the evenings, what more could you ask?
Tony’s Steak and Seafood on W Main (located in The Square) — this is for those of you looking for a high-end steak and seafood joint. So good.
Joe Bologna’s on W Maxwell — American Italian food. My fave? The Manicotti.
Find a Routine that Works For You, Stick With It

My entire week is spent generally in the same pattern. Morning games, Rupp Ice Cream, Hyatt fellowship, Rupp Ice Cream, evening games, Downtown.

Maybe I’ll see you out and about. You’ll find me at the Burl this Thursday night after the games — I hear they’ve got a pretty killer live music lineup.

Here’s hoping you fall in love with the sights, sounds, and scene of the Sweet Sixteen — just like I have, dear reader. We need more of you in our circle. Good luck!

Kayla VanHoose
Owner of @BluegrassBball and self-proclaimed Sweet 16 aficionado





March 12 2018 Podcast

It’s Sweet 16 week, y’all!

This week is a shortened episode because of our appearance on Cameron Mills Radio but chock full of information. We also have VIDEO coverage this week!

Coach Scott Chalk from the KABC is a special guest on today’s episode to talk about changes to the KY/IN All-Star Game. Jon and Kayla give their state tournament previews and predictions.

Kayla also gets to gloat about Marshall winning the C-USA Tournament.

For Android users:

Bluegrass Basketball Season 1 Episode 11

For iPhone users:

Bluegrass Basketball on iTunes


Bluegrass Basketball Season 1 Episode 11

February 19th 2018 Podcast

Hey gang! We do have video, however, I’ve dealt with some major internet issues today. Currently uploading and hope to have the video embedded soon.

For now, enjoy the audio podcast — recorded at Powell County High School. Love the cheerleaders in the background! Aside from being cut short this week, this is one of my favorite episodes.

Jon and I opened up about our Mr/Miss Basketball picks and I interviewed 1986 Sweet 16 Champion Coach Dave Fraley. He made some awesome comments about our tournament structure and we talked about our favorite things about the fellowship at Rupp each season.


Season 1, Episode 8

Bluegrass Basketball on iTunes

February 5th, 2018 Podcast

Disclaimer: We faced audio issues yet again this week and have decided to separate our relationship with the current platform we are using to record. Please be patient as we move our recordings and hope for improvement in Week 7. A sincere thanks for sticking with us as we figure things out — we were excited to provide such a clear cast last week only to have the low-quality audio results return this week.

Jon and I have decided to begin traveling to be in the same place during recordings and will hopefully be bringing you video coverage, along with a better audio version of our podcast, very soon.

Thanks for your support.

Jon and Kayla press through to record their episode after hours on Sunday night to bring you their information about the State Tournament draw, a regional overview, Mr/Miss Basketball contestants, and some big wins that happened this week. They discuss their feel good story of the week and as always, Jon tells us how he really feels. Listen in!


Bluegrass Basketball Season 1 Episode 6

Bluegrass Basketball on iTunes

January 29th, 2018 Podcast

The All A State tournament has wrapped up, Kayla and Jon share their thoughts about the girls and boys tournaments, they discuss several unexpected wins that happened across the state. Player of the Year and Coach of the Year voting is now open and they tell you how to do so. The duo introduces the concept of two new segments — “Where are they now?” and something similar to the C’Mon Man moments on ESPN. Jon and Kayla’s favorite gyms are listed along with a moment to talk about the terrible tragedy that happened at one of our great high schools.


The podcast’s audio issues are now a thing of the past, too — you’ll enjoy the listen that much more. Let us know what you think!

For Android or non-iTunes users:

Bluegrass Basketball Season 1, Episode 5

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes:

Bluegrass Basketball on iTunes