My intention was to write an entire article on the top 10 hyped Kentucky high school basketball players of all-time, but my air conditioning went out yesterday, rendering my family and I temporary nomads. Instead, I'm just going to list the players, with less verbiage and statistical information.
This is a fairly subjective subject (save a few players), so please feel free to make your own list and make mince meat of mine. Also, other than King Kelly Coleman -- who I've been aware of since I was seven or eight years old --I'm not privy to how hyped the other great Kentucky high school players from the early 1970's and earlier were during their high school days, so my list is by no means comprehensive.
Have at it, and have fun after the jump:
In no particular order:
1. King Kelly Coleman (Wayland) -- The first to be honored as Kentucky Mr. Basketball in 1956 -- They don't call him the "King" for nothing.
2. Manuel Forrest (Moore) -- Lost Mr. Basketball battle to Cawood's Phil Cox in 1981 -- Considered by many who follow high school ball in Louisville to be the best player to ever come out of that city. He destroyed his knees, though, and was never the player in college (UofL) that his high school career suggested.
3. Richie Farmer (Clay Co.) -- Mr. Basketball in 1988: Sweet 16 champion in 1987: Runner-up in 1988 -- The adjective "legend" is as overused as the adjective "awesome," but Farmer is a true Kentucky high school basketball legend.
4. Rex Chapman (Owensboro Apollo) -- Mr. Basketball in 1986 -- They don't call him "King Rex" for nothing. Like Farmer, Chapman was truly transcendent. He would have to be taken into the gyms he wreaked havoc on through back doors, away from the throng of fans awaiting his arrival. I can't even imagine how many words would be typed about Farmer and Chapman in today's Internet age.
5. Darrell Griffith (Male) -- Mr. Basketball in 1976: Sweet 16 champion in 1975: Runner-up in 1973 & '74 -- Griffith dominated high school basketball in Kentucky during his time at Male while playing for future UofL assistant/Tennessee head coach Wade Houston. One of the greatest athletes to ever roam the hard-court, Griffith fulfilled his promise 1,000 times over.
6. Allan Houston (Ballard) -- Mr. Basketball in 1989: Sweet 16 champion in 1988: Runner-up in 1987 -- A truly outstanding talent, he and his Bruins battled Farmer's Clay Co. teams in the Sweet 16 championship game two years in a row ('87,'88). Then, Louisville fans, hoping he would join his father as a Card, openly wept as papa Wade took the Tennessee job bringing along Allan in tow.
7. J.R. Van Hoose (Paintsville) -- Mr. Basketball in 1998: Sweet 16 champion in 1996 -- Leading his team to the Sweet 16 title as a mere sophomore, the hype on Van Hoose was overwhelming. The fact that he played for one of the legendary high school programs and coaches (Bill Mike Runyon) in eastern Kentucky only added to the drama.
8. Winston Bennett (Male) -- Mr. Basketball in 1983 -- An unbelievable talent, the battle for Bennett's services between UK, UofL, and Tennessee was hyper-competitive, resulting in almost daily dissemination of which suitor he would choose (to throw people off the scent, not long before Bennett announced for UK, he wore Tennessee gear to school).
9. Jamie Walz (Highlands) -- Miss Basketball in 1996: Sweet 16 runner-up in 1994 -- Walz scored an astounding 4,969 points in her high school career (covering 7th -12th grades), making her the all-time leading scorer in Kentucky high school history by a mile-and-a-half. The National Prep Player of the Year in '96, Walz received more ink than any female high school basketball player in history.
10. Chris Lofton (Mason Co.) -- Mr. Basketball in 2004: Sweet 16 champion in 2003 -- If not the sweetest shooter to ever come out of Kentucky, Lofton's smooth stroke certainly ranks on the short list of the best. The hype surrounding Lofton, partially because of the local schools' (UK, UofL) refusal to offer him a schollie, was large and in charge for at least two years and continued until he graduated from the University of Tennessee (ugh!).
Others: Brandon Bender (Ballard), Tony Kimbro (Seneca), Ervin Stepp (Phelps), Todd May (Virgie), DeJuan Wheat (Ballard), Wes Unseld (Seneca), Butch Beard (Breckinridge Co.), Jim McDaniels (Allen County-Scottsville).
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!