Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fan Night

Last year, I wrote a column about going to a football game and being lost because I forgot how to be a fan.

Tonight, I remembered.

I'm on my last vacation day in Missouri and I managed my schedule so that I stayed in town long enough to watch my nephew, Russell, play basketball in his school's holiday tournament.

Russell is a 6-0 sophomore forward, who starts for the Bears, and was born when I was just in second grade. Since I've been away to college and now working in Kentucky, I've missed a lot of his growing-up time and games.

Anyway, it wasn't hard for me to start cheering for Russell and gasping in suspense as his first shot of the night tip-toed around and out of the basket. It was easy to scream like a mad woman when his first shot went in for an and-one (he made it).

From there, I evolved to yell at the referees (they were letting No. 20 from the other team get too feisty). Then I started yelling for Russell to start blocking out, and started yelling for his team to "get your arms up, get big and play good defense."

My sister (who is 18 years older than I) was ready to have a fit at my vocalness. The gym was relatively quiet, therefore, everything I said at a mild volume came out much louder than it was. My sister is also the junior high principal and was the working administrator of the game.

I told her if she had a problem with my cheering, she could go to the other side of the gym. Should she still hear me over there, then she could rail on me.

Part of me wanted to keep stats for the whole game, but then that would take the fun out of it, and I would be working on my vacation. So I compromised and just kept stats for Russell.

He finished with four fouls, five points, five rebounds, and three deflections.

After a close game, the Bears won, despite being short two starters who were suspended for five games for violating team rules.

Because I wasn't in my element, I'm not sure the exact score, but they won by four points.

After watching a plethora of Kentucky basketball lately, it was interesting to compare the style of play of western Kentucky and south-central Missouri.

My assessment: Kentucky basketball is by far, much, much, much more aggressive and physical. But it seemed like in the Missouri basketball I watched, the teams executed more plays.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rerun: Time to Shine

*I attempted to post this earlier in the year, but had troubles. See today's story on Mallory Luckett in The Paducah Sun for more details on Time to Shine.*

In preparing for the post season, including the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, Murray State guard Mallory Luckett wrote 'A Time to Shine' as a way to inspire the Racer women's basketball team. This is the video the women's basketball staff created to show before the NCAA Tournament selection show.

'A Time to Shine' is performed by members of the team.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Donte Poole update

After the season-ending injury for Murray State reserve guard Jewuan Long, coach Billy Kennedy answered questions this afternoon to the Racers' depth.

With Long gone, B.J. Jenkins sitting out for transfer rules and forward Marvin Williams off the team, the Racers only have 10 scholarship players left, making it a necessity to seriously consider removing the redshirt from freshman Donte Poole, Kennedy said.

Whether Poole plays Saturday against Missouri will be a game-time decision.

“In the best case scenario, it would have been good to redshirt him," Kennedy said, "but our team has changed and we haven’t been getting good performance out of our perimeter guys. If it’s in the best interest of our team, that’s what we’ll do.”

See more questions and Kennedy's answers in Friday's preview of the Racers' game against Missouri.


After playing Mississippi State for their "money game" last season, the Racers have stepped up the competition level when they play Missouri on Saturday at 6 p.m.

The program will be paid $64,000 for the trip to Columbia, Mo. Morehead State's 1-6 record was partly due to playing so many money games on the road — money that they can save up to build the program and the athletic budget.

"The bigger schools buy games so they can have a bunch of home games so they build up their resume," Kennedy said. "We’re fortunate we only have to play one (money game).”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Death Valley wrap-up

A Death Valley trip, by the numbers:

850 miles traveled in three days

5 game stories

2 blog posts

4 basketball games

1 football game

2 sets of Hot Hands (two for the feet because the toe warmers didn't work)

2 McChickens

3 medium McDonalds' fries

1 GPS unit


After making the Death Valley trip last year (following Murray State basketball to Eastern Kentucky University and Morehead State), I must say, this one was much better than the first, although neither was bad.

This year, I had the gift of my Garmin nuvi GPS unit, and for this I am quite thankful. I just punched a few buttons, and the Garmin did the rest. I didn't have to worry about glancing at my pre-researched directions, I just had to listen to the voice of my unit lady. The GPS came in especially handy for navigating through Lexington.

I thoroughly recommend a GPS if you do not have one already. It's not flawless, but it will get you closer to where you need to go than an atlas will.


While the Death Valley trip resulted in a split for the Murray State men's basketball team, normally a feat in itself, the loss to Morehead State has slightly bigger implications than sticking a 1 in MSU's Ohio Valley Conference loss column.

Morehead State is now 2-0 in the conference, at the top with Austin Peay. The Eagles celebrated like they had won a trip to the NCAA Tournament after beating Murray State. Not only did they break an 11-game losing streak with the Racers, in one weekend, they beat the No. 1 and No. 2 team (UT Martin). Quite a feat after coming into the conference games 1-6.

Seeing that it is so early in the season, the one loss isn't going to deter the Racers for too long. But starting the conference 2-0 is big for Morehead. How big remains to be seen.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Rockin' Rockets

Crittenden County's three captains, Gage Courtney, Rodney Robertson and J.D. Gray, greet Beechwood's captains before the cointoss of the their Class A state semifinal football game Friday night in Fort Mitchell.


The outcome of Crittenden County's Class A state semifinal game against Beechwood wasn't just a David vs. Goliath matchup on paper. The differences between the two programs stood out in the stands, too.

According to, the two school's corresponding cities, Marion and Fort Mitchell, have vastly different characteristics, despite being the homes to Class A schools.

Marion 3,069, Fort Mitchell 7,556.

Median household income:
Marion $27,411, Fort Mitchell $53,112.

Residents with income below poverty level:
Marion 24.3 percent, Fort Mitchell 3.4 percent.

Folks with a bachelor's degree or higher:
Marion 9.3 percent, Fort Mitchell 37.6 percent.

Little wonder then, how Beechwood gathered up the funds to play on a turf field.

Rocket fans, donned in Carhardts and camouflage (one Rocket football player actually had a camouflage muff around his waist), were juxtaposed by their calmer counterparts to their right — a few sporting actual fur coats.

While Beechwood's fans huddled together in the cold air reaching temperatures in the teens, Crittenden fans stormed the field before the game to cheer the Rockets as they took the field.

Rocket fans stayed and they cheered through the 34-0 loss and they hugged their football players and cried with them after the game, all the more proud to have Crittenden reach the semifinals for just the second time in school history.

But ask someone who really knows, really cares, who were the best fans at the game Friday night. Ask Rockets coach Al Starnes, who just completed his 18th year with the Rockets.

"You can't beat that," Starnes said about the support. "We had a great send off yesterday. The community did a great job of that, and I looked up here one time and we had more fans in the stands than they did. It just shows the support that we have. It’s a five-hour trip and to have as many as we had — the fans are great."

Maybe money can't buy true support.

Leftovers from Eastern Kentucky

In lieu of practicing in a high school gym or traveling on to Morehead, the Murray State men’s basketball team will practice today in historic Rupp Arena in Lexington.

For Racer Danero Thomas, the allure of Rupp wasn’t quite there after making friends with the Wildcats’ Ramon Harris when Thomas played in Africa with Harris on a summer team. Harris took Thomas on a tour, allowing him to get acquainted with tradition.

But for Racers Kevin Thomas and Isacc Miles, the rafters of Rupp are still impressive.

"It will be a good experience, because I’ve never been there," Miles said. "I mean, I’m not a Kentucky fan, but I can respect that."


Miles, a sophomore transfer from Creighton, is finally finding his offensive groove. Thursday night against Eastern Kentucky, Miles had 11 points, two assists, two turnovers, three rebounds and a steal. Due to transfer rules, Miles sat out all of last season.

"When you sit out a year, it’s tough to get back right way," Miles explained. "So the first couple games we’ve been winning, so I haven't been complaining about trying to score. I'm just doing the little things, defensively and getting ready to play conference basketball."

Miles' defensive effort held EKU's leading scorer, Mike Rose, to just two points.


EKU coach Jeff Neubauer was asked to compare this Racer team to the last OVC Championship Racer team, the 2005-2006 team coached by Mick Cronin that fell by three points to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.

"It’s yet to be determined," Neubauer said. "This team does compare to that team, and the next three months will tell if their defense is as good as Mick's last team, the 2005 tournament team."