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100 years of Anderson County basketball: Entering 100th Season, Anderson County still has love affair with hoops

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By John Herndon

One hundred years.
Those three words sound like an eternity. In the overall history of the world, 100 years of a small town's love affair with a very simple game would seem rather insignificant.
But don't tell that to the 7,000 or so Anderson County Bearcat fans who streamed into Rupp Arena for the Kentucky state tournament in 2009.
Don't tell that to the people that say that Anderson County is poised to become one of the state's girls' basketball powers over the next few years.
And most of all, don't dare tell anyone who has suited up as an Anderson Bearcat, Western Eagle, Kavanaugh Tiger or Lawrenceburg Bulldog that their contributions to local history, no matter how great or small, that it is not important.
Nor should anyone overlook the history of black athletes who were bussed to Lincoln Institute in Shelby County before Anderson High School was integrated in 1963.
Basketball is part of the fabric of Anderson County. And to anyone who has ever been a part of those teams, we salute you.
For the next four weeks, The Anderson News will be taking a look at 100 Years of Anderson County basketball. It was during the 1911-12 school year that Susan Bond Rutherford taught the game locally for the first time, forming two girls' teams at Kavanaugh High School. Within a few years, the sport's popularity had taken hold in Anderson County.
Now, in the 100th season of high school basketball being played in Anderson County, the passion is still strong. Anderson County has earned the reputation as one of Kentucky's best basketball towns in terms of high-quality play and deeply loyal fan support.
During the next four weeks, I will look at some of the highlights of a century of hoops in Anderson County. This week, it is The Early Years, focusing on Lawrenceburg and Kavanaugh high schools. Next week, we'll look at The Changing Years after those two schools merged. Later, we will also take a look at a period of basketball glory.
I'll also take a look at the proud tradition of Western High and Anderson County residents who played at Lincoln Institute.
With such a basketball legacy, there is no way I could possibly cover all the great teams, great games, great players and great coaches that have been part of Anderson County basketball history. I will just hit some of the highlights and profile some of the characters that are part of the special tradition of Anderson County basketball.
I will also list some of the great moments and teams in Anderson County basketball. As an added plus, I have asked some guest columnists to share a little of their experience of local basketball history.
You can also check online for even more on 100 Years of Anderson County Basketball.
I am deeply indebted to Georgetown College professor and local historian Jack Birdwhistell, who has done extensive research on the subject and has graciously shared many of his findings and photos.
(I also say that since Jack teaches theology at Georgetown, he is living proof that basketball really is a religion in Kentucky.)
And two weeks ago, we asked our readers to select the best basketball players in the county's history. I listed some of the best of the best and obviously missed a few. Believe me, I have heard about some that I missed. But that is why we asked you to add your own if some were omitted.
That All-Time Anderson County Team will be announced at the Anderson County-Shelby County doubleheader on Dec. 17.
I reveal my picks on page B7 – it is just one man's opinon -- and you can still make your selections until 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3.
Most of all, this is to be a celebration of the great tradition of basketball in Anderson County.
I hope you have a fraction of the fun I have had in putting it together.
Now, off to the hardwood.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.