100 years of basketball: In His Own Words -- Jay Springate

-A A +A

Changes from the past mean basketball future bright in Anderson County

By The Staff

By Jay Springate
(Editor's note: Jay Springate is a former student sports writer for The Anderson News. A graduate of Anderson County High School and the University of Kentucky, Jay now lives in Atlanta, where he works with an investment firm.)
No better comparison between the past and the future of Anderson County basketball could be found than in the pages of The Anderson News I found myself thumbing through over Thanksgiving weekend.

Imagine my surprise to learn that close relatives of yours truly are considered among the greatest basketball players in the history of Anderson County.  Previously, the evidence was mixed.  All I knew came from stories years removed from the actual events, and anyone who has ever been fishing knows what those are like. 
Although my middle name is after my great-uncle Bruce Springate (Western, 1955), I was born tragically without basketball genes. (Although some years ago I did look awfully good throwing alley-oops to a 12-year old Eric McKee in the rec league at Emma B. Ward – that alone justifies his place on the ballot.)  But seeing the names in print certainly lent credibility to the idea that, once upon a time, there really were some Springates who could play ball.
Turning the page of the newspaper, I found the 2010 Eighth Region basketball preview section even more perplexing. Shelby County not projected to be one of the 8 best teams in the region?  Boys' OR girls'?  Impossible. Had Shelby been sent to another region, as Scott County had been a few years prior? And who (or what) is this mysterious “Collins?”
Of course, I soon found out that Shelby County split into two high schools beginning with this school year, the new school being named after former governor Martha Layne Collins. The split sent most of Shelby County's returning basketball players to Collins, and all indications are the effect will be lasting.  The Anderson-Shelby rivalry, at least the one I have always known, is finished. As someone who treasured the rivalry and participated in the baseball version, I found the changes troubling.
Then it dawned on me – this is the way not only basketball works, but the way the world works. Great institutions come and go and are replaced by new ones. Friends become enemies and enemies friends.  The legends of Western, Lawrenceburg, Kavanaugh, and the Lincoln Institute learned these truths firsthand.
But the memories from the first 100 years of Anderson County basketball will live on. Even though I was only fortunate enough to witness the last 20 or so (I was born right around the time John Herndon was covering his first basketball game for The Anderson News), there were plenty of special players, teams, and moments.  Will Carlton and Jonathan Beasley on the court together.  Storming the court in Henry County after beating Oldham County to win the Eighth Region in '97. 
I graduated in 2003, when the team led by Eric McKee and sharpshooter Patrick Lloyd beat Shelby County on our home floor in the first round of the 30th District Tournament, ending Shelby's season.  Anderson then beat Henry County to win the district championship before falling in the Eighth Region semifinal to Grant County by a single point.  
At least one player who played in the Anderson gymnasium went on to play in the NBA – Oldham County's Donta Smith, who played two seasons for the Atlanta Hawks.  Perhaps Smith was boxed out by Brandon Phillips, the Bearcats' undersized power forward with a knack for crashing the boards. 
Anderson lost games on half-court buzzer-beaters not once but twice: to Shelby County in the mid-90's and to Bardstown in 2001. But no one in attendance will forget C.J. Penny's 30-footer as time expired to beat Shelby in the 2009 regional final and send the Bearcats to Rupp Arena.
The one constant of recent Anderson basketball history is Glen Drury, winner of well over 400 games as the Bearcats' head coach. Even Drury is not immune to change – the years have seen him trade in suits and ties for polos and khakis.
But it may be another 100 years before he plays a zone defense.