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100 years of basketball: One man's opinion of best-ever local players

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By John Herndon

The only thing certain about picking the best ever in Anderson County basketball history is that we did not make room for enough players on the teams. Twenty boys players over 100 years? Ten girls since 1975?
It is practically impossible to do so, especially the way basketball has changed over time.

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Just picking the best players is difficult in itself. I think it would be safe to say that no one alive has seen all of the greats in Anderson County history.
To make it just a bit more difficult, we wanted to make sure that each school that is now part of Anderson County High School was represented. For boys, that meant eight from Anderson, three from Western and two each from Lawrenceburg, Kavanaugh and Lincoln Institute. Three picks could be from any school
For girls, it was seven from Anderson, one from Western and two from either school.
As I list, and as they will be introduced on Dec. 17, there will be no “at-large.” All will be from their respective schools.
Most people have a natural bias toward those we went to school with or are related to. We also tend to be safe picking those we have seen in person, which is one reason I can't believe left some of the people off that I did.
Keep in mind this is one person's opinion. You will agree with some, disagree with some.
All I ask is that if I left you off, you don't block me on Facebook. Have fun debating the best ever.

Girls' team picks

Anita Waldridge, Western (1977)
There were several reasons why Western was a regional threat during the early years of girls' basketball, but the biggest was Waldridge, a powerful center with good hands and a nice touch around the basket. Waldridge might have been overlooked statewide, but those who saw her play knew she was one of the best around during her career.

Nancy Flynn, Anderson County (1978)
Relentless rebounder, great passer and nice scoring touch on the earliest Anderson County girls' basketball teams that practically dominated the Eighth Region. Flynn played on two Sweet 16 teams.

Kathy Goins, Anderson County (1979)
Few high school basketball players really lived up to the legend, but in Kathy Goins' case, the legend might not do justice to the game. I never saw her play, but Goins is said to have been better than the boys' players, a feat almost unheard of in the late 1970's. She scored 50 points in one game, still a school record, boys or girls, more than 30 years later.

Lee Ann Clark, Anderson County (1983)
Still in the top five scorers and rebounders in school history. I never saw her play, but to still be among the leaders the way the game has changed over the last 30 years is incredible.

Stephanie Penny, Anderson County (1988)
Rugged post player who could score or rebound with anyone, but I also remember her lock-down defense against Scott County in Anderson's only regional tournament win of the 1980s.

LaStacia Hahn, Anderson County (1989)
May have been the first great 3-point shooter at Anderson, but did not get to utilize the bomb until the last two years of her career. Some think she would be the all-time 3-point leader had the shot been part of the high school game her entire career.

Jodi Neurohr, Anderson County (1997)
Was the school's all-time leading scorer when she graduated. Was deadly on mid-range jump shots.

Santana McKee, Anderson County (2004)
Hands down, the most complete player I have ever seen in Anderson County girls' basketball. The all-time leading scorer and rebounder in school history, McKee could handle the ball, go out on the floor for jump shots or dominate inside.

Courtney Milam, Anderson County (2008)
Through hard work, Milam emerged as the Eighth Region's top post player by the time her career ended. Third all-time leading scorer, good passer, working rebounder. At 5-foot-10, Milam was about five inches short of a major college scholarship. She now plays at St. Catharine College.

Lindsay Fultz, Anderson County (2009)
Incredible open court player, strong 3-point shooter. A sickness during the 2009 regional tournament probably kept Fultz from ending her career as the program's all-time leading scorer. She now plays at Georgetown College.

Hard to believe I left these 10 off: Anderson County – Patty Flynn (1976) Tammy McMichael (1978), Renita Perry (1983), Shawana McKee (1985), Heather Brough (1988), Cathy Rogers (1992), Angel Neighbors (1997) and Kristen Phillips (2002). Western – Ann Bowman (1980), Nicole Hawthorne (1990).

Best boys' players

Paul McBrayer, Kavanaugh (1926)
It is not clear if McBrayer was the first basketball star from Anderson County, but it is clear that he was one of the first greats at the University of Kentucky, where he was an All-American in 1930. It is a travesty that a retired jersey does not hang at Rupp Arena in his honor.

Forrest “Aggie” Sale, Kavanaugh (1929)
The game has changed dramatically over the years, but Adolph Rupp always started his list of best-ever at UK with Aggie Sale. He was the dominant player of his day.

Ralph Carlisle, Kavanaugh (1933)
Recognized as the state's leading scorer in 1933, Carlisle was another of Kavanaugh's long line of greats that played at the University of Kentucky. Might have been the most influential person – as a player and coach -- in Kentucky high school basketball history.

W.J. Smith, Lawrenceburg (1940)
Mr. Smith never claimed to be a great player, but three-time all-district, two-time all-region and second team all-state, along with the fact that he played freshman ball at the University of Kentucky say otherwise.

Eddie Humston, Lawrenceburg (1946)
His heroics in the 1946 regional and state tournaments are legendary. Strong player on the last Bulldog Sweet 16 team.

Jimmy Russell, Anderson (1953)
Played on a great team the had the misfortune of playing in the region with the state champion. Russell was selected as a Kentucky All-Star and held the school's single game scoring record for 42 years.

John N. Cunningham, Lincoln Institute (1955)
Records are sketchy about Cunningham's career, but he was the leading scorer on Lincoln Institute's state championship team that beat Louisville Central in the finals. His career on Armed Forces teams was considered roughly equivalent to a college career.

Bruce Springate, Western (1955)
A common statement from long-time Western fans is that Springate was the best ever to wear the purple and white. Played at Eastern Kentucky for McBrayer in an era when the OVC was one of the nation's best basketball conferences.

Jewell Logan, Lincoln Institute (1960)
By the time Logan played, Lincoln had begun to play white schools. Logan led the Tigers to the Sweet 16 in 1960.

Terry Young, Anderson (1965)
Great shooter who was two-time all-conference at a time when the CKC was widely considered Kentucky's best. Those who saw him say, “He could fill it up.”

Sherman Harvey, Anderson County (1970)
Outstanding shooter, tough rebounder who was largely overshadowed by his more well-known teammates. Bias alert: Harvey was my favorite Bearcat to watch play when I was a kid.

Jimmy Dan Conner, Anderson County (1971)
Mr. Basketball says it all. Conner was a two-time first team all-stater, led the Bearcats to the state championship game and was a high school All-American and a member of the “Super 10.” Later went on to a great career at Kentucky, where he was captain of a national runner-up team.

Mike Green, Anderson County (1971)
Sometimes overlooked and usually overshadowed by Conner, Green was still one of Kentucky's best, then went on to a good career at Mercer University and Georgia Tech.

Eddie Hatchett, Western (1984)
Great scorer on some of the best Western teams of all-time. I never saw him play, but those who did say he was as good as anyone around.

Orbrey Gritton, Anderson County (1985)
First team all-stater, member of the Kentucky All-Stars. Drew some Division I interest, but opted to attend Transylvania University, where he ended up as one of the school's all-time leading rebounders. Was the second-leading scorer and leading rebounder on record at Anderson when he graduated.

David Perkins, Western (1985)
Quiet producer who could score inside or nail the jump shot. Great defender. Went on to a nice career at Campbellsville University. Bias alert: The first game I wrote for The Anderson News was when Perkins held Gritton to a season-low in 1985. That really stuck with me.

Will Carlton, Anderson County (1995)
The Thrill led the state in rebounding in 1995, was a first team all-stater and a Kentucky All-Star. He is still the school's all-time leading rebounder and one of top five scorers. NAIA national player of the year at Georgetown College.

Jonathan Beasley, Anderson County (1997)
Might have been the most athletically-gifted player to ever suit up at Anderson. At 6-foot-8, he could dominate inside, yet was the best 3-point shooter on a Sweet 16 team. All-State first team selection. Scored 1,912 points in three years.

Eric McKee, Anderson County (2004)
Great shooter, regional player of the year and a second-team all-state selection in 2004. A rare four-year starter for the Bearcats.

C.J. Penny, Anderson County (2009)
First team all-stater, two-time regional player of the year, leading scorer in Anderson history and a Kentucky All-Star. Yet with all those accolades, Penny will be remembered most for his 3-pointer at the buzzer against Shelby County to send the Bearcats to the 2009 Sweet 16.

I can't believe I left these guys off: Anderson County – Ed Ruggles (1967), Ed Flynn (1975) Derek Ruble (1989), Johnny Shouse (1991), Wayne White (1994), Jacob Russell (2010). Western – June Gritton (1955), Larry Gritton (1965) and Jimmy Young (1970); Lawrenceburg – Hickory Bill Searcy and Paul Champion; Kavanaugh – Buzz Borries.

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