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Notes written by a snowman. ...
Anderson County football coach Mark Peach believes Joker Phillips will do just fine as head coach at the University of Kentucky.
Early in his coaching career, Peach got to know Phillips, who was making a name for himself as a tireless recruiter and one of the up-and-coming stars in the coaching profession. They have stayed in contact over the years and remain friends.
“Joker would come home to Franklin-Simpson during the summer and would have a youth football camp for kids,” said Peach, who spent several years at Franklin-Simpson and was an assistant coach on a state runner-up team. “The staff at Franklin-Simpson would help work his camp. That is how I first got to know him.
“Joker has always been a very cordial, down-to-earth person. He has never let his success coaching at the collegiate level change who he is as a person. He is a really good guy and I am extremely happy for him. I feel like Joker is very well respected by the high school coaches in Kentucky.”
When Phillips was introduced as the Wildcat head coach last Wednesday, he was quoted in The Courier-Journal as saying, “As a young boy growing up in Franklin, my dream was to be a Wildcat.”
Peach says that will serve Phillips well. “I think it means a lot to him,” Peach said of Phillips' hiring. “Not only to have an opportunity to be a division 1 head coach but also to be able to do it at your alma mater I think makes it extra special.”
Because he has been head coach in waiting for two seasons and because fans howled at the play-calling at the end of several games this year, Phillips will likely get a very short honeymoon. And while Rich Brooks was never a huge winner in Lexington, forging four consecutive winning seasons with bowl games is a high standard in Lexington.
Peach hated to see the 68-year-old Brooks decide to retire, but says football is better in Kentucky because of him. “It is sad to see him go,” Peach said. “I thought Coach Brooks did a really nice job at UK. The program is in much better shape now than when he took it over.”
Why the love for John Wall?
I have been watching Kentucky basketball for more than 40 years, falling in love with the game as Rupp's Runts passed and ran their way into the state's collective heart.
I have seen some great ones over the years: Dampier, Riley, Issel, Givens, Bowie, Walker, Chapman, Mashburn, The Unforgettables, The Untouchables and The Unbelievables.
But never have I seen any single player captivate a fan base like John Wall. (And, I might add, I have never seen anyone sicken those who love to hate the Cats any more than this amazing player.)
The first reason is easy. John Wall can flat out play the game. In last week's excellent Sports Illustrated story, Wall said his desire is to be the greatest point guard ever.
He's not there yet, and I know that some veteran fans will argue that Ralph Beard is the UK standard, but Wall might be the best backcourt player in UK history.
The other reason is that John Wall, and this entire Wildcat team, is just so much fun to watch. After two years of Billy Gillispie talking about toughness so much that you thought he lived on overdone steak it is just such fun to watch a kid obviously having fun playing the game.
It's as contagious as the John Wall Dance.
Melissa Hanks, of Lawrenceburg, has caught the fever.
“I love him,” she said. “Too bad he won't be around long. We went to the (UK-Georgia) game Saturday and the dunk was awesome at the end of the game.”
Like Melissa, I am just glad I have gotten to see this incredible player suit up in Lexington.
The state's forgotten guy?
Amid all the hoopla about UK being 16-0 and Wall a national Player of the Year favorite, we might have forgotten about an old friend putting up some major numbers himself.
Former Shelby County player A.J. Slaughter is averaging nearly 16 points a game for Western Kentucky (9-5) and should draw some serious consideration for the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. He had 28 Sunday in a loss to Denver.
One of those really nice kids you get to meet in this business, Slaughter had some memorable nights against Anderson County, but in my mind, his biggest was an outing when Shelby came up short.
It was in the 2003 district tournament elimination game. Then just a freshman, Slaughter was the main reason Shelby stayed in the game until the final minutes.
While Anderson – and the rest of the Eighth Region, for that matter – celebrated Shelby's only district elimination in the last 37 years, you just knew that night that Slaughter was going to be a special talent.
Under-recruited coming out of high school, he is showing that he really is special for the Hilltoppers.
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.