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Don’t grade Gillispie just yet; JBS still together

Do any of you remember the last time UK’s football team entered a season coming off an eight-win campaign with a bowl win and returning six players from that team that won some type of an all-SEC honor last season? All six are projected to be a first or second team all-SEC player in most preseason publications this year.

After looking through the UK press guide and consulting a few family members as well as veteran media members who have covered the Cats over the years, it was a consensus that 1977 was probably the only possible time anything close to the above mentioned scenario has happened since the Paul “Bear” Bryant era of the late ’40s and early ’50s.

That would be the 1976 Peach Bowl champions who ended up 8-4 (9-3 counting Miss. St. forfeit ) then followed up that with a 10-1 season in 1977 that went unnoticed because of NCAA probation. That 1977 team ended their season with five players garnering All American or SEC honors. They were QB Derrick Ramsey; DE Art Still; OG Tom Dornbrook; DB Mike Siganos; DB Dallas Owens.

My crystal ball says if UK has six players at the end of 2007 making first or second team all- SEC you can look back at a season that garnered 7 to 9 wins. The schedule doesn’t intimidate my thought process. If you’ve got six players who are talented enough to make plays against this socalled elite competition, then they can produce wins from their performances in my mind.

Billy Clyde Top Cat

No matter where I’ve traveled in the Commonwealth the last two months, UK’s new hoops leader Billy Clyde Gillispie is the talk of the town. I’m assuming the hype is because of a couple of recruits he pulled out of his hat that few predicted he would get when he came on the scene so late in the recruiting calendar. Optimism seems to be at an alltime high and this is with a team that has no credible sign of a game in the three-second lane on offense or defense coming back.

Gillispie’s head coaching resume is short but impressive with complete resurrection projects in short periods of time at UTEP and Texas A&M, one a no-name school hidden about 30 miles from the Mexican border and the other a football school with absolutely no history of any success in hoops before Gillispie arrived.

Supposedly, the new leader of Cat fortunes is a whiz when talking with the young high school recruits.

I’m just wondering what kind of an approach one would take to convince a youngster that is overly talented to come to El Paso or College Station, Texas, to play Div. 1 basketball.

I’m betting he’s just one of those tireless workers with a unique approach that today’s youth identifies with and bonds with immediately.

What concerns me a little is I’m also wondering what the boys at NCAA headquarters are thinking about Gillispie and his quick turn-around projects and advancement up the coaching career ladder to arguably one of the top three college coaching jobs. Let’s hope his recent success in recruiting and UK’s history doesn’t cause the NCAA to put a circle around Lexington.

Last year’s Texas A&M team was in many corners considered an outside shot to be a # 1 seed in March Madness, definitely a solid # 2 seed. However, when selection Sunday rolled around the Aggies fell to a # 3 seed and more importantly were dealt a blow when the NCAA sent them to Lexington for a match-up with Louisville and Rick Pitino.

I’m wondering if the NCAA wasn’t sending a message to Billy Clyde Gillispie that you’re a good aggressive young coach but we’ve got our eye on you.

Right now my thoughts are more cautiously optimistic than anything else. Let’s play this thing out at least one year into the future before any report cards are handed out.

High school notebook

+ Coach Bryan Dean and his Letcher Central baseball team’s Cinderella season finally came to an end this past Friday when Johnson Central and its impressive pitching staff held the Cougars to four runs in 24 innings, winning the best 2 out of 3 series in games two and three with scores of 5-0 and 6-3. The Cougars’ lone win in the series was a 1-0 shutout in the opening game. Johnson Central will be the lone eastern Kentucky/ southeastern Kentucky representative in this week’s state baseball tourney since Greenup Co. defeated North Laurel in their semi state series.

+ Congratulations to veteran eastern Kentucky coach Randy McCoy on being hired as the new head coach at University Heights. McCoy’s coaching career has been entirely in eastern Kentucky on both the college and high school levels. Look for McCoy to move back closer to his eastern Kentucky roots as his coaching career continues on in the future, but this is a great job to re-enter the profession. Rumors that Scotty Hopson may be leaving UHA for Oak Hill Academy are not true according to McCoy. UHA is a possible opponent for Mason Co. in the 17th annual Kentucky Prep Classic next January. If the game can be arranged it would conceivably be the only time the top two seniors in the state would be matched up in 2007-08.

+ As of June 10 all those rumors of the unquestionable break-up of the young June Buchanan basketball team had not come to fruition. As a matter of fact reports out of Pippa Passes were that everyone was on the same page and looking forward to participating in the upcoming state AAU tournament in Lexington.

+ Congratulations to Dirk Flinchum of Hazard for being selected to umpire in the KHSAA baseball state tourney at Applebee’s Park. Flinchum is the third umpire in the last three years to be selected for this honor from the 14th Region umpires association. Tommy Hutton, Doug Coots, and John Newell was selected to umpire the girls’ fast pitch softball state tournament.

+ Good luck to veteran girls’ hoops coach Randy Napier of PCC and the Kentucky all stars as they prepare for the annual Kentucky-Indiana all star series. Napier has already accomplished one thing with his stint as coach of the all stars. This year’s all stars were to play their first exhibition game east of Lexington when they played an exhibition game against eastern Kentucky’s elite junior all stars at Perry Central’s John C. Combs Arena yesterday (Tuesday).

Ira D. Combs is a retired high school coach and A.D. who is the director of Tri State Sports Media Services Inc. Any comments concerning this column should be sent to icombsno14@tvscable.com.

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