It’s raining in the mountains again, where basketball points are pouring.
Whitney Creech at Jenkins High School is the rage.
Not since Geri Grigsby at Mc- Dowell (Miss Basketball 1977) scored 4,385 points, and Kim Mays at Knox Central (Miss Basketball 1990) scored 3,952, and Carolyn Alexander 3,563 at Hazard (mid- 90s), has an eastern Kentuckian put up Creech’s numbers.
I don’t like dispensing accolades to individuals in a team game, particularly when the team is under .500 (Jenkins was 5-11 at this writing), but Creech’s statistics are rare even on the Extraordinary Scale. Points, rebounds, steals and blocked shots, her numbers are double the national average, according to MaxPrep.
As a freshman she averaged 30.2 points in 25 games; 34.3 points and 10.5 rebounds in 29 games as a sophomore. Through 15 games this season, she was producing at a King Kelly Colemanlike clip – 39.5 points and 10.9 rebounds.
Historical perspective? To date, Creech has 2,342 points, well inside Kentucky girls’ Top 50 all-time scorers. With a season and a half to go, barring injury, she could equal or pass No. 3 Mays on the all-time list. Out of reach: Jaime Walz, Ft. Thomas Highlands, 4,948 points and Grigsby, 4,385.
A 5-9 junior, Creech is a news flash on the Kentucky High School Basketball scene only for lack of being discovered by big-city media.
Reality hurdles ahead? Creech must maintain/establish academic levels and elevate her school team’s success while improving her play to competition level required at the college program she chooses.
Duke, Arizona, Wisconsin and Louisville splattered like well-hit bowling pins last weekend. However, the “pin” that didn’t go flying got the most scrutiny because it was not, well, great in two games.
Kentucky needed three overtimes to stay perfect in 15 games. Here came the preachers to exhale a grasp of the obvious — Kentucky is not a great team.
This time Dana O’Neil at ESPN offered a mixed bag of conclusions. Some spot on, some baloney. v “Kentucky played hard and tough and energized against Kansas and North Carolina and Louisville and disinterested and mopey and without energy against Buffalo, Ole Miss and now A&M,” she said.
Disinterested and mopey is spot on. Add to the disinterested list, Columbia on December 10. Then add reality: Kids deciding a suit style to wear to the NBA draft in June understandably find it hard to get excited about Grand Canyon and Montana State. v “Calipari looked like a madman on the sidelines, cajoling and cursing and gesticulating,” O’Neil said. “All in an effort to find a spark, but in the end, the coach can only light it. The players have to keep it alive.”
Then came the premature and presumptuous grab at the greatness theme.
“ …They aren’t there yet,” O’Neil proclaimed, “and they won’t arrive there if they don’t get over themselves.”
Get over themselves? Ball players at Kentucky? C’mon, lady.
Sufficiently warmed to her pulpit, O’Neil went off to La-La Land. “Everyone said it was going to be easy (for Kentucky),” she said. “Turns out everyone was wrong.”
Everyone? Who is everyone? O’Neil didn’t say, but maybe it is colleague Seth Davis. He’s the ESPN guy who, a month into the season, congratulated himself for being first to predict Kentucky could finish 40-0.
Conclusion to all this? It’s mid- January, and like collectives at Kentucky for decades, these Wildcats will grow into a team, greatness or not.
Meanwhile, until Dana O’Neil tells her readers who everyone is, she needs to get over herself.
Kentucky is the best basketball team in America. A talented bunch that played poorly for a week. Too many in the media herd ignore that January and February is the kindergarten in which the former can transform into the latter.
The obsession with “can Kentucky go undefeated?” is giving way to reality questions. Here are a few this week: v Can Aaron Harrison be a leader? Make a lay-up at crunch time? v Will Andrew Harrison grow up and skip the “who me?” whine on phantom foul calls? v Will someone on the multimillion dollar coaching staff remind these Wildcats of two fundamentals from junior varsity ball: 1. Game officials will not allow players to defend with their hands. 2. The rewards of the pump fake. v Against Texas A&M, Kentucky took 64 shots, Devin Booker had 11. Will somebody run a play for team’s best shooter? v Will SEC teams adopt the Texas A& M blueprint – make Kentucky play half-court, Rajon Rondo-Ball (a.k.a. “Tubby Ball”)? Dribble … dribble … pass … dribble the clock down to :01 while John Calipari waves frantically for his players to move.
To say Western Kentucky is surging is half-truth. In their inaugural season the Hilltoppers are atop Conference USA alongside Louisiana Tech and UAB (3-0). have won nine of 11 games after a 2-3 start and are building a résumé for post-season dance.
Ray Harper’s team is making itself into a “we gotta go see these guys play!” option for WKU fans who know this game (and coach it too).
Two components too often ignored by analysts: v Personality. George Fant III, Chris Harrison- Docks and T.J. Price lead this cast. They listen, lead and play unselfishly. v Rotation. Harper’s use of rotating bench players and timing borders on brilliance.
Résumé? Western fans will have a collective eye the rest of the way on St. Joseph’s (6-8), Ole Miss (10-5), and Old Dominion (13-2) among others.
And so it goes.
You can reach me at bob. Watkins24@aol.com