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Sports in Kentucky

State’s sports world will miss Red Bird Mission



What is statewide special about Red Bird Mission High School? Everything. The school at Beverly in Bell County will march into history next month as the latest in a long parade of community schools that are no more.

Nestled at the toe of Daniel Boone National Forest, Red Bird High will graduate its final senior class unless funding is found to sustain a school that opened during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, in 1921.

Hateful, to me, the words school
for want of money in a nation that pats itself on the back often for commitment to education. Doubly tragic, a community school that has sent graduates on to Berea College, Eastern Kentucky U. and other institutions of higher learning.

On another level, sports at Red Bird has been an avenue to succes. Director of athletics and basketball coach John D. Wilson told the Lexington Herald-Leader last week, “Red Bird has given a lot of boys and girls a chance to participate in sports, music and other activities.”

is the key word here. Because of Red Bird and hundreds of schools like it, kids of all ages can say, “… when I played.”

Tribute then to the good ghosts of Red Bird Cardinal basketball. From All-Region player Raymond Meredith in 1960, during the Golden Age, through Wilson’s 22- year tenure as coach today.

If Red Bird is next to leave the scene, it joins a distinguished club from Hazel Green and Lily, to Carr Creek and Wayland, Pleasant View and Poplar Creek, to Verona and Warsaw in the north, Guthrie and Cuba south to Brewers and Wickliff e west. On and on.

Field of Dreams dream? Here’s one — John Calipari and Rick Pitino utter a few well placed remarks including the words Red Bird, then endorse personal checks — pay-to-the-order of Red Bird School.

Would be tribute for the ages.

Personal Tribute

Red Bird’s passing is personal. In important ways the school at Beverly and one on a hill in Corbin that is no more, St. Camillus Academy, were sister institutions. In the late ‘50s we lived, studied and competed in a parallel universe governed by limited resources and few and modestly skilled athletes playing basketball. We were among Region 13’s Little Brothers. We participated, made memories.

Red Bird gym was venue for my first Archie ‘Moonlight’ Graham moment. December 6, 1958: Scoring line — four free throws made in as many tries. The last two came at :03 in the game. Final score, 65-62.

Thank you, Red Bird.

Lost In Shuffle, UofL

Best story of springtime in Kentucky lost in a shuffle of hoops recruiting, spring football and Calvin Borel? If you said University of Louisville’s baseball, give yourself an A.

Dan McDonnell’s Cardinals clinched another Big East season title and took a No. 10 national ranking into tournament play at Clearwater, Fla., this week.

But the 46-10 Cardinals have a higher ambition as legitimate contenders for a trip to Omaha, College World Series next month.

UK’s No. 1 Recruiting Class

University of Kentucky has done it again, gotten an all-star recruiting class to Lexington. By consensus, best in basketball.

Enes Kanter in the middle is as good as or better than DeMarcus Cousins; Brandon Knight development and leadership at point is keystone.

Eloy Vargas doesn’t seem imposing at 210 pounds, but has SEC experience, a season at Florida and should make fans forget Daniel Orton. What’s that? You already have?

“(Vargas) immediately adds a shot-blocking presence …,” John Calipari said in a release.

Stacey Poole competing with Darius Miller and Darnell Dodson minutes will be interesting, while Doron Lamb vies for playing time with DeAndre Liggins and Jon Hood.

The jewel in this UK class? If not Kanter, could be Terrence Jones. The 6-8, 220-pounder from Portland, Ore., has not signed a national letter of intent. But Calipari sweetened the pot. To be made offi cial this week, a UK-Portland State game Nov. 19 in Portland. Jones played at Portland-Jeff erson High.

Jones Made Right Choice

If Terrence Jones’s makes it to UK, three good reasons why it’s the right decision.

1. University of Washington and coach Lorenzo Romar are outstanding, but if Jones’s ambition and appetite are for visibility as concert pianist, then Carnegie Hall is in Lexington, not three time zones away in Seattle.

2. The left coast lefty can be best from the west since Chuck Hayes (‘05) and Mark Pope (‘95).

3. Wearing Kentucky blue, he can help fans forget Californians Chris Mills and LeRon Ellis (‘89). What’s that, you already did?

‘The Tenth Inning’
Premier in late September on PBS, ‘The Tenth Inning’ will be Ken Burns’s next tribute to baseball in America. Asked by Sports Illustrated if the steroid scandal damages the sport, Burns’s reply was typically eloquent, optimistic and in-your-face to today’s naysayers. Worth repeating too.

“The durability of the American character is manifested in the durability of this game,” Burns said. “At the end of the day, the game always wins. Nothing kills it. A 300 hitter means the same thing to my daughters as it does to me, as it does to my dad, as it did to Greatgreat grandfather Abraham Burns, who fought in the Civil War.”

Worth Repeating

Hall of Famer and Cubs-manager in-waiting Ryne Sandberg was asked if Sammy Sosa’s name belongs at Cooperstown. Thumbs down. But Sandberg’s eloquence transcends baseball, is a message for every athlete from cyclist Floyd Landis to college coaches whose latest tiptoe into gray areas — recruiting one-and-dones.

“… I think integrity is a big part of being a Hall of Famer,” he told Sporting News. “Integrity, playing the right way, playing the game fair — those are big for me.”

And so it goes. You may reach Bob Watkins at

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