Friday, March 28, 2008

Gillespie staying put ...

Marshall County coach Gus Gillespie has some news for those who might throw his name around for other jobs.

He’s not going anywhere.

“I’m happy here,” Gillespie said this week after his name was mentioned as a potential candidate at Mount Vernon, Ill., a school where he served as an assistant coach in the late 1990s. “I’m happy with the school system, happy with the administration and with the kids.

“I’m sure that’s a job that’s going to have a lot of interest, but it’s something I’m not interested in.”

Gillespie’s name was a natural to come up in connection with the Mount Vernon position. The Rams were southern Illinois’ best program in his four years at the school. Led by future Southern Illinois University star Kent Williams, the Rams went to the Class AA state tournament in 1997. Two years later, they were undefeated and ranked second in the state before losing to a Darius Miles-led East St. Louis squad in the supersectional.

In the nine years since he left, Gillespie has compiled a 205-61 record as a head coach, which also includes four years at Robinson and Centralia in southern Illinois and a 25-6 mark this season. Just this week, he was the named the Paducah Sun’s Purchase Coach of the Year.

Doug Creel, his former boss at Mount Vernon, announced his retirement earlier this week. Mount Vernon finished in the final eight of Illinois’ new Class 3A, losing to Champaign Central in the supersectional.

Gillespie, meanwhile, just finished his most trying season as a head coach. His son Gunner has been battling a brain tumor that was diagnosed in late November, and Gillespie missed part of the season to be with his son.

“I’ve still got a lot of friends in Mount Vernon, and Doug is one of my close friends — we’ve talked weekly since I left,” Gillespie said. “But I’m content with my life here. With Gunner’s situation and the way the community has helped us, I wouldn’t leave for any job right now.”

Local hoops chatter ...

Some local hoops chatter:

Ballard Memorial’s girls have beefed up their schedule next year, when it’s possible they could emerge as the No. 3 team behind Marshall County and Calloway County.

The Lady Bombers will play Calloway in Massac County’s round-robin tournament in early December, and coach Kevin Estes said that Ballard will play Marshall in the final week of the regular season.

Some movement on Ballard’s search for a boys’ basketball coach: sources say the school's first choice to replace B.B. Kendrick is Heath assistant Kris Garrett, but Garrett has some conditions that need to be met before he accepts the position.

Among them is the ability to bring Dustin Roberts, a former Ballard star who is now an assistant coach on Heath’s girls’ team, back to his alma mater as his top aide.

Sweet 16 leftovers ...

Kentucky basketball fans might want to file this name away: Elijah Pittman is a 6-5 sophomore at Covington Holmes who had a breakout Sweet 16 and reportedly caught the eye of UK coach Billy Gillispie last week.

Pittman was Holmes’ sixth man all season but started the championship game against Mason County. Pittman averaged 14 points in four Sweet 16 games and showed a nice outside shot, going 9-for-14 from 3-point range.

“He’s 6-5 1/2 and with the way he can shoot the three and get to the basket,” said Holmes coach David Henley, a Carlisle County native, “I’m sure I’ll be getting some calls on him.”

Gillispie was on hand for the last two days of the tournament to check out UK-bound Darius Miller, who led Mason to the state title and is expected to be named as Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball next week.

There was also a lot of chatter about the transfer of UK commitment Dakotah Euton to Scott County. Euton, a 6-8 forward who played for Rose Hill Christian in Ashland as a freshman and sophomore, is moving to Georgetown after his father lost his job at an engineering firm in Ashland and is taking a job in Lexington.

Clay Euton, his father, has told some media outlets that basketball interests played a role in the decision to send his son to Scott County, which won the state title in 2007 and regularly plays a high-exposure schedule. Last season, the Cardinals played in Marshall County’s Hoop Fest (as did Euton’s Rose Hill club) and two prestigious Christmas tournaments, the City of Palms meet in Florida and the Beach Ball Classic at Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Of course, the recent rash of transfers to Scott County has raised some eyebrows — the Cardinals will have two of the state’s top juniors next year in Euton and guard Ge-Lawn Guyn, who moved in from Lexington Henry Clay last summer.

There is also some talk that Rose Hill’s Chad Jackson, a 6-4 sophomore guard and another top prospect, may also wind up at Scott County. If he’s wearing Cardinal red next season, Scott County will have three of the state’s top half-dozen juniors and a Mr. Basketball candidate in 6-7 forward Richie Phares.

This is nothing new at Scott County, which once had back-to-back Mr. Basketball winners in Rick Jones (1999) and Scott Hundley (2000) — neither of which began their careers there.

Jones scored 30 points against Trigg County as a sophomore at Corbin, then moved to Georgetown when his father got a job at the Toyota plant there and led Scott County to the state title in 1998. Jones played a year at Vanderbilt before ending up his college career at Murray State.

Hundley played two seasons at Lexington Dunbar before moving to Scott County, and played a key role in the Cardinals’ controversial semifinal win over Paducah Tilghman in 1999. Hundley also played collegiately at Vanderbilt.

Making the grade ...

A few updates to pass along on some First Region products in the college baseball ranks:

Gabriel Shaw is being used as the closer at Louisville. Shaw, a former St. Mary standout, is 1-1 with a 3.29 ERA and four saves as a true freshman, with some impressive peripheral numbers — in 13 2/3 innings, he’s allowed only eight hits with two walks and 14 strikeouts.

Interestingly, it seems as if Louisville is stressing pitching inside with Shaw, who’s already hit five batters.

The Cardinals are 13-7 and took two out of three games from Connecticut in the Big East opening series. Shaw gave up four runs in the 10th inning in a 12-8 loss to UConn on Saturday.

At Kentucky, Clint Tilford has done some nice work in a bullpen-midweek starter role. Tilford, a sophomore from Heath, is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA with nine hits allowed, nine walks and 13 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Tilford threw five shutout innings against Xavier last week, then allowed two runs in two innings against the Musketeers again on Tuesday.

Outfielder Brock Wright, also a Heath product, is finding playing time scarce in UK’s loaded outfield, which includes a pair of potential All-Americans in Collin Cowgill and Sawyer Carroll.

Wright, who was also set back by a hand injury after being hit by a pitch against Evansville on March 5, is 1-for-6 on the season and is being used most often as a pinch-runner. Kentucky, currently ranked eighth nationally, is 21-2 overall and 4-2 in the SEC.

St. Mary alum Jonathan Roof is the starting shortstop as a freshman at Michigan State and is off to a fine start, hitting .328 with one homer and eight RBI. Roof is tied for the team lead in hits. Brother Eric Roof is seeing time behind the plate and is hitting .200 for the Spartans, who are 7-8 and start Big Ten play this weekend.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Piling on?

More than a few eyebrows were raised at Friday night's First Region girls semifinals when Calloway County began the fourth quarter with a 35-point lead ... and kept up their fullcourt pressure on a Ballard Memorial club that was clearly outclassed.

Apparently, Calloway coach Scott Sivills took exception to some comments from Ballard's Kevin Estes after his team played sloppily in a win over Hickman County.

“I think we can match up with Calloway," Estes said. "We may be giving up a couple of inches at some positions, but I think our guard play can match up with theirs.”

Later in the week, the Murray Ledger and Times seemed to interpret them as some sort of bulletin-board material for the Lady Lakers ... but I don't see it. Estes' remarks were far from inflammatory, and weren't intended to denigrate Calloway in any way. They were made more for his team's benefit, which was coming off a subpar performance and was a heavy underdog against the defending regional champions.

I know, because the comments were made to me.

If nothing else, it seemed like an unnecessary risk. Calloway had already lost one starter, Meagan Starks, to an injury, and running key players back into the game with a 40-point lead with three minutes left doesn't seem like sound strategy with the championship game less than 24 hours away.

Suffice it to say, the move didn't win Calloway any friends and more support for tonight's regional final. It was quite the buzz among coaches, administrators and fans for the rest of the evening. It might be a couple of years before the Lady Bombers are in position to repay the favor, but I suspect they will remember it for at least that long.