The 2009-10 season tips off this week

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Henry County and Eminence set to start their high school games

By Tommie Kendall

Christian Laettner reminds me each year that basketball season is here. It never fails.

Each November I get fired up because the NBA is in full swing and men’s college basketball is just beginning. So I make a trip to the basement to paw my way through dozens of old basketball tapes to spike my excitement.

Of course I have to watch the 1996 Kentucky team win the national title. I have to watch an old game of Michael Jordan playing for the Bulls. And I have to watch, gulp, that Kentucky-Duke game from 1992. I can’t help it!

My dad recorded what I later labeled the “Game of the Century,” but smashed the tape after Laettner’s last-second fadeaway. This was common in my household following a UK loss. But years later, I was able to record the game when it was replayed on ESPN Classics. Now, I watch it at least once a year. Each time I cheer when Sean Woods banks in his jumper with only seconds remaining and cringe when Grant Hill throws the long pass to Laettner, who turns and sinks a shot from the free-throw line as time expires. I hated Laettner for that, but he sealed the fate for it being the greatest game of all time. And, years later he reminds me that basketball season is indeed here.

Of course, I don’t just get excited for men’s college basketball or the NBA. The high school season in Kentucky tips off this week and I’m eager to get the games rolling and watch it all unfold. How will the Henry County boys’ basketball team make the transition to new coach Derek Springate? Will Todd Gilley and the Henry County girls’ basketball team build on its 10 wins from a year ago? With Chris Nethery returning for his second year, how improved will the Eminence boys’ basketball team be? How many wins will Carter Martin and the Eminence girls’ basketball team pull out? These are questions that will start to be answered this week.

The Henry County boys’ team finished with a 22-9 record, won the 8th Region All “A” Classic tournament to advance to the state tournament for the smallest schools in Kentucky, and made it all the way to the semifinals of the 8th Region tournament in an impressive 2008-09 season. Then, Jason Holland left for Oldham County and Springate was named his replacement. The Springate era started Tuesday night when the Wildcats hosted Trimble County. Connor Jeffries, a senior who can play any position on the court, is the leading playmaker.

The Henry County girls’ basketball team finished with a 10-15 record last season. It was the first time the Ladycats won 10-plus games on the basketball court in five years, since the 2003-04 team went 20-7. The Cats this year have four seniors, led by five-year starter Kelsey Mings, and should be able to improve on that 10-win mark. They start their season this Thursday against Eminence at home.

The Eminence boys’ basketball team played a full summer schedule for the first time with Nethery in charge. The Warriors went 2-23 in his first year but Nethery said they have matured physically and in their play on the court this off-season, especially 6-foot-5 freshman Bradley Foree. Nethery is trying to turn around the program, focusing on Eminence’s play against the top smaller schools around the area. The Warriors opened their season Tuesday night at Gallatin County.

The Eminence girls’ basketball team was 3-22 last year. With only nine players on the roster, and no seniors, Martin says the Lady Warriors are ahead of schedule in terms of progression from last year. Rachel Raisor, a junior who has been starting so many years I’ve lost count, will lead the charge. The Lady Warriors open their season this Thursday at Henry County.

The pages that follow will provide a more in-depth look at the 2009-10 basketball season. It’s enough information to keep you reading for a while.

In the meantime, I’ll be watching re-runs of Laettner’s infamous 1992 shot and hoping to watch another game as exciting as that Kentucky-Duke showdown. The upcoming high school basketball season, though, should provide me all the excitement I need.

Tommie Kendall can be reached at (502)845-2858 or sports@hclocal.com.