Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

November 15, 2013

JAMES BROWN: WKU has history of success with local talent

GLASGOW — Way back in 1971, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers played in the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Along the way, they defeated several notable programs that are household names when it comes to excellence in men’s college basketball.

In the first round, they exacted revenge upon the team that had knocked the Toppers out of the 1970 tournament, Jacksonville, 74-72. Then, they obliterated the Kentucky Wildcats, 107-83. Next up, an 81-78 win over Ohio State. That victory pushed WKU into a National semifinal game against Villanova, which ‘Nova won, 92-89. The Toppers finished the tournament by beating Kansas — Yes, Kansas — 77-75 to finish third in the nation.

Nine players got time in the game against Kansas, at least four of whom grew up within 40 miles of WKU’s campus in Bowling Green, but outside Warren County. Sports-reference.com, which has box scores from the 1971 NCAA Tournament, fails to list Jerry Dunn.

Jim McDaniels was the star and a product of Allen County High School. Clarence Glover was the workhorse and graduated from Caverna High School in Horse Cave. Rex Bailey was an explosive player who helped lead Glasgow High School to its only state basketball title in 1968. Meanwhile, another 1968 Glaswegian, Dunn, was also on the team and during the regular season was second in scoring for the Toppers.

WKU has recruited area basketball players and has had success with them.

In recent years, Monroe County’s Kenzie Rich played for the Lady Toppers and Caverna’s Boris Siakim  played for the Toppers.

Glasgow’s Shalika Smith joined those other players when she signed with the Lady Toppers on Wednesday. Already on the roster are Chastity Gooch, who was an outstanding player at Franklin-Simpson High School, and Micah Jones, who was a star at Green County. Plus, on the same day the Lady Toppers inked Smith, they also picked up arguably the top female basketball player in the state — Ivy Brown of LaRue County.

Smith’s signing was a historic moment for the Glasgow girls’ basketball program. She was the first Lady Scottie to sign a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at a Division I program. Alicia Polson Scott walked on at WKU in the late 1970s and eventually was awarded an athletic scholarship. (She did point out that in those days there were only four scholarships available for the women’s program. There are at least three times that many today, which expands the opportunity for female basketball players. That’s a good thing.) Polson Scott’s success at WKU extended beyond her playing days. She was a graduate assistant when the Lady Toppers reached the NCAA Women’s Tournament Final Four in 1985.

Smith’s signing demonstrates the continued growth of a girls basketball program at GHS that has not been known for success. Other than a few blips, the Lady Scotties’ teams through the years have not done very well overall. In their district, they were overshadowed by the early success of Allen County-Scottsville and Barren County, both of which had programs that were extremely good.

That has been changing. The Lady Scotties, as it was pointed out during Smith’s signing ceremony, are 84-34 over the last four years. They are expected to be one of the top teams in the Fourth Region this year and seem to have some talented players waiting in the wings when this year’s seniors graduate.

Good programs are a product of good players, good coaching and community support. All three seem to be in abundance right now at GHS and that’s a really good thing for the students and the community from which they come.

James Brown is editor for the Glasgow Daily Times. He can be contacted by e-mail at jbrown@glasgowdailytimes.com.

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