Months of speculation came to an end last Friday when Bullitt East basketball star Derek Willis announced that he will attend the University of Kentucky.
“The best players in the nation play there, so I wanted to join them,” said the 6-foot-9 junior, who is considered the top college prospect in Kentucky.
After committing to Purdue last summer, Willis reopened his search in August and finally narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Purdue, Louisville and Indiana.
“This has not been an easy decision for me,” Willis said, in front of a large crowd of friends, family and classmates gathered for the announcement in the library at Bullitt East.
“I believe this program is the best fit for me to accomplish my goals as a student-athlete…and this is why I am choosing the University of Kentucky,” he said.
Willis, who is averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks a game for the 17-3 Chargers, is the Wildcats’ first commitment in the class of 2013.
All “A” State Tournament
After clinching regional titles, DeSales and Collegiate will represent the Louisville area in the boys’ Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic State Tournament at the Frankfort Convention Center.
The Colts downed archrival Holy Cross 65-55 last Friday to earn their third-straight Region Six title and will face Region 12 champion Danville on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. in the opening round of the state tournament.
DeSales is led by six-foot-six senior center Evan Bingham (13 ppg., 7 rpg.) and senior guard Cam Duncan (13 ppg.). The Colts have been All “A” State runners-up the past two seasons, falling to Shelby Valley in 2010 and Betsy Layne last year.
“We’re playing our best basketball, no doubt,” said third-year DeSales coach John Mingus. “We’ve had some good practices and have made some adjustments, but we’re still not a team that can take days off.”
Collegiate punched its ticket by edging KCD 51-48 in the Seventh Region championship. The Titans entered this week with a record of 12-5 and first-year coach Joel Morris is hoping for a strong showing in Frankfort.
“Coming into the season I was hoping to be .500,” said Morris, who inherited a program that graduated three starters. “This team has exceeded my wildest expectations.
“My biggest fear would be that they are satisfied with what they’ve accomplished so far,” Morris added.
Junior guard Andrew Steggeman (17.8 ppg., 4.5 rpg) and junior center David Keyer (13.1 ppg., 10 rpg.) lead the Titans, who earlier this season competed in the Louisville Invitational Tournament for the first time in program history.
Collegiate will face Bishop Brossart out of Region 10 at 8 p.m. Thursday.
The boys’ championship is slated for Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
On the girls’ side, Holy Cross and KCD advanced out of regions six and seven, respectively, and began opening-round play on Wednesday.
The Cougars (17-3) entered this week on an eight-game winning streak and are led by senior guard/forward Maya Hardin, who is averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds a game, and senior guard Kim Mingus (9 ppg.). Sydney Morabito, a junior forward, is also averaging 10 points a game.
Holy Cross opened against Region 16 champion Raceland.
KCD (9-12) upset Collegiate 44-40 in the regional final and faced Region Eight champion Walton-Verona in the first round of the state tournament on Wednesday.
Pacing the Bearcats is senior guard Shelbi Hendricks, who is averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds per game. The Washington and Lee commit poured in 26 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the regional final.
The girls’ championship game is set for 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Only the smallest 125 schools in the state (based on 9-12 enrollment) are eligible to compete in All “A” events.
Louisville-area wrestling teams dominated the 18th annual Dragon Invitational at South Oldham on Jan. 21. A strong 22-team field featured 11 of the state’s Top 20 programs according to kentuckywrestling.com.
No. 5 St. Xavier placed five wrestlers in the finals and claimed the team title, while No. 3 Trinity boasted four individual weight class champions.
Tigers coach Jim Kraeszig was impressed with his squad’s endurance during the day-long event.
“The last three weeks we’ve been trying to buy into the philosophy of going hard for six minutes,” he said. “We took a step this weekend toward doing that.”
St. X sophomore Justin Lampe (31-1), ranked fifth in the state at 132, toppled No. 2 Tyler Kaelin (41-1) of Oldham County by a 7-3 decision to take that division.
“It started out a little slower than I would’ve liked,” Lampe said of the championship match. “I decided to attack the rest of the match and it worked out.”
Trinity senior John Fahy (25-3) went 4-0 on the day and pinned every opponent at 138, including Shane White of Woodford County in the final.
Fahy, an Illinois signee, is a three-time state champion and has never lost to an in-state opponent.
“I’m just trying to dominate as much as I can and get that fourth state title,” he said.
Brent Hitchings (27-3), Fahy’s drill partner during training, also had a stellar showing. The senior, ranked No. 1 at 152, was injured during the semifinals at last year’s tournament, but had no issues this time around.
“It was pretty smooth sailing to the finals,” said Hitchings. “I just wrestled my way through with technique.”
Hitchings pinned his first three opponents and controlled Lane Jones of Walton Verona to earn a 7-2 decision in the final.
1. St. X, 213
2. Trinity, 179.5
3. Oldham County, 145.5
4. Southern, 139.5
5. Ryle, 138.5
6. Woodford County, 117
7. Christian County, 109.5
8. Moore, 104
9. Lafayette, 84
10. North Oldham, 79
106 – Nathan Thompson, DeSales
113 – J.J. Killebrew, Christian County
120 – Clay Brown, Walton-Verona
126 – T.J. Ruschell, Ryle
132 – Justin Lampe, St. Xavier
138 – John Fahy, Trinity
145 – Jo Rupp, Eastern
152 – Brent Hitchings, Trinity
160 – Chase Rusch, North Oldham
170 – Noah Bauer, St. Xavier
182 – Zac Gandinger, Oldham County
195 – Bobby Bryant, Trinity
220 – Brendan Darrow, Trinity
285 – Trevor Ford, DeSales
Most Outstanding Wrestler – John Fahy, Trinity (138)
Sweet 16 Draws Near
Draws for the PNC/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 and the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16 will be held this Friday (Jan. 27) at 10:30 a.m. The draws, which will be webcast live at ihigh.com/khsaa, determine bracket placement and first-round matchups for regional winners.
The girls’ tournament will be held March 7-10 at Western Kentucky’s E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green. The boys’ tournament is March 14-17 at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
Rockcastle County took the 2011 girls’ title. Christian County is the defending boys’ champion.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at email@example.com.