The race for Kentucky’s 2013 Mr. Basketball award is not over, but the quest for the 2014 honor will get a kickstart this week during the Boys’ Sweet 16.
Ballard High School’s Quentin Snider and Johnson Central’s Shane Hall — generally regarded as the state’s top two juniors — will meet in a first-round game Thursday, and several other top members of the Class of 2014 made the field.
“We’re hoping that this will be a big-time draw,” Johnson Central coach Tommy McKenzie said of the Snider-Hall matchup set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday. “It looks like a marquee matchup with Shane and Quentin.”
Snider and Hall both are ranked among the top 100 juniors in the nation by Rivals.com, with Snider at No. 33 and Hall at No. 83.
Snider, a 6-foot-1 guard, has committed to the University of Louisville and is averaging 19.6 points, 4.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game.
Hall, a 6-9 forward, is averaging 15.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. He has 10 scholarship offers, with Tennessee, Butler and Alabama-Birmingham among his early favorites, McKenzie said.
Hall missed six games this season with ankle injuries, and McKenzie said he is about “85 percent” entering the Sweet 16.
Other top juniors in the field include Ballard’s Kelan Martin; Pleasure Ridge Park’s LaMontray Harris, D’Angelo Hunter and Antonio McDaniels; Fleming County’s Darion Burns and Troy Steward; Hopkinsville’s Trey Edwards; Ohio County’s Trevor Lewis; Warren Central’s Byron Carver; and Montgomery County’s Bryan Wallace.
Coach Mark Starns has 16th Region champion Fleming County in the Sweet 16 in his first season on the job — an accomplishment he’s proud of after being dismissed as coach at Henderson County.
Starns went 99-45 in five years at Henderson County and made the regional semifinals every season, so news last April that he’d been dismissed as coach “took me off guard,” he said.
“I was totally shocked,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming.”
He was hired at Fleming County in September, and the move has made for a trying year. Starns’ wife and two stepchildren have remained in Henderson. His wife wants to stay close to her 87-year-old father, and Starns’ stepdaughter is a cheerleader at Henderson County High. They didn’t want to remove her from school.
Starns’ own two children live in Lexington, so he’s closer to them in his new job but still far away from his wife.
Starns, who coached Johnson Central to the 2006 Sweet 16, has taken great satisfaction in watching his new Fleming County players buy into his system and earn their first State trip since 1999. The Panthers will play John Hardin at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
“I don’t want to be bitter,” Starns said. “When God closed one door, he certainly opened up another one for me.”
“I feel somewhat vindicated after what happened, vindicated on my end, vindicated to get Fleming County to the state tournament. The community has waited a long time for this.”