Both juniors named Sweet 16 MVP, first-team All-State
Both won state championships last month, taking Sweet 16 MVP honors along the way.
Now each has been been named first-team members of The Courier-Journal’s All-State squads.
For Paul Dunbar High School’s Taveion Hollingsworth and Butler’s Jaelynn Penn, the next step on the high school level will be handling the pressure of being the front-runners for Kentucky’s Mr. and Miss Basketball awards in 2017.
Others inevitably will be in the mix for Kentucky’s top honors next season, but Hollingsworth and Penn appear to have the upper hand as the only juniors to earn first-team honors on The C-J’s All-State squads that are selected by the state’s coaches. The Mr. and Miss Basketball awards are chosen by the state’s coaches and media members.
Hollingsworth, a 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 21 points and 5.4 rebounds as Paul Dunbar finished 33-6 and beat Doss in the championship game of the Boys Sweet 16.
MORE COVERAGE | Courier-Journal’s All-State boys basketball team
Penn, a 5-9 guard, averaged 14.2 points and 5.9 rebounds as Butler went 31-5 and defeated Franklin County in the final of the Girls Sweet 16.
Hollingsworth has not yet committed to a college. Penn has committed to Dayton.
Paul Dunbar coach Scott Chalk is admittedly biased but said he believes Hollingsworth is Kentucky’s best player in the Class of 2017.
“He’s the first guy I’ve ever had that I’ve said that about, but I think he’s the best for sure, and I’ve seen all of the other ones,” Chalk said. “He was the MVP of the state tournament. If it works the way it usually does, if he’s not No. 1 going into the season then somebody is not being honest about things.”
On the girls side, Penn and Bullitt East’s Lindsey Duvall have been ranked at the top of their class since they were freshmen and figure to be the top contenders for Miss Basketball honors next season.
Duvall, who has committed to the University of Kentucky, missed most of her junior season after having surgery to remove a small tumor near her left knee. She still was a second-team All-State selection.
MORE COVERAGE | Courier-Journal’s All-State girls basketball team
Other top players in the Class of 2017 include Franklin County’s Princess Stewart, Harlan’s Jordan Brock, Elizabethtown’s Jada Stinson, East Carter’s Kristen Mayo and Murray’s Maddie Waldrop.
“I think that it’s a two-horse race (between Penn and Duvall),” Franklin County coach Joey Thacker said. “But sometimes there’s a magic straw surrounding who commits and where they commit, and Lindsey has committed to Kentucky.”
Butler coach Larry Just believes he has the front-runner in Penn, who expanded her game during her junior season and became one of the state’s top rebounding guards.
“Miss Basketball typically has a high scoring average or high rebounding average, but one of the things Jaelynn showcased to a lot of people this year was that she isn’t just about points and rebounds,” Just said. “She can affect the game in so many ways. If you take her out of the offense, she’ll go get rebounds or deflections or steals. …
“There might be better scorers or better rebounders, but I don’t think you’ll find a more complete player in the state.”
Chalk said one of Hollingsworth’s best assets is his demeanor, as he rarely gets too excited or too disappointed in his own play.
Chalk also expects Hollingsworth to become more assertive during his senior season.
“He can turn it on any time he wants to … and do what needs to be done,” Chalk said. “Some guys are wound up at 100 miles per hour the whole game, and others are not aggressive enough. He just plays his game.”
Hollingsworth has scholarship offers from Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State and Winthrop, and Chalk said several bigger schools have started showing interest since the Sweet 16. Xavier, Indiana, Georgia and West Virginia are among them.
Five juniors were named second-team All-State selections and figure to be among Hollingsworth’s main competition for Mr. Basketball honors: David Sloan, North Laurel’s Peyton Broughton, Covington Catholic’s Cole VonHandorf, Bowling Green’s Terry Taylor and Franklin-Simpson’s Tavin Lovan.
Sloan is the top-ranked player in the class according to Rivals.com and averaged 20 points this season at Taylor County. He transferred to Ballard when the season ended, and his eligibility as a senior will be determined by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.