With as much pure athletic ability as any team in Eastern Kentucky, Leslie County is the preseason favorite to win the 14th Region. The boys’ 14th Region field, however, remains quite crowded. Perry County Central, Hazard, first-year squad Letcher County Central and Breathitt County will all push
for the top spot. Here’s a closer look at the 14th Region:
1. LESLIE COUNTY (20-10): Six-foot-four senior forward Daniel Day (17 ppg, 8 rpg) and 6-5 senior center Quenton Morgan are each fresh off impressive final prep football seasons.
The Eagle basketball team, like the Eagle football squad, is loaded with talent. Leslie County finished runner-up to Perry Central in last season’s 14th Region title game and is now looking to claim the top spot.
Junior point guard Ryan Howard (6 ppg, 4 apg), who has been slowed by a broken hand in the preseason, and 5-10 junior guard Brian Howard (6.5 ppg) also return. Riley Hendrix (9 ppg), B.J. Young and 6-6 senior Tyler Wells are other talented players back for the Eagles.
2. PERRY COUNTY CENTRAL (23-8): Minus four starters from last season, the Commodores remain a strong contender in the 14th Region boys’ race.
Senior Robert Paul Amis (5 ppg) is the leading returnee for tradition-rich Perry Central. The Commodores have also added the services of 6-4 junior forward Tyler Bailey, a transfer from Hazard.
Senior point guard Devan Gross will help guide the Commodores on the offensive end. Sophomore center Jason Kelly (6-3), junior guard Justin Stacy (5-11), junior forward Heath Brashear (6-2), senior guard George Campbell (6-3) and junior guard Joe Begley (6-0) all have experience from last season’s regional championship team.
3. HAZARD (24-6): Remember, the Bulldogs are less than two seasons removed from a 14th Region All A title. Sure, most of the talented players from that team are gone, but Hazard remains a Mountain basketball power.
Senior point guard Justin Hicks (12 ppg, 5 apg) is the lone returning starter for the Bulldogs. Hazard has won 24 games each of the last two seasons.
Six-foot-three senior center John Walker brings back with him experience from last season. Senior guard Justin Wallace (5-11) appears poised to help lead the team from a starting position in the backcourt.
Numerous players are in the mix and ready to contribute, including 6-2 freshman forward Michael Campbell, 6-0 junior guard Matt Williams, 6-1 sophomore guard Presley Campbell and 6-3 junior forward Cameron Bailey, one of Eastern Kentucky’s prep golfers.
4. LETCHER COUNTY CENTRAL: (New school): New boys’ basketball team. New regional title contender. The Cougars are new on the 14th Region scene, but are still considered a legitimate contender for the regional championship.
Whitesburg, Fleming-Neon and Jenkins consolidated to form Letcher County Central.
LCC features senior guard Alex Williams, one of the region’s top scorers.
Cam Wright (15 ppg), a 6-3 senior forward is also present in a big way for the first-year high school basketball team. Adam Sexton, a 6-3 center; Eli Warren, a 6-1 senior guard who transferred in from Breathitt County; senior guard Montana Gibson and 6-5 senior center Brandon Craft also help to make
the Cougars a legitimate threat to win the 14th Region title in their first season.
5. BREATHITT COUNTY (24-6): All five starters are gone from last season’s squad. That leaves Breathitt County with a tall rebuilding task.
The top returnees for the Bobcats are 6-3 sophomore center Travis Smith (7 ppg, 4 rpg), 5-11 sophomore point guard Justin Hollan and 6-4 senior forward Tim Carpenter. Sophomore forwards Aaron Combs and Colby Fugate, both of whom stand it at 6-2, also return.
6. WOLFE COUNTY (16-14): Folks in Wolfe County are excited about both the Wolfe County High School boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.
The Wolves posted a 16-14 record last season. The Wolfe County boys are now in the 55th District along with Breathitt County, Jackson City and Riverside Christian.
Senior guard Cody Gilbert (19 ppg, 12 rpg) ranks as the 14th Region’s top player and calls Wolfe County home. That’s not good for opposing teams.
Senior Travis Lemaster (7 ppg) and 6-2 senior forward Glenn Bush (11 ppg, 6 rpg) also more than hold their own.
Derek Beasley (5-11, PG) is yet another talented player for the Wolves.
7. LEE COUNTY (11-16) : The Lee County Bobcats are another talented group of basketball players that will make opposing teams take notice.
Junior guard Kenny Brandenburg (11.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and 6-3 senior center Tyler Rich (13 ppg, 8 rpg) give the Bobcats two players who scored in double figures back from last season. Junior guards Dustin and Justin Liesengang are back on the wings.
8. KNOTT COUNTY CENTRAL (14-12): Coach Neil Feltner expects his team to continue its winning way and move out of the 55th District and into the 14th Region tournament after falling to Cordia in last season’s district tourney.
Senior forward Adam Dials (10 ppg, 5 rpg) and junior point guard Scott Mosley (12 ppg) give the Patriots two established scorers back from last season.
Mosley directs the Patriot offense from point guard.
Charles Pike (7 ppg, 5 rpg), a 6-2 senior forward, 6-2 senior center Justin Bates (7 ppg, 5 rpg), and junior guards Michael Lindon and Matt Amburgey add even more depth for the KCC boys’ basketball squad.
9. ESTILL COUNTY (12-16): The Engineers that could? Estill County’s boys’ basketball team is looking to make more than a splash in the 14th Region.
The Engineers upset Clark County in last season’s 40th District Tournament. That win made a lot of noise in Central Kentucky.
Clinton Dixon (18.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg), a 6-3 senior guard, ranks as one of the region’s top guards and can back the preseason billing up with his play on the hardwood. Stuart Reece (9.5 ppg), a 6-4 senior forward, and Cody Berryman (7.8 ppg, 5 rpg), a 6-1 junior guard, are other proven scorers.
Blake Christopher (5 ppg, 5 apg), a 6-1 sophomore, moves into the point guard position for the Engineers.
10. OWSLEY COUNTY (16-14): Paul Smith is back guiding the Owls after 35 years away from the court.
Robert Smith, a transfer from Clay County will play for the Owls beginning in January. He’ll make an immediate impact for Owsley County.
Daniel Neeley, a 5-9 junior point guard, is the lone returning starter.
11. POWELL COUNTY (10-16): Head coach Greg Coldiron is looking for his team’s fortunes to turn around during the upcoming season.
Starters back include 6-1 junior guard Danny Dennis (8 ppg), 6-1 junior center Ryan Romans (8.5 ppg) and 6-1 junior point guard David Johnson (4 ppg, 3.5 apg).
Six-foot-six junior senior guard Landers Crowe (6.5 ppg, 4 rpg) and 6-2 junior guard Jantzen Merriman and 6-3 junior center Matt Sebey will also look to help turn things around for the Pirates.
12. JUNE BUCHANAN (18-8): Sophomore point guard Clark Stepp (6-2) averaged 26 points and 9.2 assists per game last season as a freshman.
The Crusaders, led by Stepp’s talented play, posted 18 wins during the 2004-05 season and this season welcome back 6-2 junior forward Ryan Conley (9 ppg) and 6-1 senior forward Kevin Huff (5 ppg).
June Buchanan also has 6-8 freshman Garrison Collins (3.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and 6-3 senior forward Brent Hall.
13. CORDIA (13-13): Under the guidance of head coach Jeff Honeycutt, the Lions picked up the pace and played their way to a break-even record last season.
For Cordia, 6-4 senior forward James Taylor (12 ppg, 6 rpg), 6-2 sophomore guard Zach Hunt (10.1 ppg), 6-1 point guard Corey Gamble (6 ppg, 3 apg) and 6-5 sophomore center Josh Taylor (4 ppg, 4 rpg).
14. JENKINS (14-16): After one year away, Brian Johnson is back at the helm of the Cavalier boys’ basketball program. Senior guard Joe Bryant (5-8) and senior center Jake Johnson (6-1) are both returning starters.
Senior guard Chris Grimm (6-0), senior forward Wesley Bryant (6-1), sophomore point guard Eric Grimm (6-0) and 5-11 sophomores Chris Puckett (G), and Nathaniel Wilder (F) will also log minutes.
15. BUCKHORN (11-17): Four starters return for the Wildcats. Buckhorn is looking to challenge in the 54th District, but has an uphill battle, playing against the likes of Leslie County, Hazard and Perry County Central.
Returning starters for the Wildcats are 5-11 senior guard Kevin Davidson (12.5 ppg), 6-3 junior forward Justin Rice (8 ppg, 10 rpg), 5-10 senior guard Brandon Miller (8.5 ppg) and 6-6 sophomore Zach Gay (10 ppg, 8 rpg).
Senior forward Josh Riley (6-4) has transferred in from Owsley County.
16. JACKSON CITY (9-19): Six-foot center Jordan Fugate averaged 14 points per game during the 2004-05 season and makes his way back for the Tigers in the backcourt, along with 6-1 senior Kyle Howard.
First-year head coach Kyle Lively takes over at the helm of the Jackson City boys’ basketball program.
Chase Thompson (8.0 ppg) is another backcourt player who’ll score and make things happen for the Tigers.
Junior center Dustin Kilburn (6-4), sophomore forward Dustin Flinchum and junior guard Michael Watkins are also returnees.
17. RIVERSIDE CHRISTIAN (2-27) : The Rams will look to improve vastly upon last season’s two-win record. Returning starters include 6-4 junior forward Brandon Hudson, 6-0 senior forward Derek Campbell and 5-10 sophomore guard David Poppy. Brett Stacy, a 6-4 junior center, will be looked to inside.
Michael Robinson, a 5-11 sophomore guard is another player back for the Rams.
Top Players in the Region
1. Cody Gilbert, Wolfe County Sr. 6-3 G
Legitimate Division I prospect who can handle the basketball and score.
2. Daniel Day, Leslie County Sr. 6-3 F
Talented multi-sport athlete who shines on any playing surface.
3. Quenton Morgan, Leslie County Sr. 6-5 C
A quarterback on the football team, Morgan leads inside and out for the Leslie County boys’ basketball team.
4. Alex Williams, Letcher County Central Sr. 6-1 G
Top player for a first-year team that features talent from three consolidated schools. Led Letcher High School each of the last two years.
5. Justin Hicks, Hazard Jr. 5-10 G
The latest in a long line of outstanding guards.
6. Robert Smith, Owsley County Sr. 6-1 G
Transfer from Clay County will first hit the floor in January for his new team.
7. Eli Warren, Letcher County Central Sr. 6-1 G
Likely to make smooth transition from gridiron to basketball court in his first hoops season in Letcher County after transferring in from Breathitt County.
8. Paul Amis Sr. 6-2 G
With four starters gone from last season’s Commodore team, Amis will have to take on an even larger role.
9. Clinton Dixon Sr. 6-3 G
Dixon was key in Estill County’s upset win over Clark County last season. Now, he’ll go to work against 14th Region opponents.
10. Tyler Bailey Jr. 6-4 G
With good size, Bailey will add to the Commodore attack after moving in from rival Hazard.
11. Clark Stepp So. 6-3 PG
Averaged 26 points and 9.2 assists per game as a freshman. That about sums it up.
12. Tyler Rich Sr. 6-3 C
A proven leader for the Bobcats -- he can score and rebound.
13. Cam Wright Sr. 6-3 F
Whitesburg’s leader from last season.
14. Kenny Brandenburg Jr. 5-10 PG
Quietly, he’s one of the region’s top point guards. And there’s several good 14th Region point guards.
15. Adam Dials Sr. 6-1 F
Averaged 10 points per game on last season’s Patriot hoops team.