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Did Briar Jumpers’ One Shining Moment launch madness in Kentucky?

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By Bob Watkins

A mammoth ice storm is history, sun angle has wandered left, daylight arrives early and stays longer, a crappie run is just beyond the Farmer’s Almanac horizon and basketball madness is here.

Yes, mid-February.

We thank a couple kids in Kentucky’s heartland, at Somerset in Pulaski County. Ninth - grader D.J. Townsend and tenth- grader David Weigel play for a team called Briar Jumpers in a home gym called the Briar Patch.

For our state, how perfect.

Building toward the Commonwealth’s magic season, tournament time, the two Briar Jumpers reminded us of One Shining Moment when the following happened recently.

In a game at the Briar Patch, Pulaski County was leading rival Somerset 51-50 as the clock wound toward 0:00. With less than a second on the clock freshman Townsend, unable to pass inside, launched from 30 feet straight out. Swish! Final score 53-51. Was his only basket of the game.

Earlier the same evening Somerset’s jayvee was tied at 33 with Pulaski when, before the final buzzer Weigel, a sophomore, banked in a 3-pointer. Somerset 36, Pulaski 33.

Next day in the hallway at Somerset High we imagine Townsend and Weigel-were walking tall in the glow of their one shining moment.

First of many the next few weeks, we expect.

Why kids love basketball in Kentucky? Being part of a team, winning, and dreaming of a chance to be a hero mobbed by teammates and fans.

Madness is almost here again. Priceless.

A JODIE MEEKS RIDDLE

A riddle: How can a magazine headline be half right, half wrong?

Answer: The Sporting News, February 16.

Headline: Meeks isn’t Kentucky’s No. 1, but he’s the most efficient guy in college hoops.

Five days after the TSN headline, Patrick Patterson watched in sweats as his efficient roommate lit up Arkansas with 45 points. As he has been this season,Meeks was marvelous from every place in Bud Walton Arena and Kentucky clamored back to the front row in a run for best seeds in the SEC then NCAA Tournaments.

It was Meeks’ seventh 30-plus points game this season.

New riddle: Who is top candidate for SEC player of the year? Nick Calathes at Florida? Devan Downey at South Carolina? Today it’s Jodie Meeks, but stay tuned. UK has travel dates to Columbia and Gainesville still ahead.

BLUEGRASS HOME BOYS

The Bluegrass Home Boys were in the news last week.

Travis Ford. Had to be a molasses-slow news day somewhere between Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriquez, that Oklahoma State’s coach would be chastised for using colorful language. Ridiculous. Ford apologized.

Darrin Horn. Was stopped at halftime of the Florida game for a television reporter’s question. The coach listened respectfully then did what most veteran coaches do, ignored the question asked and answered a question he chose, said thanks, and walked on. Unlike gossipy Lexington where Billy Clyde Gillispie’s home address is newsworthy, Horn’s reply drew no attention and no commentary.

Footnote. Gamecocks are playing to packed houses and their first year coach is lead candidate for SEC coach of the year.

John Pelphrey. At Arkansas, new emphasis on discipline, character and integrity. The no-nonsense coach suspended cocky freshman playmaker Courtney Forston before a home date against Kentucky. Bravo.

Taking the high road, Pelphrey focused on Forston’s teammates, challenged them to step up their play, and asked reporters: “What more of an opportunity could you have...”  than play for Arkansas, a game on CBS, against thewinningest program of all time?

Dead on.

Forston looks like the target, but is instead a rally point for teammates, fans, andwanna-be Razorbacks. Team first. The payoff could come at SEC Tournament time.

A stand of this kind, not the first by Pelphrey, is a point made for what’s good about sports. Coach uses suspension to teach that humility and responsibility rate ahead of solo show time every time.

Bonus? Directors of athletics who will court Pelphrey in seasons ahead get an education also, seeing the man from Paintsville is more than a ball coach.

Summary. Careers of native sons Ford, Horn and Pelphrey give rise to optimism that a new wave of college coaches will stand for more than manipulating the truth, blowing smoke to media and prospective recruits, big money, teevee face-time and demigod-god status.

Now, about those graduation rates.

CHEERS & JEERS

CHEERS. Morehead State. Been quite a climb, but Coach Donnie Tyndall’sEagles stand atop the OVC this week.

CHEERS. Jeff Brohm launched Phase II of his career to be a college head coach. Leaving his alma mater to work for Howard Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic is a mega break. Next head coach at Louisville could be ... Brohm.

CHEERS. Florida coach Billy Donovan. Florida’s coach showed a Rupp Arena crowd and television audience how to shake hands with a winning coach while swallowing an important loss Feb. 10.

CHEERS. Notre Dame All-American Luke Harangody’s play against Louisville was good as it gets. Appropriate nickname for the Irish big man? All the way to his hair style, should be Old School.

BEST RIVALRIES DEPT.

College hoops rivalries in the Bluegrass - Kentucky-Louisville, Western-Murray State, Morehead-Eastern, Georgetown-Cumberland.

Here’s a vote for Kentucky Wesleyan and Bellarmine. The Panthers win over the Knights last week was the 92nd meeting dating to 1952-53. Wesleyan leads the series 71-21.

WORTH REPEATING

Jodie Meeks to The Sporting News: “It’s just patience. ... I think it all plays a factor on the basketball count. Being patient in life and being patient on the basketball court are the same thing.”

PARTING SHOT

Sports is renown for clever catch-phrases. Best one this year? Football coach Dave Elson at Western Kentucky. After wrapping up what he called the best recruiting class in school history, Elson hailed WKU’s refurbished stadium and facilities and upgrade to D-I competition as the Wow Factor in the Hilltoppers’ recruiting success.

And so it goes.

You can reach bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com