As we creep ever closer to the kick-off of high school sports, there are two kinds of names to watch for.
Those looking to cap off great careers as Cougars and Red Hawks, as well as those looking to begin them.
Who will be this years Alessia Nesbitt, Avery Graham, Kendall Bryant, or Elizabeth Martin?
Will anyone finish off their senior year with a big-time college commitment, not unlike Kate Peters to Lipscomb last year?
That all remains to be seen.
However, here are a few names to keep an eye on as we enter another jam-packed sports calendar.
First up are the rising seniors who look to finish strong.
- Cade Pilkington– A versatile athlete that has at times played all three major sports. A star on the Gridiron, Court, and Diamond, we shall see what route he takes at the next level. He will undoubtedly garner attention in football and baseball if he remains healthy and has the type of breakout year we expect.
- Logan Myatt– A stonewall behind the plate no matter who is on the mound. He has caught some of the better pitching in the region as he participates in travel and all-star ball. Has an electric bat, when given a chance to hit. Look for him to be a staple behind the plate, garner more at-bats, and possibly send his stock skyrocketing in his senior campaign.
- AC Milam– A clear-cut sharpshooter with a knack for the defensive end, she already has garnered attention from several schools on the hardwood. The question remains though, will she take that big step toward consistency as she enters her final campaign as a Lady Cougar.
- Jenna Russell– A dynamic competitor that has shown an ability to adapt to whatever her team needs. Both on the hardwood and diamond last year she took major steps. She became her team’s best defender, keeping many opposing number one players in check. Meanwhile, Russell replaced a state tournament caliber shortstop in Britany Hunt on the dirt. Do not be surprised if she doesn’t garner offers in both sports and possibly play both at the next level.
- Libby Wilson– The kind of player coaches dream of discovering early. That is what Wilson brings after two years of being a staple at second base for the Lady Cougars. Now it is her time to shine as a senior alongside Russell leading this team. I anticipate her receiving several offers to play at the next level.
- Brianna Burgess– Simply put one of the more dynamic young players the county has seen in recent memory. Has a chance to break Rachel Bells’ scoring record at Creek Wood, all the while being a stand-up teammate and defender. She is not just a scorer and schools have and continue to take notice.
- Laura Nichols– Quite possibly the most underrated athlete in the county. Several people, I have spoken with say she is just talented, if not more, than Burgess and has certainly shown flashes of that ability. While not quite the pure shooter, Nichols brings length and tenacity to the floor. She is aggressive at both ends and will, if she chooses, definitely be playing at the next level.
- Kenzie Mann– After two years of struggling with health we finally saw Mann have a full season as a junior last year. All she did was help lead her team to within a game of the state tournament with a batting avg. over.500 and fewer issues behind the plate than most college kids. If she stays healthy again, expect teams to come calling.
- Hannah Albert– Will be the first to tell you she has room to grow. However, expect that growth to be exponential as she showed signs of being a wall at the hot corner for the Lady Red Hawks. Albert also showed balance at the plate. Cut down on the strikeouts and errors, and watch her stock rise.
Now for those younglings, Freshmen or Sophomores who look to make an impact.
- Kealy Webb– The last name speaks for itself, but it is worth noting she does not use it as a crutch. A hard worker who attacks everything she does. Case and point, no surprise Kealy will play basketball. However, she also decided she wanted to step back into softball, a sport she has not played in several years. A sport her mother played collegiately. Well, she worked hard, busted her butt, and made the team. She will be a hard-nosed, athletic addition to both squads who are looking to get over respective humps this year.
- Karleigh Stephenson– Simply put, if she’s healthy, she is a game changer for the volleyball and basketball programs. Tall, physical, and skilled Stephenson is one of those once every ten or fifteen-year kinds of specimens. Can she stay healthy and make it count? That will be the question.
- Sadie Green– A sophomore whose name certainly got said plenty last year on the diamond. However, that was more due to a lack of depth than it was how good she played. Do not misunderstand, Green had a good freshman year, but she looks to take a major step forward in her second year on the hill. Much like Russell, Green is a team player. Last year her place was in the outfield and to bolster a lineup that’s struggled at times at the plate. As a lefty, she brought something different, but not demonstrative. Now she looks to take a starring role where her team will need her most, in the circle, and let me tell you, she can sling it.
- Carter Thomason– After losing Rex Edmondson a year ago, and now losing Braden Dawson this past year, the interior cupboard for the Red Hawks on the hardwood is certainly barer than it has been. That is where, yes technically, rising junior Thomason comes in. He may be the sole junior listed, simply because of the unique circumstance, he is in. Thomason will need to take a big step forward as a post player if the Red Hawks want to have a shot against the Portland and Greenbriers this season.
- Alex Pinson– A young man who showed loads of potential last year on the bump. Pinson was forced into being the ace for the Red Hawks after Aaron McCoy was unable to pitch for half the year. That being said, coming into the year as the ace is very different from becoming it halfway through. We will see if Pinson’s arm holds up, but expect big things from the sophomore.
Those are just a few of the many names to watch for this year in the county. I am sure there are some, as always, we won’t see coming.
Now, I know what you’re going to say. What about Kendall Bryant, Alessia Nesbitt, Elizabeth Martin, etc.
Well, simply put, they, along with names like Jamison Ford are players you already know, and have made major contributions, but are not seniors.
Therefore, this article was not there’s to be highlighted in.
That being said, do not worry, their time will come, and I will have plenty to say.
Also worth pointing out, I did not mention names like Colbey Lamberth or Adam Roth.
Because they have already made a commitment to their school of choice.
Lamberth is committed to Eastern Kentucky, while Roth is headed to Samford.
That is not to say both cannot improve in certain aspects of their game, just simply do not need to increase their stock for a chance at the next level.