Category Archives: basketball

Lipscomb gets commitment from Mr. Basketball finalist

Lipscomb’s full-court press netted a men’s basketball commitment this week, as Franklin Road Academy guard Kenny Cooper announced his plans to sign with the Bisons during the November recruiting period.

“The coaches have recruited me and wanted me on their team since my sophomore year,” said the 6-foot Cooper, who averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists and four steals for the Panthers as a junior to help them to a 24-8 finish while earning Division II-A Mr. Basketball finalist honors last season.

“I’m really good friends with some guys on the team that really wanted me there, and I realized it would be the best fit for me.”

Cooper also considered Ohio Valley Conference rivals Austin Peay and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, as well as Furman, before settling on the Bisons. Once he arrives on campus, he’ll join former teammate Rob Marberry – who originally signed with Western Kentucky and spent last season there before transferring – and ex-Battle Ground Academy guard Nathan Moran.

He’ll also be following in the footsteps of his high school coach. John Pierce played at Lipscomb and became the all-time leading scorer in men’s college basketball history, surpassing ex-Bison post and current Lipscomb athletics director Philip Hutcheson.

“Coach Pierce … told me it was my decision and to make the right one,” Cooper said. “He wanted me to make my decision.

“I’m excited. I’ve been getting lots of calls and texts from people excited about watching me play right here at home, excited to see me move on to the next level.”

While Pierce didn’t exert a lot of influence on Cooper, he is pleased with the outcome.

“I don’t think I influenced him at all, but as a former Bison, I couldn’t be happier,” Pierce said. “I wasn’t trying to push him, one way or the other. But it’s a great decision for Kenny. I’m really excited for him and really excited for Lipscomb.

“It’s a great fit for him. Knowing (Lipscomb coach) Casey Alexander and the kind of man he is, the kind of program he’s trying to build, I think Kenny is a great fit for them and what they’re trying to do. And Kenny’s a great kid regardless of what kind of player he is, but he’s a great player, very competitive. Whatever level he wound up at, he was going to rise to that challenge. If he’d gone to a major Division I program, he’d have found a way to play. He has a real knack for the game.

“He’s going to go there and do well.”

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Ex-Hillsboro hoops standout transfers to Cumberland

Former Hillsboro girls basketball standout Nicole Bowers will transfer to Cumberland for her final two seasons after an “inconsistent” two years at Eastern Kentucky.

“I decided to leave EKU because of my major. I want to teach and I want to teach in the state of Tennessee and the (teaching) credentials don’t cross over,” Bowers said. “But I also wanted to be able to play and produce more than I would have at EKU.

“I felt like there was some inconsistency. I’d play 20 or 30 minutes one game, and the next game I wouldn’t. The next game, I’d score 15 (points), and I wouldn’t play the next.”

In 25 games as a sophomore, Bowers averaged 2.6 points and 2.3 rebounds. The previous year, she averaged 3.4 points and 3.0 rebounds in 28 games. Eastern Kentucky was 26-30 in her two seasons.

As a senior at Hillsboro, Bowers averaged 12.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, earning all-District 11-AAA and all-Region 6-AAA honors as the Lady Burros finished 28-6.

She said former Hillsboro standout Jessica Pace – now a graduate assistant at Cumberland — keyed her decision once she opted to leave EKU.

“I always looked up to Jessica, and she transferred from UT-Martin to Cumberland and told me it was a great school,” she said. “I knew (assistant coach Tereva) Moore, and coach (Jeremy) Lewis is a great coach. I feel like I fit in perfectly.

“I think I’ll be able to bring a lot to the table as far as scoring, defensively and rebounding. I’ve already been playing with them in open gym and it’s been great, as far as my development and as far as being around great teammates that want to see me be successful.”

Crossover: Longtime hoops coaches set to switch sides

Having coached both girls and boys basketball, Eric Volbert indicated gender is secondary as he took over the Overton girls program this week.

As he makes his girls head coaching debut, former Murfreesboro Central assistant Kyle Turnham is excited about the change after spending the bulk of his career on the boys’ side.

Volbert comes from West Tennessee to replace former Overton girls coach – and new Bobcat boys coach – Todd Douthit. Most recently, Volbert spent three years as girls coach at South Gibson, but coached boys at McKenzie and served as a men’s assistant at Union University between stints as girls coach at Milan.

“I’ve coached college men’s basketball, high school boys’ basketball and high school girls’ basketball, and I think it comes down to relationships in the end,” he said. “Whether it’s coaching, teaching or life, it’s about having the patience to work at whatever level you have in front of you.”

Volbert, a Union graduate, served as a graduate assistant at his alma mater under longtime Lipscomb assistant Ralph Turner. He was on the same staff there with former Franklin Road Academy standout and current Union women’s coach Mark Campbell. But those aren’t his only ties to the Nashville area.

“We’ve got family in Nashville, and this helps us get closer to family,” he said. “I started looking for jobs, and saw the (Overton vacancy), started talking to people about it and they talked about what a great school it was. I got to talking to the administrators and coaches, and – I got into teaching to help young people, and I want to get back to that.”

Turnham, a former Middle Tennessee State assistant, spent the last four seasons as an assistant under Murfreesboro Central girls coach Steve Willey. Prior to that, he’d been a boys’ head coach at Blackman, Franklin County and Riverdale, and at the men’s junior college level at Cleveland State and Chattanooga State.

“Girls are a lot more fundamentally oriented, a lot more eager to please,” he said. “Their game is more pure basketball than the guys’ game. It’s not played necessarily above the rim, with the idea that athleticism overcomes all. So it’s an intriguing opportunity for me. And I really like the environment at Central. They’ve shown academics and athletics can not only survive but thrive.”

Turnham has spent the last five years as color analyst for selected MTSU men’s basketball radio broadcasts, but doesn’t expect that to be an issue going forward.

“If there’s a perceived conflict, there is no conflict; this is Job One,” he said. “I don’t go on the road with them a lot as it is, and after Christmas, it’s pretty much conference games on Thursdays and Saturdays. So I’ll continue on a yearly basis with that and see where we are. But it is something I really enjoy doing.”

Ex-Lipscomb University guard named coach at Centennial

A pair of Chicago winters were enough for Pete Froedden, the former Lipscomb University guard who has been named boys basketball coach at Centennial.

“It’s cold as – I can’t explain it to you,” said the 46-year-old Houston County native, who spent the past two seasons at Wheaton Academy after a five-year stint as an assistant at his collegiate alma mater. “It’s just a different world. Visiting doesn’t do it; you just don’t understand.

“When it doesn’t go above freezing for 30 days in a row, it’s a different world.”

Froedden replaces Terry Johnson, who finished 8-17 in his one year at Centennial after moving from the Pacific Northwest. He will become the fourth Cougars coach in five years, including Lawanza Crutcher (2011-13) and former Lipscomb teammate Darren Henrie.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this hire,” Centennial principal Leigh Webb said. “It is great for CHS basketball, our teaching staff and our entire Centennial community. Basketball and coaching knowledge is a given. Coach Froedden is a great man, a dynamic leader and a person we want our students to be around as a role model and mentor.

“This dynamic, young team deserves where this program is heading under his leadership.”

Centennial has not posted a record of .500 or better since going 15-14 in 2008-09.

“It’s Middle Tennessee,” Froedden said of the program’s draw. “I like the idea of building a program. They’ve never really gotten over the hump. Then, meeting the administration – it was just a fit.”

Froedden won 25 games in two seasons at Wheaton. Prior to his collegiate tenure, he served as a head coach at Hillsboro, Harding Academy, Dyer County and Sycamore.

Former local standouts named to Metro Sports Hall of Fame

Area defensive backs who found themselves terrorized by the high school version of John Henderson may have had a shot at covering the former Pearl-Cohn standout this week.

Temporarily bound to a wheelchair because of some health issues, Henderson was one of five recognized at a Tuesday luncheon as new inductees to the Metro Nashville Public Schools Sports Hall of Fame.

Also inducted were Joe Allen, who coached boys basketball, tennis and volleyball over a lengthy career at Donelson and McGavock; Preston Brown, a football and track standout at Maplewood; Mike Jackson, an honorable mention boys basketball all-American at Stratford; and Frank Pillow Jr., a football standout and track all-American at Whites Creek.

Henderson was a two-time all-Southeastern Conference and all-America selection and was the 2000 Outland Trophy winner while playing at Tennessee, and went on to be picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the ninth overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft. He went on to play 10 seasons – eight with the Jaguars and two more with the Oakland Raiders – before retiring at the end of the 2011 season.

But at Pearl-Cohn, Henderson was a 6-6, 270-pound man-child who also starred on the hardwood and added insult to injury when the Firebirds split him out wide on two-point conversion attempts.

“We probably converted 75 or 80 percent of those, which was a plus for us,” said Maurice Fitzgerald, who coached Pearl-Cohn to back-to-back state titles in 1996 and ’97, Henderson’s junior and senior seasons. “We’d just put him out there at wide receiver against those little DBs.”

“I caught a lot of those,” said Henderson, in addition to his 82 receptions for 1,030 yards and 20 touchdowns in his last two years. “Coach already knew – just lob it up.

“I never left the game of basketball.”

As he arrived at Pearl-Cohn, basketball was where Henderson was expected to make his mark. A highly touted hardwood player coming out of St. Pius and the AAU ranks (where Fitzgerald was one of his coaches), his reputation left him trapped between the two sports for the early stages of his high school career.

“Everybody was thinking he was going to be the next coming of Shaquille O’Neal,” Fitzgerald said. “They called him ‘Baby Shaq’. We were pretty successful in AAU ball, nationally ranked. We wore purple and gold uniforms (like the Los Angeles Lakers). He shaved his head. Everybody told him, ‘you must be crazy playing football’.

“But I knew for his size and speed and all that athletic ability, it was just a matter of time before he’d do exactly what he did. When you put all that together, you’re going to be pretty successful. He actually quit football the summer between his 9th– and 10th-grade year, but a couple of weeks before the season started, he came back, and the rest is history.”

Henderson’s offensive statistics pale in comparison to his defensive productivity on the Firebirds’ title teams. In two seasons, he posted 295 total tackles and 17 sacks.

“That was a crazy time. I was going back and forth, trying to decide what I wanted to play,” he recalled. “I sat down and listed the pros of each one. But I wanted to hit. I loved the contact.

“I could have played college (basketball). I think I could have played pro. But I made the right choice. I put everything into football, and I got to Tennessee and they taught me how to stay low and use my hands, and it was just fundamental techniques from there.”

Slowed by a stress fracture in his right leg and gout in his right foot, Henderson expects to be up and around soon and establishing a charitable foundation in Jacksonville, where he has made his home.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I’m collaborating with (former NBA player) Ruben Patterson on it, and just doing what Coach Fitzgerald got us doing. The things he’s taught me, I’m taking it down there. It’s much needed.”

Nashville prep basketball coaches name all-Metro teams

The Metro Nashville Basketball Coaches Association announced its all-Metro teams during a Wednesday night banquet.

Class AA Boys: East Nashville – Thomas Booker, Leonardo Holmes, Toree McGhee; Hume-Fogg – Andrew Rucker; Maplewood – William Alexander; Martin Luther King – Jalen Duke; Pearl-Cohn – Antwan Jennings, Jordan Sandifer; Stratford – Derrick Woods; Whites Creek – Roderick Waters. Coach of the Year – Raymond Pratcher, Pearl-Cohn.

Class AA Girls: East Nashville — Le’Jzae Davidson, Erica Overton-Haynes; Maplewood – Destiny Hayes; Martin Luther King –Molly Kafader, Jordan Majors, Briana Smith; Pearl-Cohn – Janiah Sandifer; Stratford – Lamontazia Blair; Whites Creek – Zoe Johnson. Coach of the Year – Lindy King, Martin Luther King.

Class AAA Boys: Antioch – Damion Baugus; Cane Ridge – Demarco Churchwell, Kyree Elder, D’Monte Evans; Glencliff – Anthony Francis; Hillwood – Kevontae Davis, Donovan Donaldson; Hillwood – D’Marco Steele; Hunters Lane – Jordan Buckner; McGavock – Chris Claybrooks; Overton – John Ford. Coach of the Year – Rodney Thweatt, Hillsboro.

Class AAA Girls: Antioch – Areyanna Majors; Cane Ridge – Gabby Bell, Shakayla Griffin, Maya Perry-Grimes; Glencliff – Asia Ragland; Hillsboro – Dorie Harrison; Hillwood – Erika Zachery; Hunters Lane – Nechelle Turner; McGavock – Deann Whitlow; Overton – LaShae Brown, Martoria Patton, Jada Stewart. Coach of the Year – JoAnne Tribue, Cane Ridge.

Former Franklin standout earns all-conference honors

Former Franklin High girls basketball standout Mackenzie Puckett was named a first-team all-USA South Athletic Conference performer recently.

Puckett, a 5-10 junior guard at Maryville (Tenn.) College, has helped the Lady Scots into NCAA Division III postseason play.

She was named conference player of the week for Feb. 16-22 after averaging 21.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.0 steals in a pair of wins that helped Maryville nail down homecourt honors for the recent USA South tournament while reaching the 1,000-point plateau for her career.

For the season, she’s averaging a team-leading 13.9 points along with 4.9 rebounds,

Maryville, 25-3, opens NCAA DIII Tournament play Friday against John Carroll (Ohio).