Personnel turnover is an inescapable part of high school basketball.
The proudest, most historic programs overcome those annual challenges by building their brand, growing numbers, getting those players to buy in and wait their turn, and making sure everyone is game-ready when that opportunity finally arises.
Coaches progress through that same system and are amply prepared when they get that call, as well, whether it’s next line at the powerhouse school or hanging a shingle on a different program.
Scott County High School, the gold standard in Kentucky boys’ hoops for more than a quarter-century, will put that reputation as fertile ground to the ultimate test this winter. Some key statistics to demonstrate that point:
In its second straight trip to the KHSAA Sweet 16 championship game and seventh overall, Scott County scored 3,039 points.
Players on the 2019-2020 roster accounted for only 342, and Terrin Hamilton had all but 36 of those. Elias Richardson, Aaron Leake, Chase Grigsby, Isaiah Haynes and Josh Bredwood are the only current Cardinals to have ever heard their name called over the speakers at a varsity game, and it was generally long after the issue had been settled.
Gone are mainstays Michael Moreno, Diablo Stewart, Glenn Covington, Bryce Long, Lorenzo Williams, Cam Fluker and Kobi Harris, who steered SC to 131 wins and only 18 losses over their four varsity seasons.
Also retired is the man who guided that ship, Billy Hicks. He logged the majority of his state-record 1,013 victories at Scott County over 25 incomparable seasons, including a pair of state championships.
Not to mention that the players who were expected to vie for the five vacant starting slots were divided evenly between SC and the new Great Crossing program after all the construction dust settled.
All that, yet when polls are taken and coaches and media are asked who’s the favorite in the 42nd District and 11th Region this winter, SC’s name is mentioned not long after consensus favorite Henry Clay.
It’s a tip of the cap to oodles of recent history, of course, but it’s also a tribute to the quality of the players and the new head coach who have been waiting in the wings.
“The key for us is just play hard and just keep working hard in practice,” SC coach Tim Glenn said. “I’m excited for them that it’s their turn. They’re really good players.
“We’ve got a brand of basketball that we’re going to try to keep the tradition, because we’ve seen it’s a good way.”
Hamilton, a 6-foot-6 forward with the skills to play productively on the wing, is probably the best of the bunch.
“We know he can score, but if he’s rebounding, blocking shots, playing defense, he can do a lot of things for us, Glenn said.
Hamilton emerged as a shooting star at the region tournament in his sophomore season, then saw his first extended time in the starting lineup last winter, after 2,000-point career scorer Moreno went down with a fractured foot.
His message to the rest of the state after averaging a double-double in Scott County’s two exhibition games?
“Not to underestimate us,: Hamilton said. “We might play a little bad every once in a while, relax a few plays, but we get it under control and just keep going hard.”
Scott County’s most loyal fans might need a program to match faces with numbers for a while, but the style of play to which they’re accustomed is still the rule.
The Cardinals will be guard-oriented and predicated on defense and transition. They will rely on scoring balance and across-the-board quickness to overcome whatever advantages each opponent may flaunt.
“We’re definitely excited to play. We like to play off our defense more. We like to get out and run since we’re a smaller team,” senior guard Aaron Leake said.
Leake, Richardson and Bredwood have shown the scoring punch at both the JV level and in summer competition to complement Hamilton.
They’ll be fed by Chase Grigsby, whom Glenn describes as an old-school, unselfish point guard whose first inclination is to set the table for teammates.
Glenn has seen an increased level of confidence from Leake in the preseason.
“Aaron, I think it’s just been a little glimpse of what he can do. There were a couple times this summer where it was just give him the ball and get out of his way. We play off him, and he makes a read,” Glenn said. “That’s also kind of a brand that we’ve had. You have a guy that you can give it to and trust him with it. He’s going to be one of those guys for us, as well as Terrin, as well as Elias. There’s a lot of different weapons, and I think there are a lot of different guys who can roll up points for us offensively.”
Defense will drive the bus, though, and Glenn doesn’t give his players long enough to forget it.
“Every day in practice we work on help side defense, getting in the passing lanes,” Hamilton said. “He writes it on the board before every game, too.”
“Our team is going to be as good as our defense is,” Leake added. “We try to keep it the same. We’ve always been a really exciting team to play for.”
All involved expect the addition of several football players in preseason to bolster that mentality and give the team a more rugged look. Mikaleb Coffey, a junior guard, is new to the program but has been a starter since his freshman season at Tates Creek. He’s joined by seniors Philip Garner and Silas Emongo in making the transition from the gridiron to the hardwood.
Scott County also believes the future could be now for a strong group of six sophomores: Micah Glenn, Isaiah Haynes, J.Z. Middleton, Andrew Willhite. Nick Mosby and Jeremy Hamilton.
“We’ve got a lot of younger guys, and they can really help us out as the season goes on,” Leake said. “They’re really talented, and we know we’ll have a good season when they work up to it.”
The elder Hamilton is familiar with the learning curve and hopes he can incorporate some of the leadership skills he learned from the legendary Class of 2019.
“The Butler scrimmage, a few people got a little nervous when they shot. When I first started on varsity, I missed a few layups, too, so I know what they’re feeling,” he said. “The difference now is we’ve got a lot of young players and also a lot of older players, so it’s kind of hard to say how we’re going to mix in and play together.”
Scott County’s out-of-district schedule includes a slew of opponents — Bullitt East, Bardstown, Lexington Catholic, Lafayette, Bourbon County, Clay County, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Johnson Central — who could be considered threats to win their respective regions.
“I got looking through there, and there’s really not a cream puff in it. It will make us extremely better,” Glenn said.
Henry Clay, led by Northern Kentucky commit Marques Warrick, and what should be vastly improved Bryan Station and Frederick Douglass will push SC in their regularly scheduled annual home-and-home series.
And of course SC will take on Great Crossing at least twice.
“There’s other districts that you can win the district or be runner-up, but you have no chance of winning the region,” Glenn said. “Here, you’ve got a chance, so it’s probably a good way to have to come out.”
Hamilton knows all those opponents are licking their chops at what they believe is finally their chance to bring down the giant. He hopes the Cardinals will match that level of motivation.
“We know when we go on the road that people have it out for us, but we’ve got all these younger players coming up, and that will help us out, too,” he said. “We have a pretty good chance. I believe that.”
SCHS boys’ basketball
Tim Glenn (head coach)
unless otherwise noted)
3 at Bullitt East7:30 PM
6 at Bardstown8:00 PM 10 Lexington Catholic7:30 PM
12 Lexington Christian7:30 PM
14 Jeffersonville, Ind.6:00 PM17 at Woodford County7:30 PM
19 Vs. Great Crossing7:30 PM
23 at Bryan Station8:00 PM26-28 at Ashland Invitational
3 at Clay County7:30 PM10 Henry Clay7:30 PM11 at Oldham County7:30 PM
14 Madison Central7:30 PM
15 at Doug;ass7:30 PM18 Lafayette7:30 PM
22-25 Toyota ClassicTBA
28 Bourbon County7:30 PM
30 Douglass7:30 PM
31 Bryan Station8:00 PM
7 at Henry Clay7:30 PM
8 Simon Kenton at Lafayette, 4:00 PM
11 Franklin County7:30 PM
14 at Great Crossing7:30 PM
15 Johnson Central6:00 PM
17 at Sayre7:30 PM
21 Dunbar7:30 PM
District: 42. Region: 11.
Outlook: Scott County, the first program to win three consecutive 11th Region titles since the 1960s, will try to complete the four-year sweep with a strong group of seniors that lack only varsity playing time, with the exception of Hamilton. The Cards will stick with the defensive mentality and running game that have served them so well over the years.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.