King of the Bluegrass kicks off Friday
By: Matt Downs
On December 19th, 1981 the first tip-off of the King of the Bluegrass Tournament took place, one of two national high school tournaments in the country. Coach Stan Hardin, Assistant Coach Lloyd Gardner and Athletic Director Butch Greschel from Fairdale High School got the idea from the first national tournament which was called “The Kingdom of the Sun Tournament”. The idea was if it could work Ocala, Florida, it could work in the state where Basketball is King. Who knew it would become host to so many talented players over the years, including many that put on Kentucky or Louisville Jerseys.
The sixteen team tournament brings in 12 In-state teams and four out of states teams which helps brings top talent in state and out. In only its second year it brought in Baltimore Dunbar who had 9 division one signees and eventually 3 NBA first round picks in Reggie Williams, Reginald Lewis and Muggsy Bogues. Many national ranked teams have been to the KOB since. But what is most exciting for the State is seeing a local kid come in to a national tournament to play. Rex Chapman playing for Apollo from Owensboro, was considered the best high school player in the nation in 1984. Chapman at the time was already signed to the University of Kentucky, and won Mr. Basketball for the state of Kentucky that year.
The years after 1986 however, the tournament which was still run by Fairdale High School and volunteers to this day couldn’t pay out like other tournaments that popped up around the county with big promoters. Still, over the years KOB has played host to 19 Mr. Basketballs from the state of Kentucky and also to a few from nine other states. Also 36 players that played in the KOB also reached the ultimate dream of the NBA.
But in the State where basketball is everything many players came through Fairdale and ended up playing for the big universities here in state. In all, 26 players ended up at University of Kentucky and 32 for University of Louisville. To name a few, for each school there were great names like Rajon Rondo, Travis Ford, Scott Padgett, Tony Kimbro, Felton Spencer, and Patrick Sparks. There are also current Wildcats and Cardinals that played at KOB. UK has Twany Beckham and John Hood and UL has Chane Behanan, Zack Price, and Peyton Siva.
The 2011 King of the Bluegrass starts this Friday and is sure to again host some great high school basketball. Last year was my first real experience there as I found myself there every day to watch Jeffersontown win it all. It is a great opportunity to see great teams from all over the state and four out of state teams as well. Some of the more exciting basketball I have seen has been right there in that gym, and this year’s field shouldn’t disappoint. It could become the place where you see the star of tomorrow.