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TRIBE 44: Top 25 Adair County hoopers since 1975

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Welcome to Monday on The County Line, ladies and gentlemen. We’re doing a different kind of morning post today in lieu of our typical faux-holiday breakdown and weather report. In that spirit, this Tribe 44-themed kickstart to your day is dedicated to Allison Garmon and Jared Denton, who each celebrate birthdays today and who are hopefully cool with being honored in a 2,000-plus word article about an Adair County sports podcast.  

Without further ado, the most recent edition of the esteemed Tribe 44 pod is now available. Former Tribe baseball coach Mike Mantooth is back for part two of his interview from last week, and he shares some of his favorite ACHS coaching memories, talks about his father-daughter fishing team, the Bobber Bandits (the true champs, according to Mantooth), and discusses the art of beekeeping.

Also, the moment you’ve all been waiting for is here: The top 25 lists are now complete, and it’s time for Clay to answer for his choices. Give the pod a listen on Spotify by following this link, or use the embedded Spotify link below to listen right here from The County Line. Click here to listen through Apple Podcasts.

Clay’s compilation of the top 25 boys and girls to grace the hardwood at Adair County High School since 1975 is undoubtedly the most comprehensive look at Indian standouts ever assembled. After countless hours of research and interviews with former players and coaches, the debate is now over. 

Just kidding. Now the real arguments can start, and listeners will surely have plenty of their own opinions on who should have made the cut and which players who made the list were perhaps undeserving. The boys were kind enough to have me on the show this week (following Mantooth) to rip Clay’s choices to shreds, but I definitely failed, because the collection is almost unassailable. 

I’m an arguer as much as I’m a hoops fan, however, so I managed to find just a few nits to pick. My “snub” list and breakdown will follow, but first, let’s look at Clay’s picks, in no particular order. My editorial notes will be in parentheses, with a respectful “BMT” for players who were before my time: 

Top 25 Indians since 1975

• Keenan “Redbone Bridgewaters (BMT)

• Matt Loy (Good scorer, ball handler, and passer; one of my favorites as a kid, but I predict his son’s accomplishments will eventually surpass his own)

• Kyle Young (Played most of his career during the brief 2- or 3-year period when I didn’t really keep up with the team, but had great size for a guard and scored over 1,000 points)

• Chance Melton (One of the best athletes to ever come through ACHS; six-year starter; unselfish, do-it-all skillset; always wished he shot more)

• James Turner (BMT, but a great P.E. teacher)

• Cameron Lasley (Exceptional athlete with good size; extremely versatile — could play any position on the court)

• Darren Ballou (A true modern big man; protected the rim, rebounded, and could shoot from anywhere)

• Chris “Bus” Caldwell (One of my first ever favorites at ACHS; one-of-a-kind combination of size, strength, skill, and touch; a double-double machine and arguably the best player on the ’95 region champs)

• Yves White (BMT)

• Corey Melton (No one could get hotter, faster; a flamethrower from beyond the arc who was underrated as a passer and ball handler)

• Kyle Sandusky (a versatile defensive-minded wing who developed into a good scorer; important role player for the 2009 region champs)

• Godfrey Jackson (BMT)

• Heath Walkup (BMT)

• Kevin Bridgewaters (My old teammate—the best scorer in school history; topped 2,000 points despite only getting significant playing time his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons; shortest dude I ever saw dunk in a game, and he dunked quite a bit; super-fun to watch from my perch at the end of the bench)

• Chris Lewis (Post skills for days; crafty in the paint and could finish with either hand; excellent mid-range shooter; tough rebounder; the Indians’ best player in their two games at the 2007 state tournament)

• Jeff Young (BMT, but coached my middle school team to a 45-1 record from 1999-2001)

• Kevin Jackson (BMT)

• Kalen Kimberland (A relatively late bloomer who just kept getting better; excellent defender and ball handler who could also score; best player in the region in 2008)

• Chris Coomer (BMT)

• Nick Fudge (Starting point guard for two region title teams; one of the toughest players to ever come through ACHS; outstanding perimeter defender and floor general; would have scored much more on teams with less talent)

• Matt Fudge (One of the most fun players to watch in my almost 30 years of being a fan; short dude who could really jump; great scorer off the dribble who beat Russell County almost single-handedly as a senior)

• Briceson Walkup (BMT)

• Toby Curry (The perimeter complement to Bus Caldwell’s interior dominance on ’95 region champs; leading scorer on ’95 team; good size for a guard and a deadly outside shooter)

• Kel Stotts (Could fire from anywhere; one of the most prolific shooters and scorers in state history; got open for buckets both off the bounce and by moving without the ball; tremendous work ethic; high basketball IQ)

• Blake Martin (My all-time favorite teammate and one of my best friends going back to our first day of kindergarten, so I’m biased on this one, but I don’t care; a pure shooter with unlimited range; a leader; an underrated ball handler, slasher, playmaker, and secret trash-talker; good size as a 6’3” shooting guard, but could and at times did play every other position; solid rebounder — deceptively strong; a self-made player with a relentless work ethic and … I better stop now because I miss him like crazy and these memories bring me both smiles and tears. RIP Blake)

Snubbed Indians

Here are the players not on Clay’s list who — in my opinion — have solid arguments for inclusion. In fact, without calling anyone out who did make the cut by name, I’m certain that a few of the guys mentioned below would absolutely cook a few of the guys mentioned above. Keep in mind, I’m a product of my time, so I’m sure there are some pre mid-90s guys who are also deserving, but I’m not the man to make those judgments: 

• James Flatt: A mid-range killer who was deceptively effective off the bounce despite only average quickness — knew how to keep a defender on his hip if he could get his shoulders past him; strong as an ox; good rebounder; scored 60 points for my team in an intramural game against Lindsey Wilson JV basketball players (and one player on Clay’s top 25 list who shall remain unnamed) when we were both in college, which is to this day the greatest upset no one ever saw.

• Corey Helm: One of the program’s best-ever long-range bombers; underrated defender and ball handler; best player on the court in the 2009 region championship game against North Hardin; provided instant offense off the bench as the sixth man on the 2007 region champs as a sophomore.

• Joseph Willis: Never a scorer, but a four-year starter who sacrificed stats and touches by switching positions from point guard to the wing midway through his career to make room for Nick Fudge and Kalen Kimberland in the backcourt; relentless competitor and fierce, versatile defender; the 2007 region champion squad’s emotional leader. 

• Michael “Woo” Bridgewaters: A natural slashing guard or wing who was forced to play the post because he was taller than most of his teammates; excellent quickness; solid ball handler; mid-range assassin. There weren’t a ton of shots to go around during his tenure, as his cousin Kevin was lighting up the scoreboard and the record books, but he managed to average double figures in scoring anyway, both in his junior and senior seasons. An awesome teammate with boundless energy on both ends of the court. 

• Josh Myers: I don’t know his stats, because he came along a few years before the others on my “snubbed” list, but when I was a kid, I thought Josh Myers was awesome — could score, rebound, defend, and handle the rock. After consulting with a few knowledgeable fans a little older than me, my initial thoughts were confirmed, so even if he doesn’t make Clay’s list, he earns a spot on mine.

Now for the girls’ list. I admit that I have far less knowledge on this side of things, so I’ll keep my unqualified opinions to myself for most of these. The only notes will be for players that overlapped with my high school and middle school days, or for players whom I have some personal connection to — meaning I saw them play enough to feel confident in my scouting report. Clay’s list is below, and my snubs follow: 

Top 25 Lady Indians since 1975

• Alisa Loy

• Tonya Feese

• Samantha Grider (Known as a three-point bomber, but could get buckets all over the court; good ball handler; high basketball IQ and very competitive)

• Kim Goodin

• Mercedes Cox

• Chelsea Beard

• Sandra Burbridge

• Amy Roy (My first-ever favorite basketball player at any level or gender; one of the best three-point shooters in school history; 1,000 point scorer and was the program’s all-time assist leader when she graduated)

• Beth Grant

• Laura Walker (A great combination of skill and athleticism; high leaper; great shooter; versatile scorer)

• Krystal Redmon (Super competitive; good ball handler and passer; creative playmaker; above average scorer despite a pass-first approach; the textbook “coach on the court” at the point guard position)

• Ashley Owens

• McKenzie Martin (Shares her brother’s hyper-competitiveness; smart, hard-nosed, physical defender and rebounder; versatile scorer who topped 1,000 career points)

• Alex Keltner

• Chelsea Luckey (A high IQ player at the point guard position; could make plays both for herself and her teammates; active defender who could guard multiple positions; excellent rebounder for a guard)

• Monica Rodgers

• Netta Burbridge

• Tweeda Smith

• Chene Smith (Had a relentless motor and played hard all the time; imposing defender and excellent rebounder; a good athlete who ran the floor exceptionally well for a post player; developed into a formidable scoring threat as her career progressed)

• Kim Rodgers

• Beth Owens

• Katie Keltner

• Liana Critz

• Lisa Handy

• Telica Taylor (Athletic post player who wasn’t afraid to mix it up inside; outstanding rebounder; could score when called upon; impact player on the varsity level as a middle schooler)

Snubbed Lady Indians

• Amanda Marple: Super athletic; a tall, rangy, versatile defender who could guard 1 though 5; solid rebounder, ball handler and passer and could score when needed; the kind of do-everything player that every team wants in 2022 — above average in almost every facet of the game. 

• Crystal Compton: An imposing presence in the paint with legit post moves on the block; great combination of size and skill; tremendous rebounder. 

There you have it, folks. It’s settled. I’m sure there are no longer any differing opinions, but if you think Clay (or I) messed up, shoot us an email and let us know how you feel, who we missed, and what we should do about it.

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Wes Feese is one of this company's owners and founders. He has previously worked as an editor, news reporter, sportswriter, photographer, and freelance contributor for newspapers across central Kentucky. He grew up in the Egypt community of Adair County and is a graduate of Adair County High School and Lindsey Wilson College.