By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel has a full day of basketball planned with local teams and national powers sharing the floor.
The United States Energy Coal Basketball Classic begins at 2 p.m. Saturday with the North Laurel Lady Jaguars facing Southwestern. That will be followed by three boys’ games Johnson Central and Knox Central at 4 p.m. and North Laurel vs. Whitley County at 6 p.m. The main event will be national powers Oak Hill Academy (VA) and Faith Baptist Academy (GA) playing at 8 p.m.
“I think this is going to be a really great event for our school to get to watch this type of game. We’re hoping for a big turnout. It’s not every day you get these types of teams to come in here and play,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said.
Oak Hill features four players that have already signed with Division I schools: Troy Williams (Indiana), Nate Britt (North Carolina), Ike Iroegbu (Washington State), and Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina). Faith Baptist is led by Georgia signee J.J. Frazier. Frazier is a 5-foot-9 point guard ranked as the 37th best point guard in the country. Frazier, a three-star recruit is averaging over 27 points and five assist per game. Frazier also had offers from Auburn and South Carolina.
Oak Hill has produced numerous NBA players including Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Rajon Rondo. The Warriors are currently 17-2 and ranked No. 10 in the nation according to USA today. Oak Hill won 44 games and a national title last year. Under coach Steve Smith, the Warriors are 860-53 since 1985.
Oak Hill’s loaded roster includes Williams, a 6-foot-7 forward ranked as No. 33 in the ESPN top 100. He also had offers from North Carolina and Louisville. Williams, known for his ability to finish around the goal, is averaging 18 points per game.
North Carolina signee Britt also had offers from Duke and Georgetown. He is ranked as the No. 52 player in the country by ESPN. Britt and Iroegbu are both listed as two of the nation’s top point guard prospects.
Thornwell, a South Carolina native, is ranked as the top player from that state before transferring to Oak Hill for his senior year. Thornwell is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard. Louisville and Florida were also high on Thornwell before he signed with the Gamecocks. Thornwell averaged 27 points and nine rebounds per game as a junior.
Johnson Central will also be bringing a coveted recruit in 6-foot-9 Shane Hall. Hall is receiving interest from Alabama-Birmingham, Butler, and Cincinnati. He is ranked No. 79 in the country by ESPN. Hall is averaging 17 points and nine rebounds per game.
Knox Central (12-7) has won six of its last nine games with the three losses by a combined 13 points, including an overtime loss to Barbourville.
For Whitley County it will be the second trip to North Laurel this season. The Colonels lost to North Laurel, 62-46, in the Legacy Nissan Shootout.
The opening game brings the Lady Warriors of Southwestern led by Adison Corder at 21 point per game. Corder is one of the state’s top three-point shooters. Her three three-pointers per game currently ranks fifth in the state.