The 10 Best Athletes I Watched Grow Up in Kentucky
In the past 15 years, I have had the privilege to watch some incredible athletes come and go through the high school ranks in the state of Kentucky. As I look at the pro and college ranks, I think it is only fitting that some these athletes be recognized. The following are the top 10 athletes to make their way through the high schools of Kentucky since 1994.
#10 -- Doug Beaumont (Louisville Cardinals Wide Receiver)
One of the best high school football players I have ever seen was Male High School tailback Doug Beaumont. I have known Doug personally since he was in the 3rd grade and even then, you could tell he was going to be a superstar. That came to fruition when Beaumont won Mr. Football in his senior year of high school.
In his career at Louisville, Beaumont has amassed a total of 92 catches for 1,114 yards and zero touchdowns. He has also accumulated a total of 46 rush yards with 29 special teams tackles to boot. His best career game came on September 17th, 2008, against Kansas State, when he had 9 catches for 119 yards.
His small stature affects him in the receiving field (5-9, 176 lbs.) but his quickness and speed make him a very viable option for the Cards. NFL scouts do see Beaumont having a future in the NFL as a Darren Sproles-esque player.
#9 -- Twany Beckham (Mississippi State Forward)
In the 2007 Kentucky High School basketball campaign, 6'5 Twany Beckham was the leader of the star-studded Ballard High School basketball team. He made noise mid season when he originally committed to playing for IUPUI but eventually backed out in hopes of playing for a higher D-1 school.
Beckham eventually moved on to a Junior College and then to Mississippi State, where he is quickly becoming a staple in the Bulldogs' system.
In his short career at MSU, Beckham has averaged 1.6 points per game, to go along with 1.2 assists, 1.5 rebounds, and 0.4 steals. His size and stature makes him a tough swing-man to play with in the post and on the outside. His best game last year came against fellow Louisville product Dominic Tilford and South Alabama. In the game, Beckham logged six points, with three rebounds, two assist, and one steal, all in just 13 minutes of play.
Beckham came to MSU as a little used player but throughout the season his minutes rose quickly and this year promises to be a good one as well. As I said, with his size, he compliments Jarvis Varnardo and Renardo Sidney very well in the low post and he could have a big year coming off the Bulldogs' bench.
#8 -- Scotty Hopson (Tennessee Volunteers Swingman)
During Billy Gillespie's horrid tenure at the University of Kentucky, many big blue fans were hoping that he could at least keep in-state talent in the state. One big swing and a miss for Billy G was when he decided not to pursue after University Heights big man Scotty Hopson real hard. To make matters worse, the gifted 6'7 wing-man decided to hop on over to SEC rival Tennessee.
I still remember going to a basketball tournament in Fairdale, Kentucky and watching as this slender and mean young man bullied every player that tried to guard him. From that moment on, I knew that Scotty Hopson not staying in Kentucky was going to come back to haunt the fans. And it did.
In his stellar freshman year, Hopson averaged 9.2 points, 1.4 assists, and 2.7 rebounds a game. He was an immediate starter in the Volunteer lineup, as a freshman. His best game came against fellow Louisvillian Twany Beckham and the Mississippi State Bulldogs on February 25, 2009 when Hopson went for a career high 21 points, with six rebounds and three assist to boot.
Hopson started every game for the Volunteers and was a crucial part of the teams core system last year. By the looks of things so far, that trend will continue this year. Along with former St.John's backup point guard Tyshawn Edmondson, Hopson dominated the hardwood in his senior year of high school. Now that he has a much more talented man giving him the ball, the sky is the limit for this young stud.
#7 -- Victor Anderson (Louisville Cardinals Running Back)
As a proud alum of Manual High School, I was not a big fan of St. Xavier running back Victor Anderson whatsoever. Anderson tortured my school for four straight seasons and he seemed to never once take his foot off the gas pedal. One of the greatest match-ups that Kentucky High School football has ever seen was when Anderson and Doug Beaumont lined up against each other one-on-one on both sides of the ball for an entire game. Now, the two are teammates at the University of Louisville, and Anderson still hasn't taken his foot off the gas.
After red-shirting in his freshman year, Anderson stormed onto the scene as a red-shirt freshman. He became the first Louisville freshman tailback to accumulate 1000 yards in a season.
Similar to Beaumont, Anderson's breakout game/best game came against Kansas State on September 17, 2008, when he rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns. From that point on, the name Victor Anderson resonated through the Big East conference and the city of Louisville.
In his career as a Cardinal, Anderson has amassed a total of 1,527 yards rushing with 13 touchdowns, to go along with 27 receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown.
At 5'9, 185 lbs, Anderson is not like former Louisville running back Michael Bush (more on him later) in that he will not barrel over anyone. Rather, Anderson uses his small stature and admiring quickness to cut through seems and holes in the defense and make them pay for it. He looks to continue to be a strong-point in the Cardinals offensive scheme for four years, and he may even be able to look forward to a NFL future as well.
#6 -- Brian Brohm (Green Bay Packers Quarterback)
One name that anyone growing up as a football fan in Louisville, Kentucky could easily remember and talk about is the name Brohm. Oscar, then Jeff, and then the incredibly talented, Brian. Brian Brohm had it all as a senior at Trinity High School. He was voted as USA Today's top player, he was a force down low on the basketball court, and he had a solid bat/arm for the Trinity Shamrock baseball team. He got even more hometown love when he chose to play for the Louisville Cardinals over scholorship offers from schools such as Notre Dame, Nebraska, Alabama, Tennessee, etc...
Brohm won the Big East Freshman of the year award in his first season at Louisville, without even starting a game. He had at least one drive in every game of the season and he made the most of his opportunities. None were more impressive than when Brohm came in to replace injured starting quarterback Stefan LeFors against the Miami Hurricanes, in Miami. As a true freshman, Brohm led the Cardinals on a clutch scoring drive to keep them within striking distance. Although Louisville eventually lost the game, Brohm opened many eyes nationwide.
In his sophomore season, Brohm was given the keys to the Cardinal offense and he did not disappoint. He led the team to a bowl game his sophomore year and then in his junior year, Brohm had his breakout session. His best career game came against Oregon State during his junior year when he threw for 368 yards and 5 touchdowns. Later on in the season, the Cardinals took a perfect record into Rutgers and were upset, abolishing all hopes for a national championship. Still, Brohm led the Cards to an Orange Bowl win vs. Wake Forest, throwing for 311 yards.
Brohm did return to Louisville for his senior year, a year in which he looked good but the team did not, finishing 6-6. As an NFL quarterback, Brohm has not flourished. He beat out Matt Flynn for the 3rd string QB job but after one season, he lost that job to Flynn. Brohm now resides on the Packer practice squad as an afterthought in Green Bay, but a legend in Louisville.
#5 -- Shawn Kelley (Seattle Mariners Relief Pitcher)
One of my personal favorite members of this list is Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Shawn Kelley. Kelley was a guy that I knew from a very young age due to his friendship with my older brother Chris and due to my friendship with his younger brother Justin. My favorite thing about Kelley is the one thing that many people overlook.
As a Ballard High School prospect, Kelley didn't make much noise in the local high school ranks. He did his job and he did it effectively, landing him a scholarship offer to Austin Peay University. With his dominant fastball and slider, Kelley quickly arose as force in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Finally, people started to take notice of Kelley when Austin Peay faced Vanderbilt in the College World Series regionals. The pitching matchup was Kelley vs. some young left-handed stud named David Price, ever heard of him? In the game, Kelley matched Price and the #1 ranked Commerdores inning for inning. In fact, Kelley arguably pitched better than Price. Price was dominant as usual, going nine innings while only giving up five hits, one run, and getting 17 strikeouts. Yet, the much less heralded Kelley went 10 innings, giving up five hits and one run with a season of nine strikeouts, all against the number one team in the nation.
Kelley skyrocketed through the Seattle Mariner farm system and began his rookie season on a high note. In his first ever appearance, Kelley struck out Jason Giambi and Matt Holliday consecutively against the Oakland A's. Before his oblique injury, Kelley was the best pitcher in the Mariner bullpen. He struggled once he returned but was still a reliable option. For the season, Kelley posted a 5-4 record with nine holds to go along with it. He had an ERA of 4.50 while striking out 41 batters in 46 innings. Kelley's best career performance in the big leagues came on September 17th, 2009 (doesn't that sound familiar, September 17th?) against the Chicago White Sox when Kelley pitched two innings of perfect relief while in the process of picking up his fifth and final win of the season.
Kelley is a young arm with a fiery attitude and fastball to boot. It looks as if he will have a place in the Mariner bullpen for a long time. And rightfully so, in this writer's opinion.
#4 -- Jeremy Sowers (Cleveland Indians Starting/Relief Pitcher)
As a senior pitcher at Ballard High School, Jeremy Sowers was untouchable. His stuff was flat out nasty and it helped lead the Bruins tear through the 7th region. His dominating stuff traveled with him on his scholarship to Vanderbilt University, where he was the ace of the staff for three years. He had a great career at Vandy, but the ending is one that he may want to forget, as Sowers was rocked in his final start, which happened to be during the College World Series regionals.
Sowers was orginally drafted by the Boston Red Sox out of high school but went to Vandy and eventually got drafted by the Cleveland Indians. Similar to fellow Ballard alum Shawn Kelley, Sowers shot through the Indians farm system. He made his first career start against the Cincinnati Reds on June 25th, 2006, going five innings and getting the loss. A week later, Sowers stepped on the hill to face the New York Yankees, going seven innings and obtaining his first career big league win. Later on in the season, Sowers had the best stretch of his career in the big leagues when he threw two consecutive complete game shutouts against the Minnesota Twins and the Seattle Mariners.
Since his fairly solid rookie season, Sowers has been a journeyman in the Indians farm system, going back and forth between Triple A and the big leagues. In his career, Sowers has amassed a career record of 18-30 with an ERA of 5.18 with a less than stellar 174 strikeouts in 400 career innings.
Even though Sowers hasn't been as dominant in the big leagues as he was in college and high school, he has still been a reliable source in the Indians organization. At a young age still, Sowers will more than likely continue his utility pitching role with the Indians.
#3 -- Michael Bush (Oakland Raiders Running Back)
As a high school senior, Michael Bush was pictured in Sports Illustrated with future college teammate Brian Brohm. Bush, a dominant basketball and football star, was leading the Male Bulldogs on a march to become the top football team in the state, and they had the right quarterback for the task. Bush led Male to the state championship against Brohm's Trinity Shamrocks in what was labeled as one of the greatest sports games of all time according to one book written in 2002. Bush and Brohm went back and forth in a classic championship game in the bitter cold, a game in which Brohm won 56-49.
After that, Bush moved to the University of Louisville where he once again continued his stardom. He finished his career with a total of 2005 yards rushing and 33 touchdowns with 33 receptions for 411 yards and one touchdown. Bush's dominant career was cut short thanks to a crushing ankle injury against the rival Kentucky Wildcats in the first game of the 2006 season. Bush's best career game at Louisville was against Florida Atlantic on October 1st, 2005 when Bush ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns as well as having three receptions for 27 yards.
After the injury, Bush decided to skip a medical redshirt or his senior season and go pro. He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and thrown into the fire quickly. His best career NFL game came on week 17 of the 2008 season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Bush ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Raiders to a victory over the Bucs.
As a Raider, Bush has amassed a total of 652 rushing yards for five touchdowns to go along with 31 catches for 235 yards. Due to his massive upside, (6'1, 245 lbs) Bush is a machine on short yardage situations. Although he will never garner a starting running back job in Oakland, (Darren McFadden) Bush will continue to be a bulldozer whenever his number is called upon.
#2 -- Keenan Burton (St.Louis Rams Wide Receiver)
My absolute favorite athlete on this list is my fellow Manual High School alum, Keenan Burton. A quarterback/safety in high school, Burton turned into a huge receiver in the SEC when he committed to the Kentucky Wildcats over Northwestern.
Known as a tall and lanky receiver, Burton surprised many people with his athleticism in college. As a Wildcat, Burton finished his career with 169 catches for 2,155 yards and 23 touchdowns. His best year was easily his junior year in 2006 when he was under the leadership of quarterback Andre Woodson. Burton finished the season with 77 catches for 1036 yards and 12 touchdowns. That season also consisted of Burton taking back one of the best kick returns in Kentucky history when he took a kick back against Central Michigan in which he juked and cut across the field before bullying his way in for the touchdown instead of just running out of bounds, which is what most receivers would have done in that situation. That play ignited the UK crowd dramatically.
Burton's best career game came against Vanderbilt on November 11th, 2006. In that game, Burton caught 11 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. He was a leader in the Wildcats receiving core along with Dicky Lyons in his finals two seasons with the team.
In the 2008 draft, Burton was drafted in the 4th round by the thin-at-receiver St. Louis Rams. He played a minor role in the offense during his rookie season, producing 13 catches for 172 yards and his first career touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers. Burton's sophomore season in the NFL has been a different story, he has become a bigger threat in the teams offense, accumulating 25 catches for 253 yards in the teams first eight games of the 2009 campaign.
In his short career, Burton has caught a total of 38 passes for a total of 425 yards and one touchdown. His best career game was his most recent game, in week 8 vs. the Detroit Lions. Burton caught five passes for 54 yards and led the team to their first victory of the season.
Even though he is still getting his feet wet in the NFL, Burton has the opportunity to really shine in the NFL. He plays for a lackluster team that is constantly looking for a strong and steady receiver ever since the departures of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Eventually, I believe 100% that Keenan Burton can be that man.
#1 -- Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics Point Guard)
In the year 2002, I was an aspiring basketball player who lived just a few miles away from Eastern High School. At Eastern, a young man named Rajon Rondo had taken the school by storm. Being coached by the cousin of current NBA guard Mike Bibby, head coach Doug Bibby used his extremely talented guard to his full potential. In the annual LIT Classic held every year in the city of Louisville, Rondo led his Eastern Eagles to a showdown against the PRP Panthers, who happened to be ranked in the top 15 nationwide. Rondo dropped in 50 points against PRP and led his team to the LIT title.
I'll never,ever,ever forget watching Rondo play in a game one time and I kid you not Bleacher Report readers, in four minutes, Rondo had scored eight points, grabbed four rebounds, dished out three assist, gotten two steals, and had one block. IN FOUR MINUTES! From that point, you knew this kid was too good to be at Eastern High School and that held true as he moved on to play at Oak Hill Academy his senior year.
Rondo committed to play at the University of Kentucky, coming in with a very talented class of Randolph Morris and Joe Crawford. Rondo did his job at UK. He never opened a ton of eyes, just did his work and that's all. He was reguarly criticized for his inability to shoot the ball, but he slightly hushed those critics when he drained a three pointer at the buzzer to take down South Carolina.
As most basketball fans know, Rondo went into the draft after his sophomore year at UK was selected number 21 overall by the Phoenix Suns. The Suns then gave his rights to the Boston Celtics, who saw something in him that they liked.
Since that trade, Rondo has been the point man on Boston's roster for their NBA Championship, as well as leading them to playoff births each year. Before everyone's eyes, he is becoming a top of the line guard in the NBA. And the scary thing is, he's only going to get better.
Kentucky High School Sports are not as well known as other states like Texas and Florida and so on. But here in Kentucky, we develop some pretty good athletes too. Hope you enjoy. Leave any comments that you'd like.