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Saturday Morning Quarterback
Nov 14, 2006 12:00 am
Pecking my keyboard through the Associated Press wire earlier this week, I came upon a series of preseason womens college basketball conference capsules.
There was no way I could run these in the Democrat with our space limitations. But in just the one area I happened to look in, I noticed several names with Wilson County backgrounds. And knowing of some others with local ties, I checked with those schools and their conferences as well. Here's some of what I found:
—Former Mt. Juliet Miss Basketball Alysha Clark was named preseason Player of the Year in the Atlantic Sun Conference, a league her Belmont team is predicted to win. The AP capsule said, "Keep an eye on Clark. She was the league's player of the year as a freshman last season and was second nationally among first-year players with her 20-point scoring average, trailing Oklahoma All-American Courtney Paris".
Heady stuff. And no doubt Purdue took those words to heart in Thursday's WNIT game in West Lafayette, Ind., as the Boilermakers held Clark scoreless in the first half and to eight points total. It may have been the first time an opposing team has ever really stopped her.
—Also in the A-Sun, Gardner-Webb is picked to finish second. Coached by former Cumberland coach Rick Reeves, G-W upset Belmont in the conference tournament last year.
—Another former Cumberland coach, Bud Childers, gets a mention in the Big South Conference where he coaches Winthrop. Saith the AP, "Winthrop coach Bud Childers, who had a successful tenure at Louisville, already is making an impact. The Lady Eagles were the nation's second-most improved team last season, enjoying an 11 1/2-game improvement over 2004-05". What the AP didn't say was Winthrop was led by another ex-CU coach, Cheryl Nix, at the start of that '04-05 campaign before she was reassigned during the season.
—It appears former Mt. Juliet High standout Amanda Butler may face something of a rebuilding job at Charlotte. Her 49ers are picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic 10. Of course, the 49ers were predicted for a middle-of-the-pack finish last year, only to share the league championship with George Washington and appear in the WNIT. That performance won Butler A-10 Coach of the Year honors in her first season in charge of a college program.
—Butler's former boss at Austin Peay, and fellow MJHS alum, Susie Gardner, continues to face a rebuilding job at Arkansas, where the Hogs are picked to place 10th in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama, which just picked up the signature of Wilson Central senior Tierney Jenkins for next season, was voted to place 11th in the 12-team SEC this winter.
—And finally, Larry Joe Inman, the coach who created the Mt. Juliet girls basketball dynasty in the 1970s, winning the state championship with the Bearettes 30 years ago next spring, continues to plug along at Eastern Kentucky, picked to place seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference.
"Hondo" Vanatta hangs 'em up at LHS
Speaking of coaches with longstanding ties to Wilson County, I learned earlier this week of the retirement of veteran Lebanon High golf coach Randy Vanatta after around 30 years on the LHS faculty.
As far as I know, Lebanon is the only place the former Blue Devil taught and coached after attending Cumberland Junior College and Middle Tennesse State.
And as near as I can figure, his departure leaves Cumberland baseball legend Woody Hunt as the only coach still in the same position as when I began covering local sports MUAH-MUAH (think Charlie Brown's school teacher) years ago. Ron Welch was, and is, a football assistant at Friendship Christian, but he stepped away from the gridiron for a few years.
Vanatta was the one of the final coaching links at the school to the legendary Campbell Brandon, serving as Brandon's right-hand man from 1980-86, or thereabouts. He also assisted with Blue Devil football in his younger days.
He'd coached golf so long at the school that when I asked him a few years ago what season he started, he couldn't remember.
Vanatta was one of the first to get in on the fantasy baseball craze, back when it wasn't so crazy, in the mid-'80s.
Talking to Lebanon softball coach Brad Rowlett earlier this fall, he figured that after Vanatta, he was the senior coach at the school. And he's going into his eighth season.
Talk about getting old.
Enjoy your retirement, or as I like to refer to it, your second career, Hondo.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.