Phil Todd hired as Russellville boys’ basketball coach

Phil Todd is headed back to the sidelines.

The former Russellville boys’ basketball coach will return to that role next season, as confirmed today by Todd and RHS principal John Myers.

Todd coached Russellville from 1990-2004, winning three region titles. His 2000-01 Panthers team was the last program outside District 14 to win the Region 4 championship.

He has been serving since as RHS athletic director, but announced his retirement from that post and his administration position last month. Todd replaces Dennis Pardue as basketball coach.

Below are a couple of comments from Todd and Myers:

Phil Todd

“Russellville has always had talent. We have some talented seniors coming back, and as a group, we feel like we have a good bunch of boys. If we can get them ready, we feel like they can compete in this region.”

“I think our focus should be down at the lower level, with the lower grades. If we can get something started again where we can start with those kids early and get them, we can watch them develop. That should pay off in the long run.”

John Myers

“We set the bar high on hiring a basketball coach. We weren’t going to settle. We talked to coach Todd before the interview process, and we knew he was retiring, but that he also had some interest in coaching. He basically said, ‘You go out and find the best basketball coach you can. But if you don’t find what you’re looking for, I’m here.’ We thought we went in with a win-win situation.”

“I was concerned that people thought we just went through the interview process and knew what we were going to do all along. Phil Todd wants what’s best for our athletic program, but we got an outstanding basketball coach. We got the coach that kind of put Russellville on the map as far as basketball is concerned, so we couldn’t be happier.”

Mariah Sunkett verbally commits to the Lady Tops

Belleville East (Ill.) High School senior forward Mariah Sunkett has verbally committed to the Western Kentucky women’s basketball program, Sunkett confirmed to the Daily News today.

Sunkett, a 6-foot, 1-inch forward, is WKU’s sixth commitment in the 2012 class and the fourth secured this spring by new coach Michelle Clark-Heard.

According to the most recent stats available for Sunkett, the forward averaged 13.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.2 assists as a senior at Belleville East.

Sunkett told me she was first contacted by the Lady Topper staff about two weeks ago. She took her official visit to WKU on Friday and committed the same day.

Sunkett said she wants to sign her letter of intent as soon as possible, likely this week.

Below are Sunkett’s comments on her commitment:

Mariah Sunkett

On Heard and WKU: “I was kind of impressed with the university as a whole. The coaching staff, the players and how the program was ran was great. I liked her vision and how she saw things.”

On relationship with Heard: “It was instant. She was really warming. She was very welcoming and made it feel like it was the place for me.”

On her strengths:”I’m able to run the floor and score. I have good hands, and I think I’m agile for a post player.”

On Heard’s comments about WKU’s style of play: “She said she’s trying to develop a team that can run the floor and is quick in transition. I think I can help do that.”

Michelle Clark-Heard and Curtis Turley discuss Turley’s hire, recruiting, transfers

We joked today that these sit-down interviews with WKU women’s coach Michelle Clark-Heard are becoming a weekly tradition.

We met once again with Heard today to discuss a variety of subjects, but mainly her hire of former director of ops Curtis Turley as the final assistant on the Lady Toppers’ staff.

Comments from Heard and Turley are available below:

Michelle Clark-Heard

“When I got here, coach Turley was enthused about everything that was going on. He has a wealth of knowledge and knows the game, and with the young ladies, I think he has a great rapport with them. One of the things we need really bad is to get better on the floor fundamentally, so I need as many coaches as possible knowing what we’re trying to do. With these first couple of years, I’ll be on the recruiting trail hard, so I need coaches that know what I’m teaching and how I’m teaching.”

More on Turley: “I knew and understood his passion with where he wanted to be, and that’s on the floor. I know that passion myself, and he has a lot of passion for Western Kentucky. He knows where this program was and where it needs to get to. The first day I got here, coach Turley wasn’t here, and I continued to hear coach Turley’s name brought up.”

On latest signee, Kendall Noble: “She was one that I felt like we really needed to get. She is a guard that does a lot of different things. She can put it on the floor and go to the floor, she can go to the basket. She has great size, and her numbers speak for themselves. She’s a winner, and we have to continue to put winners in this program.”

On trying to build a recruiting class in a short period of time: “It has been a short period of time, but I feel very fortunate. That’s why I love what I do. I feel like some people have the gift to relate to people in general and love doing it, and that’s me. Doing homework and research and knowing the things that are important to the student-athlete are very important. When you love something so much, I felt that once they got here and met me, it would all work out.”

“We have everything to offer. I talked to them a lot about the person that’s going to be coaching them. I was an assistant for a number of years and know how important that relationship is, but at the end of the day, the head coach is the one you have to have that relationship with. If you have that relationship and can walk in the door and talk and all those things off the basketball court, it’s going to play out on the court.”

On departures of Summer Fife and Tyisha Amos: “I had to evaluate where we’re trying to go and what we need. My biggest thing is for those student-athletes to have the opportunity to go somewhere where they can play and be happy. If they’re not happy and not playing, I don’t want to put them in that position. … It was not just about our program, it was about them as individuals.”

On not expecting any more departures: “I have a tough job, sitting in this seat and trying to get this program back to where we need it to be. At the end of the day, I have to make the decisions that are going to be best for the student-athletes and program. At this point, everybody is on board, and we’re looking forward to possibly bringing in one or two more.”

On recruiting needs: “Size is definitely important for us, but I know in this game, there’s so many different ways to play it. Even if I have five guards on the floor, if we’re able to do certain things and pressure people, we’ll be in a position to be able to win. Our job is to take however many players we have and have a position to be in the game in the last five minutes.”

 Curtis Turley

“I’m super excited about it, and certainly appreciative to coach Heard for giving me the opportunity because I’m now back on the court, and that’s where I love to be. My life is in a basketball gym on the court. My satisfaction truly comes from working with the players, getting to see them improve on a daily basis and then get to step back and see them be successful at the end of the season.”

On moving around, but roots in BG: “I have moved more than anyone in the history of the game in Kentucky. Some of my close friends tease me and call me the Larry Brown of (high school) coaching. … Even though we’ve liked every community, Bowling Green is special, and we keep coming back. This is where we want to remain.”

On Heard as a recruiter: “If God gave me a gift, it’s to read people, and she’s a genuine person. She does like people. It’s easy for her. She’s comfortable around them, and the girls see that, and I think the girls we’ve had on campus for these official visits, it’s been evident to them.”

Curtis Turley promoted to assistant coach with Lady Toppers

New WKU women's basketball assistant Curtis Turley

New WKU women's basketball assistant Curtis Turley

Curtis Turley has been named the final assistant on the Western Kentucky women’s basketball staff, the school confirmed today.

Turley served as the Lady Toppers’ director of operations last season under coach Mary Taylor Cowles.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to return to the court in a coaching capacity,” Turley said in a statement. “That is my passion and what I’ve spent my life doing. Basketball is all about fundamentals, and I enjoy teaching that aspect of the game. My greatest satisfaction comes from working with players, watching them improve and seeing them become successful. 

“I look forward to working with Coach Heard and the rest of our staff as we strive to return Lady Topper basketball back to one of the elite programs in the nation.”

Turley and new head coach Michelle Clark-Heard will meet with the media later today to discuss the hire.

Heard previously announced that Turley would be retained in his director of ops position, but said last week that there could be some shaking up between that job and the third assistant spot.

Heard has already hired Margaret Richards and Greg Collins, formerly assistants at Weber State and Arkansas, respectively.

“I am very excited to complete my coaching staff with a quality coach and individual like Coach Turley,” Heard said in a statement.  “From the first day I met him I could see how passionate he was about WKU. His knowledge of the game along with his energy and dedication makes him a perfect fit for what we are doing here on the Hill.”

Turley won more than 600 games over 32 seasons as a high school boys’ basketball coach in Kentucky, including tenures at Warren Central, Warren East and Greenwood high schools.

He led Warren Central to its first-ever Sweet Sixteen appearances in 1982 and 1983, and guided Henderson County to a region championship in 1990.

Turley has also had high school coaching stints at Berea, Lyon County, Graves County, Shelby County, Daviess County, Lexington Catholic, DuPont Manual and Martha Layne Collins.

Turley graduated from WKU in 1976 and played junior varsity basketball during his time at the school. He served as a student assistant on the Lady Topper staff during the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons.

Turley has a 624-321 record in 32 seasons at the high school level. That win total ranks him 11th on the state’s all-time list.

WKU hasn’t yet announced who will replace Turley as the Lady Toppers’ director of operations. 

The Turley File:

Born — January 31, 1954

High School — Crittenden County (Ky.) HS, 1972

HS Athletics — Basketball, Football, Baseball, Track/Cross Country

College — WKU (BS), 1976; WKU (MA), 1980

Coaching Experience —

 Berea High School, head boy’s basketball coach (1976-78)

 Lyon County High School, head boy’s basketball coach (1978-80)

 Warren Central High School, head boy’s basketball coach (1980-85)

 Graves County High School, head boy’s basketball coach (1985-87)

 Henderson County High School, head boy’s basketball coach (1987-95)

 Greenwood High School, head boy’s basketball coach (1995-97)

 Shelby County High School, head boy’s basketball coach (1997-99)

 Daviess County High School, head boy’s basketball coach (1999-2004)

 Lexington Catholic High School, head boy’s basketball coach (2004-05)

 Louisville Manual High School, head boy’s basketball coach (2006-07)

 Warren East High School, head boy’s basketball coach (2008-09)

 Martha Layne Collins High School, head boy’s basketball coach (2010-11)

Western Kentucky University, director of operations (2011-12)

 Western Kentucky University, assistant coach (2012-13 – present)

Family — Wife, Brenda; daughter, Courtney; son, Tanner; daughter in law, Marsha; Granddaughters, Parker and Kesed

Kendall Noble to WKU now official

WKU has issued a release about the official signing of Perry County Central guard Kendall Noble. Here’s that information:

Western Kentucky University women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard added a third signee during the spring period with the addition of Perry County Central guard Kendall Noble.

“Kendall is another great addition to this signing class.  She is one I felt we had to get,” said Heard.  “Not only does she have the ability to play multiple positions on the court, she is a winner and will bring that mentality to our program. I am looking for big things out of Kendall this upcoming season.”

Noble played the last two seasons at Perry County Central High School, after starting per prep career at Breathitt County.  The 5-11 guard helped lead the Lady Commodores to a Region 14 championship and the 2012 KHSAA Sweet Sixteen tournament.  Noble came back from a knee injury near the end of her junior season to average 14.5 points and shoot 60 percent from the floor during her senior campaign.  She also pulled down 9.1 rebounds per contest, helping PCC to a 30-3 record.  Noble has earned all-state honors, and is also one of five finalists for the Miss Kentucky Basketball award.

She finished her prep career with 2,987 points, 1,653 rebounds, 1,014 steals and 916 assists. She also became the first player in state history to compete in six straight state tournaments, the final two for Perry County Central and four for Breathitt County.

Noble becomes the fifth member of this year’s Lady Topper signing class.  Bianca McGee (Michigan City, Ind., Kilgore (Texas) College) and Leasia Wright (Louisville, Ky., DuPont Manual HS) both signed earlier in the spring period.  Micah Jones (Greensburg, Ky., Green County HS) and Jalynn McClain (Jeffersonville, Ind., Jeffersonville HS) inked with WKU during the fall signing period.

Another Lady Topper departure – Tyisha Amos says she’s leaving WKU

WKU rising sophomore forward Tyisha Amos

WKU rising sophomore forward Tyisha Amos

UPDATE, 11:30 a.m. Wednesday – WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard confirmed the departures of Amos and Fife to BGDN writer Chad Bishop at Tuesday’s Toppers on Tour event in Glasgow.

It appears as though another player from the Western Kentucky women’s basketball program will not return next season.

Rising sophomore forward Tyisha Amos posted on her public Facebook profile Tuesday that she’s no longer with the team.

“No more longer a “LADY TOPPER”! HARD TIMES but FUN TIMES!,” Amos wrote.

WKU has not yet confirmed Amos’ departure.

Rising sophomore guard Summer Fife announced Monday night on her Twitter account that she is no longer with the Lady Toppers, and WKU confirmed the news this morning.

Junior forward Mimi Hill asked for her release before coach Michelle Clark-Heard’s hire, according to Heard.

Amos would have been one of three forwards on WKU’s roster next season. She played in six games as a freshman, totaled 13 minutes, pulled down four rebounds and didn’t score a point.

At this point, the Lady Toppers have three available scholarships and will have 12 players on next season’s roster – 10 of them guards. Rising sophomore forward Chastity Gooch is the only returning player taller than 5-feet, 9 inches.

Amos’ departure leaves the Lady Toppers with three available scholarships.

Summer Fife says she’s leaving WKU

WKU rising sophomore guard Summer Fife

WKU rising sophomore guard Summer Fife

UPDATE, 8:00 a.m. Tuesday – WKU has confirmed that Fife will leave the women’s basketball program.

Michelle Clark-Heard is out of the office this morning and not immediately available for comment, but we’ll likely meet with her again in the coming days.

Western Kentucky rising sophomore guard Summer Fife tweeted Monday night that she won’t return to the Lady Toppers next season.

“I guess this is the best time to say that I am not coming back to WKU next year..better hearing it from me than someone else. #prayforme,” Fife tweeted from her personal Twitter account (@summaaaaa12).

She added, “Also want to thank all the wonderful people I came in contact with here at WKU…truly some of the best times of my life that I won’t forget.”

WKU hadn’t officially confirmed Fife’s departure as of Monday night. New coach Michelle Clark-Heard said last week that at the time, no players had left the program other than rising junior forward Mimi Hill.

Heard previously said that the coaching staff would continue to evaluate the current roster, and that it was possible players could leave before the school year ends.

“They understand the expectations, so as for now, I can’t foresee what will happen in the future, but we’ll meet again before school lets out,” Heard said April 10. “If there are any players that don’t feel like the opportunity will be there to play – I’ve been upfront and honest with them that I’m going to recruit and get players – there might be a couple of players that didn’t see a lot of minutes last year that might want to have the ability to go somewhere else.”

Another of Fife’s tweets Monday night indicated that she did not ask for her release.

“I really don’t think this is fair..but then again life isn’t fair. It’s a business..thought I was more than a jersey number,” Fife tweeted.

Fife played in four games for the Lady Toppers as a freshman, averaging 1.3 minutes in those contests and scoring two points.

Her departure leaves WKU with two available scholarships.

WKU signee Micah Jones talks about Michelle Clark-Heard, growing 2012 class

I was able to check in today with Green County senior guard Micah Jones, who signed with the WKU Lady Toppers during the November early signing period.

I thought it was important to get the perspective of someone who signed with WKU before the coaching change, and Jones made it clear that new coach Michelle Clark-Heard reassured her of her decision.

Here are Jones’ comments:

Micah Jones

On first conversations with Heard: “She called me to introduce herself, and then I went to Western to meet her in person. She told me about her and that she’s confident that she’s going to turn the program around. She told me to trust her and who she brought in, and that everything would be fine.”

On Heard’s coaching style and personality: “I’m really excited to play for her. She said she likes fast pace and defense, and I like to run and play on the fly. That seems like that’s what she’s into.”

On the new members of the recruiting class: “I’ve played in all-star games with LeAsia Wright and Kendall Noble. I’ve got to know them, and I’ve met Jalynn. I haven’t met Bianca yet, but I really like the group she’s brought in.”

On all of the changes: “I’m excited that it happened now and not my sophomore year. Everybody’s going to be new to it and get used to the changes. We’ll all get used to it and keep getting better from there.”

Kendall Noble talks about signing with WKU

I had the chance to talk today with the newest Lady Topper commit, Perry County Central guard Kendall Noble.

Noble told me she signed her letter of intent with WKU on Saturday night, so we should be seeing a release from the school very soon once all of the paperwork is received and official.

Noble said she visited WKU during the season, but was sold on the school after Michelle Clark-Heard’s hire. She took a second visit to WKU on Tuesday.

For more on Noble, check out my post from Friday night and a previous conversation with her coach at Perry County Central, Randy Napier.

I expect to meet with Heard sometime this week to discuss Noble’s signing, and possibly the hiring of the third assistant on her staff. We’ll update as we go.

Here are a few of Noble’s comments:

Kendall Noble

On second visit to WKU: “I really liked it when I went to campus, and I liked all of the girls. I felt like I could play the most at Western and play how I wanted to.”

On a new coaching staff and several new players: “I think it’s great. I wouldn’t want to start school there and then have a coaching change. I’m glad that happened. If it didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be there, actually. Everybody’s starting fresh, and everybody’s going to be excited to work hard and have a chance to show her what we can do.”

On what she can come in and do: “I think I can play the 1, 2 or 3. I’m good at defense and like to play it. I just want to play hard, have fun and win.”

Kendall Noble commits to Lady Toppers

Perry County Central's Kendall Noble, seen here March 7 during the state tournament, verbally committed Friday to Western Kentucky. (Daily News/Joe Imel)

Perry County Central's Kendall Noble (center), seen here March 7 during the state tournament, verbally committed Friday to Western Kentucky. (Daily News/Joe Imel)

New Western Kentucky women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard isn’t slowing down her recruiting efforts.

Heard received her third spring commitment in less than a week Friday night, when Perry County Central guard Kendall Noble verbally committed to the program.

Noble confirmed the news to The Courier-Journal and Hazard television station WYMT. The 5-foot-11-inch guard couldn’t be reached for comment by the Daily News on Friday night.

Noble averaged 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 5.7 steals and 2.5 blocks as a senior at PCC, helping the Lady Commodores reach the state tournament, where they fell in the first round to eventual state champion DuPont Manual.

She finished her career with 2,987 points, 1,653 rebounds, 1,014 steals and 916 assists. She also became the first player in state history to compete in six straight state tournaments, the final two for Perry County Central and four previously for Breathitt County.

“She is the most versatile player I have ever coached,” PCC coach Randy Napier told the Daily News in February. “Her vision and feel for the game are unbelievable. Kendall could be a tremendous scorer, but she chooses to do what’s best for her team, and that is to score when it’s necessary and distribute the ball when it’s necessary.”

Noble told The Courier-Journal that she chose WKU over Middle Tennessee and Xavier.

The Lady Toppers have received commitments from five total players in the 2012 class.

Kilgore College (Texas) rising junior guard Bianca McGee signed Sunday, and Manual senior guard LeAsia Wright signed Tuesday.

Green County senior guard Micah Jones and Jeffersonville (Ind.) forward Jalynn McClain inked during November’s early signing period.

The Lady Toppers have one scholarship remaining.