One of the greatest honors that any high school basketball player can receive is to be elected and placed into the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
In 2009 a group of coaches from the KABC started the development of a hall of fame and museum. The dream became a reality in 2011 and today the hall of fame is operated at 212 West Dixie Avenue in Elizabethtown.
Our Hopkins County community is lucky to have Earlington’s Harry Todd, the 1958 Mr. Basketball, and University of Kentucky and Madisonville North stars Frank Ramsey and Travis Ford as inductees into the Hall of Fame. However, another Earlington great, Justin Sharp, is worthy of the same status.
By the time Sharp graduated from Earlington High School in 1967, he had accolades that most school children can only dream of in sports.
Sharp was a rare five year starter for the Earlington Yellow Jackets during their glory days. His eighth grade team in 1963 went 25-5. His freshman team in 1964 was 19-9. His sophomore season of 1964-65 saw the Yellow Jackets go 30-3. The Yellow Jackets were eliminated in the region semifinals by Madisonville Rosenwald 52-51.
However, as the saying goes, the best was yet to come for Sharp. The 1965-66 Yellow Jackets went 29-7 and lost the 7th District final to South Hopkins 68-66 in double overtime, but went on to win the 2nd Region Championship the following week at Webster County and got to play one game at the KHSAA State Tournament.
The taste of getting to the state tournament fueled the Yellow Jackets in Sharp’s senior season as they went 38-1. In the postseason, Sharp and the Yellow Jackets won the district by defeating South Hopkins and Madisonville and then swept through the 2nd Region Tournament defeating Hopkinsville, Christian County and Providence.
At the state tournament, Sharp and his team opened by defeating Russell 76-72, then powerhouse Louisville Atherton 85-64 and won a semifinal game over Breathitt County 69-64.
This set up the greatest sporting event in Hopkins County sports history. Sharp and his teammates defeated Covington Catholic 54-53 to win the state basketball championship on a last second put back shot.
In Sharp’s five seasons he was on the floor for 141 Yellow Jacket wins and he finished his career with over 2,700 points, 1,800 rebounds and had 922 assists.
The team accomplishments are unbelievable but the individual accomplishments are also very deserving. Sharp was All-District as a sophomore. As a junior he was the 7th District Most Valuable Player, the 2nd Region Most Valuable Player and was an All-State Honorable Mention.
His senior season Sharp was All-Hopkins County which was quite an honor. At that time, Hopkins County high school teams consisted of Dawson Springs, South Hopkins, West Hopkins, Earlington, and Madisonville. Earlington Million and Madisonville Rosenwald had recently closed to create an integrated 7th District.
In his senior season, Sharp was the 7th District and 2nd Region Most Valuable Player, named to the All-Western Kentucky team, was a first team All-State and Honorable Mention All-American.
After graduation, he played in the East vs. West All-Star Classic and then went on to play at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana.
“Those days were a little different than today,” Sharp said. “First, due to Lew Alcindor at UCLA they had outlawed the dunk. Additionally and probably the most important feature was freshmen were not allowed to play at the college level.”
After his freshman year at Louisiana Tech he went on to average 10 points per game for three varsity seasons and Louisiana Tech won the Gulf State Conference three straight years.
After college graduation he remained in Louisiana where he has lived his entire adult life. He was a teacher and coach for 15 years and has spent his last five years in education as Head Coach at Doyline High School in Louisiana.
“My claim to fame in high school coaching was that Louisiana Tech, where I went to school, was trying to recruit a young man you have probably heard of — Karl Malone,” Sharp recalled. “My high school scheduled Malone’s high school and we played a game at Louisiana Tech and we held Karl to 10 points, which has to be his all-time low.
“Karl Malone was a good high school player but got even better in college and as a pro and developed into a player better at each stage,” Sharp added.
After 15 years in education in Louisiana, Sharp decided to leave education and coaching and spent the rest of his career in the oil industry. However, Sharp won two Louisiana State championships as a coach before hanging up the whistle.
Today Sharp continues to follow sports and even with the snow this week in Louisiana he was still hoping to play golf. Like many athletes he is past his glory days of basketball but still enjoys the competitiveness of the golf course.
Yes, Sharp is worthy of the KABC Hall of Fame and would make a great addition on behalf of our community.
Mr. Cartwright is a local attorney and contributing sports columnist. Email: email@example.com.