Irvine, True get top honors on boys' all-area team

March 17, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

If you want to find the area's best basketball player, just look up.

Almost everyone looks up to Jonathan True, but not just because the 6-10 Lincoln County center is the tallest player this area has seen in several years. It's also because True developed into a force in the post in his final season at Lincoln, the kind of player capable of changing a game on either end of the floor.

"I think he's really improved from the first day of practice until the end of the season," Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson said. "He's worked on his game, and he's gotten a little more aggressive."

True, who helped lead Lincoln County to its highest win total in 10 years, led the balloting for The Advocate-Messenger All-Area Team, making him the Advocate's Area Player of the Year.


"He's a young kid. His best basketball is maybe two years down the road," Jackson said. "He's going to be a very good college player. He's' got a bright, bright future ahead of him."

Don Irvine, who led a senior-dominated Burgin team into contention in the 46th District, was voted The Advocate-Messenger Area Coach of the Year in the balloting of area coaches.

Irvine began his second stint as Burgin's coach 15 years after leaving in 1988, leading an 11-15 team that was competitive in virtually every game but still had the charm of an underdog.

"People just flock to an underdog," Irvine said. "And even though our record wasn't that good, if you look at how competitive we were, our 21-point loss to Garrard County was the only game where we got blown out."

Three of the four juniors on last year's All-Area team were honored again this season. While True moved up from the second team to the first, Derek Vest of Casey County and Zack Gross of Burgin returned to the second team.

This year's second team has six players because of a tie for the final position.

A look at the All-Area honorees:


Jonathan True

True went through a transformation this season when Jackson, in his first year as Lincoln's coach, centered the offense around him.

"We tried to establish Jona-than immediately," Jackson said. "We've tried to do that all year, working inside-outside offensively. We tried to go inside to him at every opportunity."

True, who has a scholarship offer from Morehead State and is also considering walking on at Kentucky, nearly averaged a double-double with a team-high 16.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, and he remained the center of attention on defense, averaging about seven blocked shots. But it was on offense where he improved most, shooting 56.5 percent from the field and even averaging about two assists.

"He's also developed into a pretty good passer," Jackson said. "He's developed a nice inside game, and his footwork will get better when he gets on to the next level."

Chad Bartleson

Bartleson was Danville's most valuable player on offense from the start of the season, but Danville coach Craig Pippen said he became even more valuable when he made great strides on the other end of the court as well.

"His offensive abilities are second to none, especially his ability to shoot the 3," Pippen said. "What really stands out about Chad is the improvements he made this year on the defensive side of the ball and rebounding."

Bartleson led the Admirals in scoring and rebounds, averaging 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds.

"Chad has been a pleasure to coach," Danville coach Craig Pippen said. "Chad was asked to play multiple positions and showed great leadership skills throughout his career. He stepped his game up against big name opponents and will be great-ly missed from our program."

Mark Dunn

Dunn, a four-year starter, returned to his familiar role as the inside presence for undersized Harrodsburg.

"He's had to play inside for us every year he's been here," Harrodsburg coach Spencer Tatum said. "The last two years, especially, he's really had to battle for us."

Dunn's future is in football - he'll play for Eastern Kentucky next season - but he averaged a team-high 13.0 points and 10.3 rebounds - his totals included over 100 offensive rebounds - along with 2.1 assists and 2.0 steals, per game. He shot 47.6 percent from the field and 51.2 percent at the free-throw line.

"He's just always had a knack for being able to score inside," Tatum said "He doesn't mind physical play and he's a great offensive rebounder. And he's one of the quickest leapers I've ever seen."

Chris Hart

Hart was the primary reason why opposing defenses couldn't collapse on True.

"He's gotten off to a lot of good starts," Jackson said. "He's the best 3-point shooter I've had a chance to be around. He's done a good job of getting open without the ball and you have to really get out and guard him because he has such great range. "

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