Kentucky Wesleyan basketball legend Ray Harper ’85, will be inducted into the Muhlenberg County Athletic Hall of Fame this Saturday, Dec. 3. President Bart Darrell will speak on Harpers’ behalf during the induction ceremony, as a member of its’ inaugural class.
Harper, a Bremen High School product, scored over 3,000 points and still remains Muhlenberg County’s all-time leading scorer. He went on to the University of Texas, where he earned All-SWC honors before transferring back home to attend Kentucky Wesleyan College. He garnered All-American honors in 1985 under head coach Mike Pollio for the Panthers, leading the program to back-to-back NCAA National Semifinalist appearances. Harper was later voted to the Kentucky Wesleyan Men’s Basketball All-Century team by Panther fans in 2010.
After a year on Pollio’s staff at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Harper made a second trip back home to his alma mater as an assistant under Wayne Chapman (1987-91) and Wayne Boltinghouse (1992-96). The long-time fan favorite at the Sportscenter earned his first head coaching position at Kentucky Wesleyan during the 1996-97 season.
While at Wesleyan, Harper led his program to NCAA Championships in 1999 and 2001, posted six consecutive 30-win seasons and six-straight trips to the NCAA Championship game. He is a four-time National Coach of the Year, two-time Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year and five-time GLVC Coach of the Year. He produced a 247-45 record for a 84.6 winning percentage, which is the highest in school-history.
Overall, Harper’s coaching resume has spanned over 20 years as a head coach with nearly 450 career victories, four national championships, nine national championship appearances, and 12 post-season appearances. At Western Kentucky University, the Muhlenberg Co. native produced an 89-64 record, three 20-win seasons and two NCAA Tournament appearances in five years. Harper enters his first season as head coach at Jacksonville St.
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GREENVILLE, Ky. (10/19/16) — Twelve former high school coaches and athletes, and two distinguished teams make up the inaugural class to be inducted into the new Muhlenberg County Athletic Hall of Fame.
The historic class of 2016 will be recognized during Hall of Fame Weekend December 2-3. The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Banquet will take place on Friday, December 2, beginning with a 5 p.m. reception at Second Baptist Church in Greenville with dinner to follow. Tickets will be available to the public at $20 each beginning Nov. 1, which includes the meal, admission to the ceremony, and admission to the Hall of Fame doubleheader at MCHS with the presentation of the ticket stub.
Additionally, the Class of 2016 will be honored during the boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball doubleheader at Muhlenberg County High School’s West Campus on Saturday, December 3. The inductee plaques will be unveiled and Class of 2016 banner raised in the West Campus Gymnasium. The Hall of Fame “Wall of Honor” will be displayed at the West Campus of Muhlenberg County High School in the hallway adjacent to the concession area.
“We are thrilled to finally see our Hall of Fame established so that we may begin honoring some of the all-time greats in Muhlenberg County’s rich sports history and connecting that proud legacy to future generations,” said organizing committee member Dean Rowe. “There are so many individuals and teams worthy of induction; there could have easily been dozens more names on this list. However, this inaugural class of 2016 is an amazing group and we’re looking forward to honoring their accomplishments in this first year.”
The inaugural Hall of Fame Class of 2016 is as follows:
Richard Bedwell – The late Richard Bedwell was one of the most successful cheerleading coaches in the history of the Kentucky Association of Pep Organization Sponsors (KAPOS). He began his career in 1975 at Graham High
School and went on to enjoy coaching jobs at Muhlenberg South and Trigg County High Schools.
Bedwell’s expertise and talent included other activities such as band, dance and pom squads. He also served the state as a Board member of KAPOS, including vice president and president of the organization.
Ray Harper – A two-time all-state guard at Bremen, Harper is a two-time Muhlenberg County MVP and his 3,033 points ranks second on the county’s all-time scoring list. He led the Eagles to the 1979 10th District championship and to the 3rd Region title game that season. He played his freshman season at the University of Texas where he earned All-Southwest Conference honors, but later transferred to Kentucky Wesleyan where he was an All-American. Harper now ranks as one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history with a 431-127 career record that includes four national championships. He is currently head coach at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.
Robie Harper – The late Robie Harper made his mark as both a player and coach in Muhlenberg County. At Hughes Kirk, he earned All-District honors in both 1955 and 1956, scoring 1,820 points in his career. Harper averaged 30 points a game in his senior season and his 60 points scored against Sacramento stood as the single game scoring record here for 12 years. He was an All-Western Kentucky pick in 1956. Harper began his storied coaching career at Drakesboro in 1968. His 1971 Cardinals featuring Earl Williams and Reggie Warford finished 33-3 and won the 10th District Tournament and reached the 3rd Region title game. Seven years later, his 1978 team with Eddie Rhodes and Barton Johnson carried a percent 27-0 record to the 3rd Region Tournament – falling to undefeated Apollo in the championship game. Harper went on to become head coach at Muhlenberg South following consolidation and led the Suns to the 1992-93 10th District crown. His 411 coaching wins rank second all-time in Muhlenberg County history.
Laurie Heltsley – Widely regarded as Muhlenberg County’s first great female basketball player, Laurie Heltsley holds the all-time scoring record of 2,279 career points at Hughes-Kirk. Heltsley earned All-State honors in 1978 and was a four- time All-Region and All-District selection. She hit for a career-high 50 points against Bremen and helped the Tigers to an overall 75-26 record and three 10th District titles in her prep career. Heltsley earned a spot on the Kentucky All-Stars roster after her senior season and went on to star at Western Kentucky University. At WKU, Heltsley had a record four 30-plus point outings, was a three-time All-Ohio Valley Conference selection, and earned Academic All-American honors in 1981. Heltsley is a member of the 1,000-point club at WKU.
Danny Morris – The hard-throwing lefthander was a top prospect after graduating from Greenville High School boasting a 98-mph fastball. Morris pitched in one of the most memorable games in Kentucky baseball history, a 3-2 loss in 14 innings to Owensboro in the regional championship game. Morris struck out 22 Red Devils in the contest, which earned national attention in Sports Illustrated. Morris played seven seasons in the Minnesota Twins’ organization, twice winning 16 games in the minor leagues. He was called up to join the Twins in the major league in 1968 and again in 1969 until an arm injury cut his professional career short. While he recorded no big league wins, he had a superb ERA of 2.81 and won 87 games in the minors.
Roger Newman – The Greenville Blackhawks’ legend scored 1,765 points in a remarkable prep career during which he earned All-State and All-American honors in 1956. Newman scored 18 points for Kentucky in two games as part of the Kentucky-Indiana All-Star series and pulled down 28 rebounds in a matchup with the Ohio All-Stars. Newman and Central City’s Corky Withrow are considered by most sports historians to be the greatest on-court player rivalry in the history of the Commonwealth. Newman signed with the University of Kentucky and played for Coach Adolph Rupp. He averaged a team-high 14.1 points and 9.5 rebounds a game for UK in the 1960-61 season. His UK highlights include a 26 point, 18-rebound performance in a 77-76 win over UCLA. In his final game for the Big Blue, he scored 31 points in the NCAA Tourney against Ohio State. Newman was drafted twice by the NBA – in 1960 by the Boston Celtics and in 1961 by Syracuse.
Joe Richardson – One of our first great two-sport athletes, the late Joe Richardson was a five-year starter in basketball for Hughes Kirk and jumped center even though he stood at only 5-foot-6. In his prep career, the Tigers went 112-21 and his 1939-40 squad went 35-4, still the most wins by a county school, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Richardson was a two-time All-District and All-Region selection in basketball. He also excelled in baseball, starting his professional career with the Topeka Owls in 1940. After a distinguished record of service with the Army during World War II in which he earned the Bronze Star for heroism in battle, Richardson returned to baseball in 1946 and reached the Triple A level with the Youngstown Gremlins, batting .340. Injuries ended his playing career before he could realize his dream of reaching the major league. Richardson is also regarded as one of the original champions for Little League Baseball in Muhlenberg County.
Jade Perry – The career leader in scoring (2,792 points), rebounds (1,647), blocked shots (512), and field goal percentage (62.3) at Muhlenberg North, Jade Perry was a three-time First Team All-State selection and three-time 3rd Region Player of the Year. She helped lead the Lady Stars to five-straight Sweet Sixteen appearances from 2000-2004, advancing to the Final Four twice. She ranks fifth all-time in scoring in state tournament history with 183 points and is 10th in rebounding with 90. Additionally, Perry won a track & field state championship in the Shot Put in 2003. Perry signed with the University of Maryland and was a key contributor on the Terrapins’ 2006 NCAA National Championship team. She is currently the head women’s basketball coach at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Canton.
Patrick Sparks – The career leader in scoring (2,655), steals (409), assists (657), and rebounds (607) at Muhlenberg North, Sparks was a two-time First Team All-State selection, two-time 3rd Region Player of the Year, and led the Stars to three straight regional championships from 1998-2000 playing for his father, Steve. Sparks still holds the 3rd Region record for most points in a single game with his 71-point effort in 2001 against eventual regional semi-finalist Apollo. After high school, Sparks played two years at Western Kentucky, where he helped lead the Hilltoppers to two straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He would transfer to the University of Kentucky for his final two years, started every game of his Wildcat career, and earned All-SEC honors as a junior. Sparks went on to play professional basketball in Europe for 10 seasons.
George Taylor – The late George Taylor began his coaching career in 1925 at Central City High School and over the next 17 seasons compiled a record of 439-97. When he retired from coaching, he was the winningest coach in Kentucky with eight regional championships, including five straight from 1928-32, and 14 District titles. His teams won 20 or more games 16 times and, incredibly, won 30 or more games in six of those seasons – setting the standard for generations of coaches here to follow. Taylor would go on to serve as principal at CCHS for four years and superintendent of the Central City Independent School System for 30 years.
Reggie Warford – The 1972 Muhlenberg County Player of the Year at Drakesboro, Reggie Warford would go on to become a trail-blazing figure at the University of Kentucky. The lefty guard scored 1,941 points in his three year prep career for the Cardinals, averaging over 25 ppg as a senior, and helped lead his squad to the 1971 10th District title and an appearance in the regional championship game. Warford earned All-State honors as a senior and would sign to play for the Wildcats under Coach Joe B. Hall. As a senior, Warford helped lead the Wildcats to the 1976 NIT Championship, scoring 14 points in the title game against UNC-Charlotte. More importantly, Warford was the first African-American basketball player to graduate from UK, helping pave the way for others to follow. Warford returned home to coach boys’ basketball at newly consolidated Muhlenberg County High School, where he fashioned a 66-28 mark and won the 2010 3rd Region Championship – a squad featuring Joe Gabbard and Warford’s sons, Grant and Tyler.
Raymond “Corky” Withrow – The all-time boys’ leading scorer in Muhlenberg County history, Raymond “Corky” Withrow had 3,136 points in his career. He was a first-team All-American and two-time All-State basketball player – leading Central City to four straight district titles. His 1953-54 squad carried a perfect 35-0 record into the Sweet Sixteen. Though offered a scholarship by the University of Kentucky, Withrow chose instead to sign a professional baseball contract with the Milwaukee Braves. He played over 1,100 games during his 10 year career and reached the major league level in 1963 with the St. Louis Cardinals. While still playing professional baseball, he would star on the court at Georgetown College.
Central City Golden Tide / 1944-45 Boys’ Basketball Team – Perhaps the most lauded team in the storied history of CCHS basketball, Coach Delmas Gish’s squad went 39-4 and finished as runner-up in the 1945 State Tournament to Louisville Male. They won the district title by 22 points and beat Brownsville by 40 in the regional finals. En route to the state title game, the Golden Tide beat defending state champ Harlan and Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones. Central City’s W.C. Mobberly, Gilbert Teague and Bobby Watkins earned all-state honors that remarkable season.
Muhlenberg Central Lady Spartans / 1982-83 Girls’ Basketball Team – Led by a trio of talented seniors in Jonna Corley, Dawn Webb, and Debbie Jones, plus junior All-State center Sherry Gish, Coach Sam Sparks’ Muhlenberg Central Lady Spartans beat Owensboro Catholic 55-54 in overtime to claim the 1983 3rd Region Tournament championship and became the first local girls’ squad to reach the Sweet Sixteen in the modern era. The Spartans fell to eventual-state champ Warren Central in the opening round to finish their remarkable season with a 28-7 record. Gish would lead MC back to the state tournament a year later.