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Remembering Jason.

jason rose

Jason Rose – (Class of 03, MHS)

I was informed of his departure from this world on Friday.

As friends told me, and I tried to digest this information, it took some time to wrap my mind around what the world loses and Heaven gains when someone of Jason’s caliber departs.

I want to pause and reflect on a classmate who was truly kind each and every day I knew him. Truly.

Jason was a soft-spoken, mild-mannered guy who tried his best at everything our school offered.

While we didn’t have a lot of resources or the mobility to travel the globe during our 4 years in southern Kentucky, we all learned to grow as close as classmates could in a high school setting.

Suddenly, you realize your classmates are more than just that label. For us, it even went beyond the term ‘friend’ to some other label that might not ring true, but I’ll try to describe it.

At Monticello, we were involved in every academic and extra-curricular club, because that’s what there was to do. (We were too small to field a football team, but we took the talents available and had baseball, basketball, golf, etc.) We were almost like extended siblings to one another rather than classmates, because we spent so much time together.

Jason played pick-up games of basketball in the gym with me from 6th grade to graduation. We took part in after-school “open gym” games, and he even made a point to play “Bump!” or, as most of the rest of the world calls it, “Knockout!”

But, it wasn’t that he always played (or, joined these activities) that sticks in my mind. It was his demeanor in all of it. Again, Jason was even-tempered, reflective, and I guess the best description would be a “Southern gentleman.”

He didn’t get caught up in the shenanigans of high school or lose control when tempers flared. I vividly remember a moment when I was losing my cool in a game of 3-on-3 (as I often did), and Jason collided with me, and it was my fault.

Did I apologize? of course not. But, his reaction was terrific. Later, when I’d calmed down, I asked him how he could be so together, even when I was breathing down his neck like a bull.

He smiled like only Jason could, said, “Philippians 4:13. I can do all things…through Christ who strengthens me. I tell myself that and it calms me down. Plus, I just know you.”

I tried reminding myself of this verse, Jason’s actions, in future games/future conflicts, but I forgot a lot of the time. What I didn’t forget was how consistent he was, at a time when we were all kind of like loose cannons.

Hearing of Jason’s departure this week, I can only remember him from these instances. Through and through a classy guy. He loved the Colts and has a beautiful young daughter. My prayers go to his family during this tough time, and I won’t soon forget the demeanor he possessed, even in our youth.

He’s a great testament to our hometown, and Jason is someone I want to continue to be more like. He did what so few of us have done and that’s exemplify the phrase: “actions speak louder than words” Glad he’s seeing that strength up close now. Forever.

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One Shining Moment(s), 2015.


The song, One Shining Moment, written by David Barrett and performed later by Luther Vandross has become synonymous with college hoops. (CBS airs it every year during March Madness.) It’s what a lot of people assimilate with the Underdog stories of the tournament. They are always special.

I have to ask: Did you catch any of the start of March Madness last weekend?

I hope you did. It’s been quite spectacular since Thursday.

If not, that’s okay. There’s still the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, and Championship in Indy before us.

(Please don’t let my basketball excitement scare you away from my posts. I promise to venture back into other subject matter…soon.)

There’s just something so contagious about filling out the brackets each year, seeing underdogs pull off upsets (‘Thank yous’ go out to yesterday’s upsets…you know who you are), and witnessing the passion with which these young players play with, knowing each game could be their last.

The example I give of a ‘shining moment’ was one you might’ve seen over the weekend. (If not, don’t let me spoil it for you.)


There was a small, unknown team by the name of Georgia State given a 14-seed and expected to play the 3-seed, Baylor, in their region’s initial round. (Before this, the head coach (and also the father of the team’s star guard, had torn his Achilles tendon during the celebration of winning a previous conference leading up to the NCAA tournament.)

Coach Ron Hunter, and his son, R.J., made magic in the initial round of March Madness by knocking off the favored Baylor, with a last-second, deep 3-pointer by R.J. The crowd erupted, the upset was made, and Coach Hunter, who was stationed on a swivel chair, applauded and leaped/fell from it to the court. With the torn Achilles (and cast) already, and the fall, there was lots of concern for the coach’s well-being, but he admitted it was excitement, he was okay.

Hunter and his son celebrated the victory and put a team on the map…literally. Fast forward to the next round, and there was a close effort against Xavier, but Georgia State fell to them. The Cinderella experience ended. But, we discovered it was about so much more. As the press interviewed Hunter, R.J. and the other Georgia State players, we saw it wasn’t about their loss or shortcomings at all. It was a season to celebrate the memories made along the way. The people around the game!

Coach Hunter’s response is best seen (rather than told) as he reacts to the year, his team, and his son:

It’s EPIC for all the right reasons.

These things are what make the round of 68 (formerly, 64) so great. Now, we wait for Thursday’s match-ups of more evenly matched teams. But, we won’t forget the magic of the initial rounds.

They TOO are what make March special.


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When Independent Schools Close.


I LOVE Independent Schools.

From attending one in my K-12 experience to recruiting at them in E. Kentucky 2009-2013, I love everything about them.

Do they have their shortcomings? Yes. They are not perfect.

But, where else can teachers and students co-exist as members of the same community to the same degree that an independent school permits them?

In Kentucky, the ones I’ve had the pleasure to visit had school boards closely connected to students. (The elementary-aged kids knew the high schoolers and vice versa.)

Does this make larger schools evil…no way! But, the “closely-knit community feel” is often lacking in such mega-sized environments.

I remember my college recruitment visits fondly (or, most of them anyways). And, I remember the attentiveness and the inside jokes that classmates shared at schools like Corbin, Somerset, and Pikeville. The meetings held in the media center at Hazard Independent. Prestonsburg, Barbourville, June Buchanan and Jackson Independent all working around my schedule and last-minute alterations. It was a pleasure!

The people are SUPPORTIVE. The students (despite the lack of funding and resources) are resourceful and motivated, too. The sports teams are heartfelt and united. (The small team sizes always sent Independent schools into the Class A (or, 1A) division.)

Today, I found this image on the KHSAA website regarding all-time wins for boy’s basketball programs and had to share:

# School, Years (Won/Lost); 2013-14 Record
1,918 Ashland Blazer, 1921- (1,918-825-1); 22-10
1,854 Paducah Tilghman, 1911- (1,854-770); 15-13
1,578 Central City, 1926-90 (1,578-556); n/a
1,417 Paintsville, 1921- (1,417-1,072-2); 10-14
1,342 Newport Central Catholic, 1943- (1,342-698); 29-4
1,330 Wayne County, 1942- (1,330-803); 31-2
1,308 Lafayette, 1939- (1,308-718); 18-11
1,276 Monticello, 1911-13 (1,276-1,125); n/a
1,256 Paris, 1928- (1,256-1,097); 13-16
1,190 Mason County, 1960- (1,190-465); 21-

Seeing my alma mater’s name gave me a great bit of nostalgia. Yes. It’s been integrated into the school shown 2 rankings above it, and the 1911-2013 notation is painful to see, but I know the experiences that came from this place were once in a lifetime. For me, the staff and support at my Independent experience were second-to-none.

Larger schools are wonderful in their own rights as well. (Please hear me say that.) But, the uniqueness of a smaller school, smaller class sizes, and attention-to-detail made it a blessing. I reflect on MIS and remember the amazing people that made it a welcoming place.

To other alum and WCHS staff, thank you for welcoming this small community into yours since 2013. May the new friendships and memories keep forming.

To other schools that have closed their doors in recent years like Monticello, remember the people and the place and the time that was truly unique.

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Underdogs Must Win.


Saw McFarland, USA in theaters today.

Was reminded of the amazing story of the underdog.

Kevin Costner plays coach Jim White (based on a true story). He moves his family to a predominately Latino community of California and takes over within a P.E. teaching capacity, which, in turn, leads to him creating a track team. The local players we discover do so much more than just compete, as it’s shown how they wake up, work in the fields, run to and from school, and participate in practices after school.

Their work ethic is unparalleled to other athletes across California, and the movie showcases how the coach’s family becomes immersed in a community that embraces them, even when he is reluctant to plant deep roots.

Like many true stories, this one reveals its scope to be larger than the 2-hour film itself. It was uplifting and inspiring sure. But, this one had more than most sports classics. I’d put it in the elite category of sports film greats like–Rocky and Hoosiers.

The underdog story rang true with a lot of life lessons thrown in, and (as is often the case with good intentions) Jim White’s family gained more from the move to McFarland than those they lived alongside that first year.

It called to mind a formative, final year of high school basketball for me. I remember the 2002-2003 senior year at my alma mater (Monticello High School) and playing basketball, as if it were yesterday.

We had a small squad, only won 1 game all year, and that season was the hardest of my life. I remember losing a game and our record moving to 0-10, and I felt like the world had stopped turning at that tournament in northern Kentucky.

I remember our coach not taking it out on us; he knew it was just nearing the middle of a tumultuous storm that wouldn’t let up until mid-February. Going 1-25 was less than ideal…but he stayed with us.

The illnesses, wearing out 3 pairs of shoes, experiencing bad foot problems, broken bones, and broken hearts were just the beginning of what would be the longest year of our lives. But, I was thankful for the teammates I had.

I watched those 7 runners from McFarland High School, and their perseverance made me reflect (if you can believe it…I hardly can) fondly on my own torturous year. FONDLY. Yes. You read that right.

We lost and lost and lost some more. But, somehow our team learned something in the midst of all of those beatings: we were some tough sons of guns.

Some nights we were down 30 points by half-time and some games we lost by a last second 3-pointer that was partially blocked. But, lost we did until the last game of the regular season (and my last home game ever) at MHS (same initials as McFarland, too).

McFarland’s perseverance was in overcoming all of the negative opinions other districts had of them and balancing the hard livelihoods that their families expected of them.

Our perseverance, at Monticello, was similar in regards to the poverty aspects, because we were listed as being the 2nd poorest district in the nation. (Today, we are officially closed as a school system. Our school didn’t have a place to host our 10-year reunion in 2013.) Yet, we didn’t face the finality of not being able to go to college or work in places that we could largely pick on our own accord.

Our options were still fairly limitless.

I’m thankful for the underdog story of McFarland, USA, and it reminded me that my own Monticello, USA story is unique and apart of me, no matter where I go.

Now if I could just get Costner to lace up his Nikes and play Coach Shane Blevins on the big screen we’d be in-business. Does someone know where he can be reached?

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God made Dr. James Naismith, and Naismith begat basketball.


Every March, basketball reigns supreme for many across the US. You won’t see much else on TV from now until mid-April.

It rains 3-pointers most of the year in my home state of Kentucky. In-season, out-of-season, and summer league all seem to run together. We played the game even when we didn’t have a proper ball growing up. (I remember using volleyballs, soccer balls, and even kick balls to throw through hoops during the years of grade school.)

Nowhere will you see such ravenous basketball fans than those that support BBN! Many of us have to remind ourselves that it is (truly…painfully) just a game. Not an idol or any such business to be adored more than it should.

But…it sure is fun to watch.

I see it as a gift.

Glad that God made James Naismith who, in turn, made the game of basketball. Sure he was from Canada, founded another program we don’t speak of too much in the bluegrass state *ahem* KU, and held a less than impressive 55-60 head coaching record in his time, but Naismith got this invention right.

Sure, stress levels are through the roof and the work productivity from Monticello to Covington to Paducah to Pikeville slows to a crawl each year, but the game is amazing to behold.

Questions we find ourselves asking: Will the sophomores step up like they did last year? Can Booker shoot 50% from 3-pt range? Does Cauley-Stein have enough mean bones in his body to be a dominant big man in March? All valid questions and equal to asking things such as: “Should we call off school today because of bad weather or not?” and “How’s your mom doing?”

I love the stress. It is something akin to the fear one has before taking off in an airplane. It’s unsettling and fun all at once.

To quote Mr. David Bowie, “Let’s dance!”