KOKOMO LADY WILDKATS BASKETBALL COACH HEATHER CUSICK STEPS DOWN DUE TO FAMILY ILLNESS

Heather Cusick

KOKOMO, Ind. - Heather Cusick Mygrant has submitted her letter of resignation as the Varsity Kokomo High School Girls’ Basketball Coach.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the great tradition of Lady Kat Basketball,” Coach Mygrant wrote in her letter. “The support from the administration, staff, athletic department, and community has been immeasurable during this last year. Coaching the Lady Kats has been an incredible opportunity, and I am grateful for the moments I was able to spend with the players and the staff.”

“This is certainly a tough decision to have to make, but this is what is best for my family at this time,” Coach Mygrant continued. “Basketball always will be a part of my life.  I have spent many hours in the gym playing, practicing and/or involved in the sport for the past 25 years. Right now, I am called to be fully present with my husband and my family as we battle through a family illness.”

“I am, and always will be, a Lady Kat; and I cannot thank the Kokomo School Board, the Kokomo School Corporation administration, the KHS Athletic Department, the coaching staff, and the players for their support and for allowing me to coach the Kokomo Lady Kats,” Coach Mygrant concluded.

The job will be posted immediately, according to KHS Athletic Director Jason Snyder.

“We appreciate everything Coach Mygrant has done for our girls basketball program,” Mr. Snyder said. “And we will support her, and her family, as they continue to be part of our program.”

The 1999 KHS graduate is part of Kokomo’s storied tradition as her Lady Kats team (coached by Charlie Hall) made a run to the Final Four as Heather was named a 1999 Indiana All-Star.

Mrs. Mygrant served as the varsity KHS girls basketball coach for one season (2014-2015) during which the Lady Wildkats posted a 13-10 record.

Heather played basketball collegiately at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Sport Studies, from 1999 to 2003 as she became the first and only player in MAC (Mid American Conference) women’s basketball history to reach 1,700 points, 500 assists, 400 rebounds, 300 steals, and 200 three-point field goals.  Heather served as a 3-time team captain before becoming one of only two women at Miami to have their number retired. She was inducted into the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and into the Miami University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

Mygrant will continue to serve as an International Baccalaureate (IB) counselor at Kokomo High School.

Courtesy of Kokomo School Corporation

NORTHWESTERN GRADUATE BRANDON HUGHES LANDS ENTERTAINING POSITION WITH KOKOMO JACKRABBITS

JR Brandon Hughes 1 web

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. - Standing outside the baseball diamond at UCT Cal Ripken Baseball League in Kokomo, Brandon Hughes laughed as he remembered his youth baseball days. The last time he walked onto the UCT major league field was in 2005 when his Thrifty Brake team from Northwestern played in the David A. Kasey Tournament.

“I played on this diamond while we were playing in the tourney,” said Hughes. “We played a couple of games on this field on the road to winning the 2005 city championship.”

Ten years later, Hughes returned to UCT as an honored guest – he threw out the first pitch on Opening Day as a representative of the Kokomo Jackrabbits. The Purdue University junior was recently hired as the squad’s entertainment manager.

“This was really exciting,” said Hughes of his honorary first pitch status. “And it was great to come back down here. Winning the championship is one of my prouder moments. Baseball has always been a part of my life, so I am excited about this opportunity with the Jackrabbits.”

Hughes, a communications major at Purdue, said the organization understands that Kokomo has a long heritage as a baseball community. From the Underwood brothers to current major leaguer Joe Thatcher, the city supports America’s Pastime.

“It is part of the culture of Kokomo,” said Hughes. “As a kid, I remember listening to youth baseball games on the radio. It was always cool to hear my friend’s names on the radio when they hit a home run, or read their names in the newspaper. The town is just so involved in baseball that I think (the Jackrabbits) is exactly what is needed.”

Hughes said, like many in the area, baseball runs deep in his family and one of his most special memories involved a hardball.

“I hit my first home run on Father’s Day,” said Hughes. “I was 11 and my dad was the head coach. And 11 year-old me forgot to get him something for Father’s Day, so I got him that home run ball and signed it with a little note for him. It was very cool.”

Hughes said the Prospect League is a traditional style organization – meaning the crack of the bat will come from a tree.

“It is a little bit different; it is a wood bat league instead of aluminum,” he explained. “We will get a lot of scouts coming in and looking at the players. A great example is Brandon Beachy, a fellow Northwestern graduate who is now a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played in a college league in Virginia before he got picked up by the Atlanta Braves.”

As the man in charge of entertainment, Hughes said he is excited that every weekend series will feature a theme.

“Our opening series will be themed as Get Jacked. It will be an introduction to the team and the Jackrabbits. We will introduce the mascot and show what we want to do in the community,” said Hughes. “We will have a Country and Western theme, a State Fair theme during fair season and an 80’s Throw Back theme – there will be something for kids and adults. We are here to be a fun, family-friendly entertainment.”

Hughes noted that the family-friendly theme will continue into the Jackrabbits Kids Club, sponsored by Community First Bank of Indiana. The club will feature two options, with the free club allowing members to attend every Sunday home game with a lawn seat above the outfield.

“I have already heard some kids are excited for the chance to catch a home run,” said Hughes.

The second option is a $20 membership, which includes a free Dugout Reserved ticket on Sunday home games, a hot dog and Coke, a Jackrabbits drawstring backpack and more.

“I think they are going to like it; we have some surprises in store,” said Hughes. “It is more than coming to a ball game; it is not just about watching baseball. It is about bringing the community together. That is what we are here for, and I think everyone is going to see that once the season starts.

And for those worried about whether the downtown stadium will be complete by opening night, Hughes said there is nothing to worry about.

“We are confident we are going to be playing on May 30 at Kokomo Municipal Stadium,” he said. “That is our home opener and we are going to play Kokomo Jackrabbits baseball there that day. The city has reassured us that the stadium will be ready to go, and we are looking forward to seeing everyone out there.”

KOKOMO NATIVE MARK MORROW EARNS A HOME IN HOOSIER SPORTSWRITERS HALL OF FAME

Kokomo native Mark Morrow was recently inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame.

Kokomo native Mark Morrow was recently inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame.

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

GREENWOOD, Ind. - The Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association inducted its 20th Hall of Fame class on April 12 at Valle Vista Golf Club in Greenwood – a class that included Kokomo native Mark Morrow. Five journalists who have made their mark in Indiana and nationally were inducted into the ISSA Hall of Fame – Bill Beck of the Elkhart Truth, Bob Jenkins of ESPN and the IMS Radio Network, Morrow of the Indianapolis Star/News and now the Noblesville Times, Blake Sebring of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel and Jason Whitlock of ESPN.

In addition, three more were recognized as annual award winners. Bob “Slick” Leonard was awarded the Distinguished Service Award in honor of his 30 years broadcasting the Indiana Pacers. Former Sports Journal of Central Indiana columnist Greg Rakestraw of WFNI-Indianapolis was honored as the Marv Bates Indiana Sportscaster of the Year. Bob Kravitz of WTHR-Indianapolis was honored as the Corky Lamm Indiana Sportswriter of the Year.

Morrow, a 1965 graduate of Kokomo High School, has spent 52 years in Indiana media, currently working as executive sports editor and columnist for the Noblesville Times. Twenty-five of those years were spent with The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star, where he coordinated high school coverage and, from 1984-1986, served as the Pacers’ beat writer. Early in his career, the former Wildkat was the assistant sports editor at the Kokomo Tribune from 1972-1975 and from 1975-1982 the sports editor at the Michigan City News-Dispatch.

“According to my classmates, I was remembered as funny, clever and ambitious – they got the ambitious part right,” said Morrow. “I started my career by keeping stats for sportswriters at the Kokomo Tribune in 1963 while I was a sophomore in high school after a severe knee injury ended what I am sure would have never have been a star athletic career. But I wanted to stay in sports, and my mentor, Bob Ford, gave me the opportunity. But never did I image I would cover a path that included 52 years of covering sports.”

He published a book – Have Laptop, Did Travel – in 2008 and earned the IHSAA Distinguished Media Service Award for District 2 in 2014. In 2012, he earned the Outstanding Baseball Media Award from the Indiana Baseball Coaches Association. Morrow talked about his career, and the opportunities that were presented after choosing a career as a journalist.

“Thanks to being the beat writer for the Indiana Pacers for four years I got to travel to places I never could have on my own dime,” said the new hall of famer. “I covered games in 184 high school gymnasiums. I covered seven young men selected as Indiana Mr. Basketball – including Hamilton Southeastern’s Gary Harris and Zac Irwin who were the only ones selected back-to-back from the same high school.”

The Kokomo native said writing about young athletes is what he enjoys the most of his profession.

“Fortunately, I have touched many young lives,” he said. “My sister Kathy said my biggest accomplishment was coaching future Major League Baseball players Tom and Pat Underwood. But I think my greatest accomplishment, and the one I am most proud of, was raising my sons Mike and Matt.”

Morrow is the father of two sons, Matt Morrow and Mike McCormick. He and his late wife Carol were married for 36 years. He is now married to Becky.

About the ISSA HOF inductees

Bill Beck is in his 26th year with the Elkhart Truth, having served as the newspaper’s sports editor since 1999. He joined the staff at his hometown paper as a correspondent in 1980 and has been a fixture in Michiana sporting events since.

Bob Jenkins of Liberty, Indiana, was one of the first broadcasters hired at ESPN, and spent 27 years broadcasting all forms of auto racing for the network. He also has been the Voice of the Indianapolis 500, and is the only announcer to anchor the Indy 500, Brickyard 400 and United States Grand Prix on television.

Blake Sebring joined the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel staff as a 15-year-old clerk in 1980, and has been full-time with the News-Sentinel since 1988. He is currently the newspaper’s assistant sports editor, and covers the Fort Wayne Komets. Sebring has also written seven books.

Jason Whitlock is one of the nation’s premier sports columnists, currently writing for ESPN. His work with the Kansas City Star, ESPN and other outlets has boldly addressed sensitive subjects in sports. He is a native of Indianapolis and a graduate of Ball State University.

Award winners

Distinguished Service Award – Bob Leonard: Leonard was an All-American and NCAA champion as a player and a three-time ABA champion as a coach. He is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. For the last 30 years, his enthusiastic color commentary, punctuated by a “Boom Baby!” for each 3-pointer, has been a fixture on Indiana Pacers’ broadcasts.

Sportscaster of the Year – Greg Rakestraw: One of the most well-known broadcast voices in central Indiana, Rakestraw runs the day-to-day operations of WFNI, the largest all-sports radio station in Indianapolis. He also is the television voice of the Indy Eleven and IUPUI basketball. Rakestraw was also influential in providing advice and a column to the Sports Journal staff when the publication was launched in 2011.

Sportswriter of the Year – Bob Kravitz: One of the first reads for any central Indiana sports fan is Kravitz, whose regular columns now are published by WTHR.com. The IU graduate’s thought-provoking and insightful commentary on a wide range of Indy-area and national sports topics have made him a go-to source.

ISSA contributed to this story