Archive for March 26, 2013


Eastern's Brittany Neeley, head coach Jeremy Dexter and Bethany Neeley hold the twins honors from the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo. (SJ Photo: William Gibson)

Eastern’s Brittany Neeley, head coach Jeremy Dexter and Bethany Neeley hold the twins honors from the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo. (SJ Photo: William Gibson)

KOKOMO, Ind. – The Kiwanis Club of Kokomo hosted its 30th Annual Girls Basketball Banquet at Kokomo High School – and to no surprise, the Neeley twins of the IHSAA Class 2A state runners-up Eastern Lady Comets dominated the awards presentations.

Billed as the largest high school girls basketball banquet in the Hoosier state, the Kiwanis welcomed home former Kokomo High School and Murray State standout guard Ashley Hayes as the keynote speaker. Hayes offered the girls sound advice on working hard, achieving success at whatever one does and always strive to set one self apart from the rest.

“Everyone is replaceable; make yourself unforgettable,” said Hayes. “That was first told to me by a coach at Murray State. A coach told me that there was a million Ashley Hayes’ out there. I was taken aback by that, but I realized I needed to set myself apart and make my own mark. I had to make myself different and make them not forget me.

Hayes is currently an assistant women’s coach at Butler University. With her current coaching assignment, the former Lady Kat noted she has played/coached in three of the most historic gymnasiums in the United States – Kokomo’s Memorial Gym, the New Castle Fieldhouse and Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse. She also played in the 2003 IHSAA Class 4A girls basketball state championship game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, then called Conseco Fieldhouse.

Hayes is best known locally as a key member of the 2003 Lady Kats state champions – a team that rolled through the season and finished 26-0 as the only undefeated basketball team in 110 years of Kokomo basketball. Hayes was second team all-state and a McDonald’s All-American nominee. She is also currently ranked No. 21 on Howard County’s 1,000 Point Club with 1,126 points.

“Some of my first memories of basketball come from playing at Carver Center,” recalled Hayes. “One thing I learned about playing with the boys was if you wanted the ball, you had to go get the ball. But it really helped to develop me, so I credit a lot of my good play to that.”

The Kiwanis Club of Kokomo established this banquet in 1984 to formally recognize the athletic and academic accomplishments of local area girls’ basketball teams. The following ten high schools were included in the banquet: Kokomo, Western, Northwestern, Taylor, Eastern, Tri-Central, Lewis Cass, Maconaquah, Carroll and Tipton.

“This is a great event for the young women of our area,” said Kiwanis Club of Kokomo President Dean Hockney. “The boys basketball programs have many award opportunities and they garner the most press, including a statewide Final Four Banquet sponsored by the Indianapolis Kiwanis Club. So it is nice that we take the time to recognize the hard work and sacrifice these 150 female student-athletes and their coaching staffs have put forth.”

This year, Brittany and Bethany Neeley garnered five of the six on-court awards the Kiwanis Club dishes out. Brittany was named the Kiwanis Most Valuable Player, as well as assists leader (5.2 assists per game) and scoring leader (17.2 points per game). Bethany won the rebound leader (11.6 rebounds per game) and steals leader (6.3 steals per game) awards. Tri-Central’s Shelby Ramsey won the free throw shooting award (76-percent), edging out Bethany Neeley by less than a half of a percent.

The Tipton Lady Blue Devils earned the award for highest team grade point average, posting an impressive 3.56 GPA to defend its crown from a year ago.

The top award of the evening was a $500 scholarship from the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo Foundation to the senior player with the highest grade point average. This year’s scholarship was awarded to Erin Kesler from Northwestern High School.

For more information on the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo, visit


Front Cover - Vol 3 No 14 - March 19, 2013 (Mike Crawford)


Sports Journal Publisher

Today is the day that Indiana coaches and media members begin the vote for Mr. Basketball, and this year, I will announce my Mr. Basketball vote to the entire state – I am voting for Tipton’s Mike Crawford. According to the Indianapolis Star, the race for the crown is down to Crawford, Zak Irvin of Hamilton Southeast, Demetrius Jackson of Mishawaka Marian and Bryson Scott of Fort Wayne Northrop. How cool would it be to see a central Indiana kid win the coveted No. 1 jersey.

A case could be made for any of the four frontrunners, but in my mind, if one looks at the complete athlete and person, then the race belongs to Crawford. For one, he led his team to three consecutive Class 2A Final Fours. Of the other three frontrunners, only Scott led his team to a sectional title this season.

Second, according to Tipton coach Brad Dickey, Crawford – a 2012 Indiana Junior All-Star – is a first-class citizen who does things the right way. When asked to sum up Crawford for voters across Indiana, Dickey said, “92 wins and a 4.2 grade point average. The son of a gun is Mr. Basketball. I know there are great players all over the state again this year, but there is no better story than Mike.”

I have had the chance to watch Crawford in action for the last three years. One of the knocks against the 6-foot-5 St. Louis University recruit is he comes from a small Class 2A program. Well, don’t tell that to Class 4A Westfield who lost to Tipton 73-71. Or 4A Connersville, a 54-50 victim of Crawford and the Devils. And scoring 40 points in two consecutive Final Four games is something that only a special player can accomplish, no matter what class they are playing in.

And then there was that memorable Jan. 19 evening in Tipton when the then third-ranked Blue Devils knocked off Class 4A No. 8 Kokomo. The Kats lost 57-56 in overtime, but it was the 35-point performance by Crawford that many will remember. He drained 11 of 22 shots, and when it came down to simple fundamental basketball, he hit 10 of 11 free throw attempts. The year before he scored 30 in a loss to Kokomo. Those numbers are courtesy of something Dickey says comes with hard work.

“I don’t think I will ever appreciate how hard he has worked or the extra hours he has put in,” said Dickey. “He is always so good about playing in the gym and getting into the weight room. You couldn’t even add it all up; calculators aren’t big enough to figure how much time and effort he has put into this.”

Crawford will leave Tipton with 2,104 career points – tops on the Tipton list. And when it comes to great Blue Devils, the alumni list includes Big Ten players Matt Waddell (Purdue), Kreigh Smith (Indiana) and current Hoosier Derek Elston. The 2,104 career points sandwiches him between Andrean’s Shane Power and Michigan City Roger’s Dan Palombizio for 27th all-time in the Hoosier state, 12 points short of catching the legendary Steve Alford.

But more importantly than gaudy scoring (he averaged 27 points per game this year), he is a leader and a true student-athlete. His senior class has a record of 92 wins and 14 losses, with three sectional and regional championships. The 92 wins are the best by a senior class in school history while only the Class of 1936 has more sectional titles with four. And the 25 wins this year are also a team record. In the classroom, the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Academic First Team selection is currently on pace to serve as the Tipton High School Class of 2013 salutatorian.

“We are hopeful that we will have another one like him, but history shows that is not possible,” said Dickey. “He is the real deal, and he is going to be missed. Mike is an extraordinary kid.”

An extraordinary kid indeed. And who knows, he might just be wearing the No. 1 jersey this summer when the Indiana All-Stars take the floor against the best from Kentucky. As I said, he has my vote. I like Mike!

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the owner/publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana, sports editor of the Kokomo Herald and public address voice of IU Kokomo athletics. His column can be found each week on the last page of the Sports Journal. You can follow Hockney on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) to stay up-to-date on sports happenings in Howard County and around Indiana.


Brittany and Bethany Neeley

INDIANAPOLIS – Eastern High School senior basketball standout Brittany Neeley is receiving the “Shelbourne Knee Center Student Athlete of the Month” award by Fox Sports Indiana March 22nd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Each month Fox Sports Indiana recognizes one high school student who has had success in sports, academics, and other activities. Fox Sports Indiana TV personality, Brooke Olzendam, will share the senior’s accomplishments during an interview with Brittany who will receive a plaque during the televised award ceremony at half-time of the Indiana Pacers vs. Milwaukee Bucks game. Brittany’s sister Bethany will also join the interview. This can be seen on Fox Sports Indiana. Brittany and Bethany were named the 2012 co-Female Athletes of the Year by the Sports Journal of Central Indiana.

Brittany helped guide her Eastern Lady Comets basketball team to the IHSAA 2A  State Championship Game during the Month of February. Brittany averaged 27 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 5.2 apg, 3.1 spg in the Lady Comets’ 6 post season state tournament games. Brittany set an IHSAA semi-state game record by scoring 48 points and grabbing 20 rebounds in the Eastern Lady Comets semi-state game victory over the Ft. Wayne Bishop Luers Knights on February 23rd.

Brittany averaged 19.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 5.2 spg, and 4.5 apg this season as a senior while helping lead her team to the IHSAA 2A State Championship Game. Brittany became Eastern’s all-time leading scorer this season and finished her career at 1,341 points (ranking her 11th all-time on the girls Howard County list). She was named the area Most Valuable Player by the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo, was twice named the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association/Subway District 2 Player of the Week. and she was invited to the prestigious Hoosier Basketball Magazine Top 60 Workout. Brittany is a multi-faceted athlete who will continue her education at Indiana University on a track and field scholarship.

According to Fox Sports Indiana Marketing Director David Pokorny, “Brittany and Bethany Neeley are wonderful young women and Brittany is well deserving with great athletic success and academic ability.”

Brittany is a state qualifying athlete in 3 sports, member of the school’s National Honor Society and 10 year 4-H member, and maintains a 4.5 GPA on a 4.0 weighted scale.

“Brittany is an even better individual than she is a student-athlete,” said Eastern girls basketball coach Jeremy Dexter. “She and her sister are driven by their faith first. It is that faith that shapes their morals and values and guides their decisions and actions in the classroom, church, courts, and community. It is a privilege to be their coach. They make everyone around them, including myself, better individuals.”