Rick Stansbury Has WKU Basketball Back In National Spotlight

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Stansbury has reignited a Hilltoppers program that, according to Rivals.com, had the 10th-best recruiting class in the nation.


It has been a hectic month for WKU basketball coach, Rick Stansbury. It looked as though Stansbury had lost his prime recruit, 5-star, 7-1 center, Mitchell Robinson.

Mitchell Robinson (photo, 247 Sports)

After the story bounced back and forth like a ball inside a pinball machine–with Robinson leaving WKU, then pursuing offers from other schools (LSU, Kansas), and saying that he’d forego college ball for the pros–Robinson decided to return to Bowling Green.

Without a doubt, he’ll be a vital part of this year’s WKU basketball team. With Robinson on the roster, the Hilltoppers (15-17 last season) have a good chance of winning the C-USA title and making the NCAA tournament.

But lost in ‘the Robinson shuffle’ are two Kentuckians who’ll be essential for Hilltoppers’ success: Taveion Hollingsworth and Jake Ohmer.

Hollingsworth, named Kentucky Mr. Basketball last season, is a 6-2 guard who averaged 28.3 points and 6.8 rebounds for Paul Laurence Dunbar (Lexington). Hollingsworth had offers from other schools (including Cincinnati, UK, Louisville, and West Virginia), but decided on WKU.

“It’s close to home, so my family can watch me play,” said Hollingsworth. “Coach (Stansbury) has a great background of coaching, (and) it’s just all around been a great fit. He’s a great coach. He can get you to the next level. He’s doing a good job rebuilding, and we’ll do a great job handling our business when the time comes.”

Jake Ohmer (photo, Lexington Herald-Leader)

WKU was not the initial stop for Ohmer. Prior to playing in this year’s KHSAA State Basketball Tournament, Ohmer was going to play for either Valdosta State (Division II) or the University of the Cumberlands (a NAIA school). But the state tournament proved to be the catalyst in getting Ohmer to Bowling Green. In a stunning display, Ohmer averaged 35.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 3.0 steals in three tournament games.

What makes Ohmer’s story remarkable is that one shot probably decided his college fate. With his team trailing late in the fourth quarter in the Region 10 Championship game, Ohmer hit a last second three-pointer–a shot (and win) that got him and his team to the state tournament–and a look by, and eventual offer from, Stansbury.

The bottom line for WKU is that all three players–Robinson, Hollingsworth, and Ohmer–will play this year. Stansbury is the common reason why.

Stansbury, born and raised in Battletown, Kentucky, attended Meade County High School  He then played basketball at Campbellsville University before going into coaching. After stops at Cumberlands and Austin Peay, he migrated to Mississippi State, where he became the head coach in 1994.

Courtesy: Courier-Journal

In 18 seasons at MSU, Stansbury recorded 293 victories, the 9th-most wins for a coach in SEC history. He left Starkville to spend more time with his family but found that he couldn’t stay away from the game. He returned to college basketball as an assistant under Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M in 2014 before accepting the head coaching position with the Hilltoppers in 2016.

Stansbury has reignited a Hilltoppers program that went stagnant after a miraculous NCAA tournament run in 2008. According to Rivals.com, last year the Hilltoppers had the 10th-best recruiting class in the nation.

Rick Stansbury has returned to his roots, and there’s a good chance WKU will again become a force on the national scene.

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About Cameron Brown

Cameron Brown is sports columnist with The Journal-Enterprise, Providence, Kentucky and winner of the Kentucky Press Association “Best Sports Column of the Year” award. Cameron has a passion for basketball–like so many others in his home state of Kentucky. He played basketball for his high school in rural western Kentucky and enjoys other sports, including college football and Major League Baseball. His dream is to have a job in sports.



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