Speaking of Sports, Roy Morgan and UK freshman, Gerry Switzer and Russ Burchett, Mikey Benton and Jack Delaney
By Jim Turner

Posted on March 31, 2024 6:01 PM

If you enjoyed watching Reed Sheppard’s SEC Freshman of the Year season in University of Kentucky Basketball, Roy Morgan says another likable Kentucky high school basketball star is on his way to Lexington.

Earlier this month, Lyon County became one of the smallest schools in decades to win the state basketball championship. The Lyons finished with a 36-3 record, just one win short of Logan County’s 37-3 mark 40 years ago. UJ signee Travis Perry, who became the highest scorer in Kentucky boys basketball history with over 5,500 points, was also state tournament MVP.

The Lyons are coached by Ryan Perry, Travis’ dad.

Roy, the namesake of his family’s legendary eatery Roy’s Bar-B-Q, loves to watch good high school basketball, especially when it has a link to his beloved UK Wildcats.

On Jan. 6, he went to Hopkinsville to watch Travis Perry and his Lyon County Lyons play Christian County in the City of Hopkinsville Holiday Classic. The Lyons won 68-49 with Mr. Kentucky Basketball Perry scoring 23.

In between games, Roy found the Perrys—both coach and player--in a hallway and talked with them. “We must have talked about 15 minutes; they are really nice guys,” says Roy, the ultimate nice guy and great conversationalist himself. “They said they’ll come and eat at Roy’s sometime.”

Lyon County’s hometown is Eddyville, not far from Crittenden County where Russellville has played football so many times.

For the record, Reed Sheppard has also dined at Roy’s Bar-B-Q. When his older sister Madison was playing basketball for North Laurel in the Roy’s Bar-B-Q/First Southern National Bank/WRUS Christmas Classic nine years ago, their mom, former UK Lady Kat standout Stacey Reed Sheppard, would bring the family to Roy’s to eat.

Roy’s has a strong UK Connection. Kenny ‘Sky’ Walker, the second leading scorer in Wildcat history, is a frequent visitor to Roy’s. In fact, he’s been here this month. Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones broadcast a session of his popular radio show on location at Roy’s in the summer of 2019.

So, will Sheppard and Perry be teammates at UK? I don’t know.

In the old days when the goal of UK basketball was to win national championships and the most games in college basketball, that would have been something to relish. But UK has won only one national championship in the 26 seasons since Reed’s dad, Jeff Sheppard, was the Cats’ national championship MVP In 1998. The leadership in games won has been relinquished.

Now that the priority has become to see how quickly a player can be drafted by the NBA, there will be a lot of pressure on the younger Sheppard to hit the road.

The best hope is that Reed Sheppard has spent his life wanting to play for the Cats and that he is enjoying the college experience so much that he decides to stay in Lexington at least one more season. If that proves to be true, UK fans are in for a treat.

The LoJo

When Gerry Switzer passed sway earlier this year, Russellville lost a bit of coolness. Gerry was one of what we called the “coolest guys” ever to glide through the halls of Russellville High School.

The ones I remember best who were a little older than me and sported a cool look and “who cares?” demeanor. I would put Hall of Fame Coach Gwynne Gaddie in that category along with Hall of Fame athlete Dicky Bagby. I picture Gwynne wearing a white tee shirt and black leather jacket with a pocket comb ready for use on his flowing locks, much like the character Ed ‘Kookie’ Byrnes on the TV show 77 Sunset Strip.

Dicky could move quickly and smoothly on the football field or basketball court, but otherwise just shuffled his way around RHS. One of my great memories is of a school assembly where Bagby portrayed Charlie Brown, not Snoopy’s buddy but the one of song who always grumbled, “Why’s everybody always picking on me?” Actually, the late Dicky Bagby didn’t seem to care what anyone else thoughy.

Gerry reminded me of a guy at knew in college who didn’t seem to let anything bother him. That guy was working construction one summer in Nashville and fell from an upper story of a building. His friends who had known him since their days at David Lipscomb High School figured he probably said “oh, heck” on the way down.

Gerry was an “oh, heck” guy on the golf course. The number one player on the Panthers’ state championship golf team in 1970, you couldn’t tell the difference in his demeanor whether he had hit a hole-in-one or shanked a shot. He was the same way at school.

I always loved talking to the Switzer kids’ dad, the late Ron Switzer, who—along with his wife Martha—owned and operated Tastee Treet drive-in restaurant during the sixties and seventies, maybe more. He could tell some great stories about his World War II experiences.

I never heard Gerry tell a story. But his life was the story of golf coolness.

The LoJo

Nowwe did lose a super storyteller in recent months. Russell Owen Burchett could spin a yarn with the best of them. And golf was one of his favorite story subjects. He would have been quick to admit that his golf stories were a lot better than his golf scores. He and his wife Rita had some great final years in his wife, and golf was part of the fun.

Unlike Gerry, Russ was a bundle of energy. I would have dared you to have a conversation with Russ Burchett and not laugh.

Russell Owen was a businessman and an entrepreneur. He built and operated a unique restaurant on Nashville Street named the Village Barn. The building has been the home of the Ferguson family’s Hickory Hill Florists for decades. Part of the atmosphere of the Village Barn was Russell Owen coming around spreading good will.

Russ was a superb auctioneer. At a time that many people think about retiring, he partnered with Mike Riley to form the Riley-Burchett real estate firm.

Russ Burchett’s ‘mini-me’ is his son, Rusty Burchett. He’s a fun, caring guy who is a self-employed agri-businessman in partnership with his wife Debbie. There’s no telling how many people Rusty checks on every week or so to make sure they are well and if thay need his help with something.

I’m grateful to be on that list.

Rusty was a great leader in Russellville football in the seventies. Like his dad, he will tell you he was a better teammate than player, but he has been special at both.

The LoJo

A unique moment came recently during the college signing ceremony for Logan County multi-sport standout Jack Delaney, who is headed to the Kentucky Wesleyan football field.

Those in attendance for these ceremonies are invited to speak. One of them was Russellville head football coach Mikey Benton. Coach Benton wrote on Facebook the following day:

Was fortunate enough to attend my guy’s Signing Day yesterday! Jack Delaney, more than proud of you! Been knowing Jack for a long time now (as you can see from the photo from when he was little) and it’s been great to see the growth, not only as a player but into a young man as well! Like I said yesterday, probably weird for an opposing rival head coach to attend a signing day, but no way I was missing it. If anything, just more of a testament to the type person Jack is!

“Coach, Tyrone Young Jr., you got you one for sure! Kentucky Wesleyan got a dawg on the way! Go be great!!”

The picture on the coach’s tee shirt shows Mikey in his UK football uniform with a couple of little boys, one of them Jack.

Delaney’s mom, Courtney Ezell Delaney, wrote in return:

“You will never know what your support has meant to me and Jack!! You were always just a call away when I needed advice about what to do, and I knew no matter what, you always saw something special in him that sometimes he didn’t see himself.”

This is an example of how crosstown rivals can treat each other that all of us can learn from.

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