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NKU’s Connections to the Commonwealth


(Photos via The Northern, Cincinnati Enquirer and NKY Tribune)

(Clockwise) Coach Brannen, Williams, Holland, McDonald and Holland. (Photos via The Northern, Cincinnati Enquirer and NKY Tribune)

Northern Kentucky University has reached their first NCAA Tournament thanks to some of the best basketball the Commonwealth has to offer.

It starts at the top with head coach John Brannen.  A native of nearby Alexandria, Ky., Brannen spent three of his first four years coaching as an assistant at EKU from 2000-03.  Brannon spent a decade coaching with Anthony Grant, first at VCU then Alabama, acting as the interim head coach of the Crimson Tide before returning home to NKU.

Much of Brannen’s early success is attributed to recruiting excellent local talent.  A year ago Carson Williams and Mason Faulkner were at the Mr. Basketball ceremonies.  Friday they’ll play in the NCAA Tournament.

Faulkner (left) with Williams after he won Mr. Basketball via @Pure_Prospects.

Faulkner (left) with Williams after he won Mr. Basketball via @Pure_Prospects.

Faulkner is a from Glasgow, Ky., a product of Caverna High School.  He became a Mr. Basketball finalist after averaging 35.9 points per game as a senior.  The elite scorer was a consensus First Team All-State Selection.  The first guard off the bench for the Norse, Faulkner averages 7.5 points, 2.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds in about 18 minutes per game.

Williams grew up much closer to Highland Heights.  2016’s Mr. Basketball is from Owen County, just a short drive up I-71 to NKU.  Williams’ Mr. Basketball bid was a bit of an upset over the preseason favorite and Xavier signee, Quentin Goodin, but the numbers do not lie.  Williams averaged more than 25 points and 10 rebounds as a senior to lead Owen County to a school-record 29 wins.  He finished his career just 33 points shy of 3,000.  His 1,671 rebounds are the fifth-most in the history of Kentucky high school basketball.

In his first season with the Norse, Williams has exceeded expectations.  The team’s third-leading scorer averages 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and shoots 59.7 percent from the field.  The 6’5″ forward has created a powerful one-two punch alongside Drew McDonald, another local talent.

McDonald is a sophomore who starred at Newport Central Catholic, leading his team to three straight All “A” Classic Championships.  He was also a fantastic golfer in high school, winning the All “A” individual state title.  He hopes to use his golf talents at NKU before his eligibility expires.  McDonald is the son of former NKU athletes.  His father Jeff played tennis and his mother Christie Freppon played basketball, still the school’s No. 12 all-time scorer with 1,339 career points.

McDonald is undoubtedly the Norse’s best player.  Despite being an undersized forward at 6’7,” he uses his body well in the post, especially on defense, moving his feet to keep opponents in front of him without fouling.  Offensively, he has a killer spin move back to a right hand hook that opponents fall for every time. He averages 16.4 points (48.2 FG%) and 7.7 rebounds a game.

Lavone Holland completes NKU’s talented trio of Commonwealth talent.  The athletic junior guard from Ballard High School does not have fond memories of playing Dominique Hawkins, thanks to this play.

NKU’s best guard averages 14.3 points, 4.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game.  For those who are not keeping track at home, NKU’s top three scorers are all underclassmen from the state of Kentucky.

The Commonwealth’s finest carried Northern Kentucky their first NCAA Tournament berth against the state’s flagship institution.  You better believe they’ll be playing for something more than a second round game when they take the court against the Cats on Friday.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

9 responses to “NKU’s Connections to the Commonwealth”

  1. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door

    News flash! Uncle Matt about to go on WJOX in Bham, AL. You can also hear him on WMSP 740. WMSP is on the iHeartRadio app.

  2. gobble gobble

    “NKU’s Connections to the Commonwealth”???
    Being that NKU stands for Northern Kentucky Uni, I’d say this a prettaay dumb post. No shi# NKU has connections to the commonwealth

  3. damage_control

    If Faulkner played at Caverna High School, he’s from Cave City, not Glasgow (they’re about 15 minutes apart). Both are Barren Co. so it’s understandable.

    1. ClutchCargo

      His dad is superintendent of Caverna school district and they live in Glasgow.

    2. damage_control

      My bad- I stand corrected. In my defense, he’s literally the only person in history who ever commuted from Glasgow/Barren Co school system to go to Caverna.

    3. ClutchCargo

      Wrong again, he has a twin sister who played on the Caverna girls team! 🙂

  4. ClutchCargo

    Mason’s twin sister was a hell of a high school player as well.

  5. fairplay

    NKU is getting a seven footer from Graves County next year.