sports (2007-14)

Where champions are born and made

All about Maryville

by Tony Basilio

During Florida's Final Four massacre of UCLA, commentators Jim Nantz and Billy Packer were marveling at Florida's unprecedented success. Never before in major Division One sports history has one school held both the men's national titles in football and basketball in the same school year. Those reading between the lines shouldn't be surprised because, after all, it's all about Maryville.

Trivia question: When is the last time one school held the high-school state championships in football and basketball at the same time? Answer: I don't know, and I don't really care. Usually it's easy to hate those who win all the time, but both Maryville and to some extent Florida (in basketball anyway) are hard to dislike. They both play their respective games the way they were meant to be played. And in the case of Florida, it's all about Maryville.

Four years ago, Lee Humphrey, a hot shooting seemingly slow-footed two guard was recruited to play basketball at Florida. Growing up some 20 minutes from UT's campus, Humphrey dreamed of wearing Tennessee orange. Instead, Buzz Peterson's fateful decision not to offer him the time of day gave Florida its final piece for its repeat teams.

Humphrey has been a point of contention since Peterson's recruiting gaffe so much so that even one of our favorite sons bristles when East Tennesseans claim it came down to Dane Bradshaw or Humphrey for a scholarship in the fall of '03.  

"I've heard the talk from the fans and the media," Bradshaw said during a recent appearance on my radio program. "And I was a little sensitive about it at first. The truth is, it wasn't between Lee or myself. That scholarship that would've belonged to Lee ended up going to Scooter McFadgon. So, don't blame me for that." Bradshaw also said that the two have become friends. "I have a great deal of respect for Lee on and off the floor. He fits perfectly in Florida's offense. I'm happy for his success," Bradshaw said.

Lee Humphrey came about it the honest way. His father Tony is a longtime middle-school basketball coach in Blount County who used to have to chase his son out of the gym at closing time. "After practice, he would shoot until he couldn't lift his arms. Lee always loved playing," Tony said.

Even though his son is the all-time leader in NCAA Tournament three-pointers made, Dad remains pretty humble about his son's prowess in the clutch. "I don't know why he shoots it so well in the Tournament. I guess it's the way the games have unfolded. The way they operated, if they can get it inside and score, that's the first option with all the great players up front. But a lot of times against stronger competition, they take those things away from you and you have to go outside more. So, Lee's been the beneficiary of that," Humphrey said.

When asked about Maryville's recent state championship, Tony Humphrey offered the following: "Those guys really put it together late in the year. I knew they had good talent. I caught the Bradley Central game before leaving for New Orleans (and the opening round of NCAA Tourney). Winning a state championship is such a great accomplishment," Humphrey said. And Tony knows that it is, after all, all about Maryville.

How else do you explain that Maryville wins its first-ever State Championship after not having ever won a game in the state tournament in school history? Its last modern-era appearance was a first-game knockout in 1991. First-year head coach Mark Eldridge said it was by design. "District titles are nice (they lost the championship game to Powell), but our plan was to get to the state by hosting the first round of the region (which they did) and all year we talked about playing the sub-state game anywhere (on the road at Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett). We just wanted one game to get us to Murfreesboro."

That Eldridge came to Maryville last summer and won the school's first-ever boys state basketball championship has me believing even more that it's all about Maryville. Eldridge saw the opportunity to piggyback off the unprecedented success of Maryville's four consecutive state champion football teams. "I had a great meeting with Coach (George) Quarles who does an awesome job and is a great guy. My first meeting with the guys on the team, I told them that we wanted a piece of that championship pie, a crumb, anything. I tried to get the guys not be content with winning the district when there's so much more out there," Eldridge said.

Trivia question: Which local high school boasts the highest number of future UT football players? Next year, Tennessee will welcome Tyler Maples followed in '08 by Aaron Douglas. Both also happen to be state champions in football and basketball. All this success coupled with what's gone on in Florida in hoops has to have Vol fans hoping that the Maryville factor will swing back in UT's direction. It is after all, all about Maryville.

Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM. Visit www.tonybasilio.com for more information.