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Christmas list: Topper fame, Dent farewell

December 21st, 2011 10:53 pm by Trey Williams

Christmas list: Topper fame, Dent farewell

Fifteen Science Hill Hilltoppers received fame for Christmas.
They learned they’ve been elected to the Science Hill Athletics Hall of Fame.
Charlie Bailey, Nick Crowe, Jerry “Ivan” Dempsey, Erica Dengler, Mike Evans, JaKeith Hairston, Robert Hatcher, Carleton “Cotty” Jones, Keith Lyle, Cregg Moss, Jeff Nikocajk, Jenny Vonderfecht Parkhurst, Toby Patton, Sammy Simpson and Mike Voitlein will be inducted on Feb. 11 at 1 p.m. in the Science Hill Auditorium.
Here are items others could use under the tree.
Toronto Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris: A Bluefield assignment. Some would’ve written “razor and scissors,” but the Robinson Crusoe look becomes him.
Science Hill basketball coach Ken Cutlip: A healthy Hunter LeVeau. Watching the 6-foot-5 LeVeau shoot 3-pointers with his left hand during the shootaround at Dobyns-Bennett last week was a reminder of his talent and versatility.
Science Hill Lady Hilltoppers coach Darrell Barnwell: Ginkgo biloba. It helps you stay focused. Barnwell’s talented team could have trouble staying sharp against the competition it’ll play in January and February.
Dobyns-Bennett, a team likely to finish high in the Big Eight Conference standings, played zone against the Lady ’Toppers even when they were doubled up on the scoreboard much of the second half in a 40-point home loss.
Perhaps the Tri-Cities’ second-best team, Tennessee High lost by 27 at home to Science Hill, which was the Lady ’Toppers’ toughest task during a 4-0 start in the league. They beat Volunteer by 35 and Sullivan South by 36.
ETSU athletics: A billionaire football coach who could start a program and find a new conference. Coastal Carolina has a short history in football, although it’s a rich lack of tradition since hiring wealthy Joe Moglia as its head coach.
ETSU’s basketball rivalry with Rick Byrd’s Belmont Bruins quickly grew to become the best thing about its move from the Southern Conference to the Atlantic Sun, but Belmont’s looming exit and Northern Kentucky’s entrance were reminders as to where ETSU resides on the D-I league totem pole of perception.
Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley: A dozen cupcakes. That way, he can quit using his schedule to feast on them. Three of the 2012 non-conference opponents ­— Georgia State, Akron and Troy – won’t make you forget three of the 2011 non-conference opponents, Middle Tennessee, Montana and Buffalo.
Sportswriter Bucky Dent: A smooth transition.
After working most of the past 15 years in the Tri-Cities, Bucky is moving to the Carbondale, Ill., area.
I first encountered Bucky while listening to him broadcast a Richlands football playoff game at Blacksburg in 1994.
Frank Beamer’s son Shane, who is now an assistant at Virginia Tech, was a receiver in Blacksburg’s spread offense, and he absorbed a pounding while catching numerous passes. The rowdy Richlands fans, some of whom were battling the cold with liquid spirit, howled each time Beamer would get decked on an inside slant.
It was apparent Beamer was tough and Bucky was a top-notch radio man, and I later learned Bucky could write up a sporting event on deadline like nobody’s business.
I worked with him in the late ’90s at the Bristol Herald Courier. Another former Herald Courier writer, Robert Anderson, is a fellow basketball junkie, and we’d occasionally draw a blank trying to recall a player’s name.
Once we were trying to remember a player Western Kentucky had in the mid-80s. Not Tellis Frank, but …
Robert and I sat beside each other, and after a moment spent scratching our heads, he stood up and asked Bucky, whose desk was over the cubicle wall in front of ours. Bucky’s response – “Kennard Johnson” – came so quickly that we looked at each other with we’re-not-worthy smiles while shaking our heads.
It’s always enjoyable hearing Bucky’s review of passionate buddy Lloyd Combs’ take on things such as the officiating when North Carolina visits Duke or Dusty Baker’s handling of the Cincinnati bullpen. And it’s always fun hearing Bucky laugh about a cousin’s wayward wagers, like betting the “under” due to “near hurricane conditions” in a 1998 Miami-UCLA game which the Hurricanes ended up winning, 49-45.
I guess the last event I’ll cover with Bucky was Oak Hill Academy’s visit to Science Hill on Dec. 12, and it felt like things had come full circle while standing outside the Oak Hill locker room interviewing coach Steve Smith and Georgetown signee D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
Oak Hill had also played Science Hill in Johnson City in 1994 – probably within a week of that Richlands-Blacksburg game – and I’d interviewed Smith outside a locker r oom across Science Hill’s campus at Freedom Hall.
This time Smith had evened the score after losing in ’94, and he even threw in a losing anecdote about brash former Oak Hill coach Harley “Skeeter” Swift, who was in attendance at last week’s game.
A number of years ago, Smith said, Swift asked him why he was losing so much. Taken aback, Smith pointed out that he was winning around 95 percent, and Skeeter replied that he’d gone 61-1 (1979-81).
Smith smiled and Bucky laughed, and it reminded me that Bucky had done such a good job reviewing a book on Skeeter. He did the review for a friend, but the consummate pro would’ve written it up just as well for a stranger.
Best of luck, Buck.

Trey Williams is a sports writer for the Johnson City Press. Contact him at

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