'Tis the season

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By Brandon Mattingly

My favorite time of year is finally here. I’m not talking about the holiday season. I’m talking about basketball season.
Football and baseball come in second and third, but basketball is No. 1 for me – like most Kentuckians. I’m as big of a Dallas Cowboys fan as you’ll find, and I make it a point to know my favorite baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, inside and out. That being said, basketball has been my favorite sport since I was old enough to dribble a ball.
The college season is under way, and as an alum and life-long fan of UK, I couldn’t be more happy about that this year. After all, growing up as a Kentucky fan in the 1990s is probably why I love basketball so much anyway.
The men’s and women’s teams at St. Catharine have gotten off to hot starts and both look like they’ll  have a shot at the Mid-South Conference title this season.
The Commanders and Commanderettes kicked off their seasons last night, meaning basketball season is now in full swing. The NBA lockout appears to finally be over, so Christmas Day marks the day basketball is completely back in 2011. Even better, the first game of the season features my Boston Celtics.
I love the NBA, and I’m passionate about college basketball. But now I’m also turning my attention to high school, and I’m really anxious to see the Washington County teams in action this year.
Will the senior backcourt of Trae Abell and Connor Riney be able to steer Russell Burkhead’s team back into contention in the 19th district? Can Bernard Smalley’s girls overcome early injuries and figure out what worked last season when they went 11-2 from Dec. 21 through the end of January?
I look forward to finding out those answers, along with the rest of the county, throughout this season.
This is my first opportunity to cover basketball as a sports writer, so this season is going to be fun for me. I really enjoyed covering football at Bardstown, Bethlehem and Nelson County for The Kentucky Standard and covering the Commanders here this fall. It reminded me how great high school athletics are.
When I graduated from Marion County in 2006, I pretty much left high school sports behind. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to how the Knights, or any of the other high schools did until the last few months. I’ve got to say, I was missing out.
I’ve already covered a football game that was decided by a tackle at the 1-yard line as time expired, and several volleyball matches that showed how much attention the sport has gained since I left for college.
But now, it’s basketball season, and I can’t wait to see how the Commanders and Commanderettes do. They’ll be fighting through a tough district, and I expect to see exciting games all year.
There’s also reason to be excited about both teams at St. Catharine this season. The men ranked No. 17 in NAIA in the preseason poll, and are off to a 5-2 start.
I was able to watch the Patriots scrimmage the Big Blue All-Stars and host  Cumberland University earlier this season. Kashiff Carr, DeShawn Mitchell and Brandon Johnson proved that NAIA basketball is a lot better than I expected.
The women weren’t recognized in their preseason poll, but a 7-1 start with a blowout win over the No. 12 team in the nation may change that when the first regular season poll is announced on Dec. 5.
There are several games on the upcoming schedule that I really look forward to seeing. Janae Howard and Mid-South Conference player of the week Kasei Evans and company have been putting on a show. It will be fun to see if they can now break into the top-25 and stay there.
Even the Junior Pro league is starting up for third through sixth graders.
With December will come plenty of good basketball in the county now that the best time of year has tipped off, and the 2011-12 season looks to be a fun one.