BUCKHORN – For the past four years Matt Day has been a force on the basketball court for Buckhorn High School, averaging a double-double in both points and rebounds.
Now Day has something else to add to his athletic resume — he is the first basketball player from Buckhorn High School to be in the running for Kentucky Mr. Basketball, and is one of five finalists in the state.
Day finished his high school career averaging 20.4 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, including 22.9 points and 13.7 rebounds during his senior season. He also set school records for scoring and rebounding, began and ended his final season as the 14th Region Player of the Year, set a record for single-game scoring in the WYMT Mountain Classic, and led his team to a championship in 14th Region All A and 54th District tournaments. And most recently, on Friday of this week, he was named to the Herald-Leader’s first team all-state.
Day noted that while Coach John Noble (who himself was named co-coach of the year for the 14th Region) had told him from the beginning of his senior season that he had a chance to be in the running for Mr. Basketball, he wasn’t sure himself until he was at Rupp Arena this month during the Sweet 16 to pick up his regional player of the year award.
“I saw them bring the plaques for the 14th Region Player of the Year, and then I saw them bring the Mr. Basketball plaques and my name was on one of them,” Day said. “That was the first time I knew for sure that I was a finalist.”
Coach Noble, on the other hand, was confident that Day would be in the running for the state’s highest basketball award after receiving several telephone calls and emails from his fellow coaches.
“We’ve had phone calls and emails from coaches all over the state of Kentucky saying, ‘We really like your kid, and we’re going to vote for him,” Noble said. “I felt pretty good that he’d be in that top five.”
The nomination in a way vindicated the hours upon hours of practice and hard work he put into the game of basketball, but Day said his initial reaction was actually shock that he would have the chance to join a list of players like Darius Miller and Jon Hood.
“It blows my mind just to be in the top five and have a chance to do something that all those guys have done,” he said.
Putting up numbers like Day’s wasn’t an easy task, especially during his senior year when opposing defenses double or triple teamed him whenever he touched the ball. But that was where his teammates, most of them seniors with whom played for years, picked up the slack and helped the Wildcats finish with a 26-6 record on the season.
“I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” he said. “I’ve been playing with these guys since second and third grade.”
Day’s stellar season, and the accolades that have followed, are also a vindication of the program as a whole, Noble said, adding that when Day was a 7th grader he began getting noticed for his talent on the court. That’s when people began telling him that he would never get much recognition at a small school like Buckhorn. Both Noble and Day noted that this notion was simply wrong.
“For me to sit here and have a kid that’s nominated for Mr. Basketball, I’m not the I told you so type, but I did tell them,” Noble said. “It’s special and it’s validation, and not just in Matt’s hard work, but the hard work of every kid that played in this program.”
And his nomination is also an indicator for those underclassman looking for their own time on the court that success is certainly possible, Day added.
“It shows that if they come over and work hard, they can do something more special than what we done,” he said.
Day is actually one of two Perry County players in the running for the state’s top award. Perry Central senior Kendall Noble is a finalist for Miss Basketball after appearing in her sixth straight Sweet 16 tournament earlier this month. This year marks the first that a male and female athlete from Perry County are being considered for their respective awards in the same year.
Voting for this year’s Mr. Basketball will be completed by sports writers and past winners, and this year’s recipient will be announced on April 28. The other finalists include Nathan Dieudonne of Trinity, Tamron Manning of Scott County, MeKale McKay of Moore and Adam Wing of Rowan County.
Noble believes Day has a great chance at winning, and he hopes those people with a vote will look at his overall body of work at Buckhorn.
“I think his chances are good” Noble said. “I think if you break down the numbers, I don’t think there’s anybody in the top five that stacks up with Matt.”