M.C. Napier great Kristie Combs has cemented her status as a high school basketball legend as she is set to be officially inducted into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2011.
A native of Perry County, where she still lives, Combs led her Lady Navajo team to the 1994 state championship in girls’ basketball, setting several state records along the way. She was informed in May of her selection to the KHSAA Hall of Fame, and told the Herald it’s a “great honor” to have her name among those of sports legends who preceded her, especially considering her high school career ended only 16 years ago while other athletes have been considered for induction for decades.
“It’s mind baffling to sit back and think about it,” said Combs, dedicating the honor to her nephews, Jalen and Peyton Cooper.
But her induction is certainly well deserved, said Perry County Central girls’ basketball coach Randy Napier, who coached Combs during her high school career at M.C. Napier and nominated her for induction into the Hall of Fame.
“She was not only a great player for the year we won the state championship, she had a great career overall, and she ranks up there with the all-time greats in the state of Kentucky,” said Napier. “She is one of the best players that has ever played in this state.”
For a sense of context, Combs’ statistics are staggering. In addition to a state championship on her resume, she also amassed 2,792 points and 586 assists in her career. She was awarded the state tournament’s Most Valuable Player award in 1994, and scored 38 points in the state semifinal that same year, a feat which has only been eclipsed once in the history of the tournament. She also currently holds the record for most three points field goals made in a state championship game as well as other single game records. She was named to the All-State team three times and was named Most Valuable Player in the 14th region in both her junior and senior seasons. She is also M.C. Napier High School’s all-time leading scorer, was selected to the KHSAA’s Terrific 25 in 2001, and played in the Kentucky-Indiana All-Star series in 1994.
But despite all of her accomplishments, Combs said she mostly remembers her Lady Navajo team and how they shared a singular focus of winning a state championship.
“At M.C. Napier we had a great, great team there,” she said. “Even from my freshman year to my senior year when we won the state championship, that group of girls and Coach Napier, we were so dedicated and so set on that goal. That’s all we were going to accept was winning a state championship. And then to go out and do it, it’s indescribable with words.
“I had a great year,” she continued. “Stats and stuff don’t mean anything to me. It was just what we accomplished as a team that’s satisfying.”
Nominating Combs for induction wasn’t something he had to think about for long, said Coach Napier. He discussed the nomination with Claude Cooper, Combs’s uncle who she described as a father figure following the passing of her own father when she was 11. Cooper was someone without whom “I probably wouldn’t have accomplished as much as I did,” Combs said.
“Claude Cooper and I talked about it,” explained Coach Napier. “I felt like I have followed some of the other people inducted. I compared her stats and career to the other people that had been inducted, and I felt like she belonged. I felt like she deserved top honors.”
Kristie Combs continues to remain close to the game of basketball. She was an assistant coach at Perry Central and then Breathitt County for a time, and also currently serves as an official, calling not only basketball, but also softball and will begin taking a turn at officiating volleyball as well.
Coach Napier said she has “developed into one of the top officials” in the region.
“I enjoy it (officiating),” said Combs, whose day job is working as a data analyst for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “You make a little money on the side, but it keeps me involved in the game.”
In addition to her vast accomplishments in the game of high school basketball, Combs is also the first female from Perry County selected for induction into the KHSAA Hall of Fame that the Herald has been able to uncover, and that’s another accomplishment that Combs said she is not unaware of, and one that she hopes will inspire other female basketball athletes.
“I think it leads the way for a lot of these younger kids. It’s a stepping stone for them to say, ‘Hey, she did it, and if I work hard why can’t I?’”
The official induction ceremony will be held April 16, 2011 when Combs will join her fellow inductees and officially become a member of the KHSAA Hall of Fame.