There can be few players more appreciative than former Apollo High School standout Amber Dunn for the opportunity to compete in the 2021 Kentucky-Indiana All-Stars basketball series, which begins Friday night at the Owensboro Sportscenter.
Dunn missed much of her senior season with a nagging, high-ankle sprain, but returned to form in time to lead the E-Gals to their first 3rd Region Tournament championship and KHSAA Sweet 16 appearance in 24 years.
Now, she is the lone 3rd Region player who will appear on the hardwood tonight, with the girls’ playing at 6 p.m., and the boys’ game following at 8 p.m.
“It’s a real honor to be selected for the Kentucky All-Stars, for sure,” said Dunn, a 5-foot-10 wing who has signed with Lindsey Wilson College. “It was tough to miss so much of my senior season with an injury and I had to work extra-hard to get back in shape in time for the postseason.
“I learned a lot through it all — you can never take your time on the court for granted — and I’m just happy we were able to go to state and that I’m able to compete for the Kentucky All-Stars. It’s all worked out pretty well.”
Dunn noted that the Kentucky team is smaller than Indiana, and that defense and transition offense will likely be key to her team’s success.
“We’re going to have to play very good defense and get some points at the other end in transition. We’ve got some good guards who see the floor well and we can make some of our soeed and quickness work to our advantage.”
The Kentucky girls will be led by Miss Basketball Brooklynn Miles of Franklin County, who has signed with Tennessee. Other NCAA Division 1 signees include Wayne County’s Macey Blevins (Western Kentucky), Boyd County’s Harley Paynter (Tennessee Tech), Butler’s Tiarra East (Temple), Bishop Brossart’s Marie Kiefer (Ball State), and Bethlehem’s Ella Thompson (UT Martin).
The remainder of the Kentucky roster includes Dunn, Danville’s Laura Akers (undecided), Russell’s Aubrey Hill (Denison), Central’s Taylor Price (undecided), Southwestern’s Alexa Smiddy (Trevecca Nazarene), and Butler’s Dynastee White (Georgetown College).
The Indiana All-Stars will be led by Miss Basketball Jayla Smith of Lawrence North, who is headed to in-state Purdue.
Other NCAA D-1 signees for Indiana include Brownsburg’s Ally Becki (Ball State), Fishers’ Katie Burton (St. John’s), Trinity Lutheran’s Sydney Jaynes (Butler), Bedford North Lawrence’s Chloe McKnight (St. Francis), North Central’s Meg Newman (Arizona State), Goshen’s Brynn Shoup-Hill (Dayton), Michigan City’s Trinity Thompson (Northern Kentucky), and Heritage’s Ariana Wiggins (Michigan).
On the boys’ side, Kentucky will feature Mr. Basketball Ben Johnson, of Lexington Catholic, who is slated to attend Bellarmine.
Other D-1 signees for Kentucky include Frederick Douglass’s Dashawn Jackson (Eastern Kentucky), DeSales’ Sekou Kalle (Akron), St. Xavier’s Ayden Mudd (Bellarmine), Male’s Cameron Pope (Jacksonville State), Highlands’ Sam Vinson (Northern Kentucky), and Fern Creek’s Darius Washington (New Orleans).
The Indiana team will showcase Mr. Basketball Caleb Furst from Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian, who is ticketed to play for Purdue.
Other D-1 signees for the Hoosier team include Lafayette’s Brooks Barnhizer (Northwestern), Marion’s Jalen Blackmon (Grand Canyon), Blackford’s Luke Brown (Stetson), Homestead’s Luke Goode (Illinois), Silver Creek’s Kooper Jacobi (Toledo), Silver’s Trey Kaufman-Renn (Purdue), South Bend’s J.R. Koniecsny (Notre Dame), Heritage Hills’ Blake Sisley (Evansville), Perry Meridian’s Jayden Taylor (Butler), Brownsburg’s Pierce Thomas (Butler), and South Bend Riley’s Blake Wesley.
Last year’s Kentucky-Indiana series was canceled for only the third time since 1940, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sportscenter, which hosted the series for several years in the early 2000s, will have a limited capacity of 1,350 fans.
On Saturday, the series shifts to Indiana, with games at 4 p.m. (girls) and 6 p.m.(boys) at the Southport High School Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.