Rockcastle’s Hammond a rare major-college signee

The news this week that Rockcastle County forward Sara Hammond has committed to Louisville got me thinking about just how rare it is for a 12th Region basketball player to land a scholarship at the highest levels of college basketball.

Hammond is a rare talent, of course, good enough to have dinner at Geno Auriemma’s home during a recruiting visit to Connecticut before telling Louisville coach Jeff Walz on Sunday that she would sign with the Cardinals. She is ranked as one of the nation’s top 15 players in the class of 2011 and is one of the highest-ranked recruits Louisville has ever landed.

It has been a while since a 12th Region player — boy or girl — signed to play basketball at a “major” college, not just any Division I school, but one from one of the “big six” conferences. How long? I’m not exactly sure, but I’ll take a swing at it.

My best recollection and research says the last one was 1997 Boyle County graduate Leigh Strahinic, who accepted a scholarship offer from Vanderbilt. Injuries kept Strahinic from reaching her potential in college, but she did get a scholarship from one of the best schools in the South, and that ain’t hay.

The last boy I can remember would be Shannon Fraley of Pulaski County, who went on to play for Louisville after graduating from high school in 1986. (An asterisk: Ty Proffitt of South Laurel went to Notre Dame in 2007 — he later transferred to Morehead State — but South Laurel moved from the 12th Region to the 13th before his junior year in high school.)

Am I missing someone? Probably. Enlighten me if you can.

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