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The League

Former Governors Cochran, Ballard construct powerhouse rec offering
Known only as “the Animal,” a player breaks for the basket in the Blount County Men’s Basketball League last Sunday at William Blount. Photos by Brandon Shinn

By Colby Deering
Staff Writer
Blount Press Row

Glory years? Second wind? Not done yet?

League co-founder Micah Ballard, seated, keeps on eye on play last Sunday.

League co-founder Micah Ballard, seated, keeps on eye on play during a game at William Blount High School.

There’s nothing great players like more than some good competition, and you’ll find plenty of it at the Blount County Men’s Basketball League.

Begun three years ago by former players turned assistant coaches, Brad Cochran and Micah Ballard have seen the league grow each spring. Once 10 teams, it’s now 18, complete with a multi-week schedule and playoffs to crown a winner.

Games are played at William Blount High School.

Cochran and Ballard both played and now coach at William Blount, but that doesn’t mean the league is just a bunch of old Governors. Every school in the county is represented, along with a couple of household names from the University of Tennessee and other schools around the state.

Alcoa alumni include former Tornadoes Nick Miller, Tre Tate, Kenny and Darrell Dean, Kentucky alum Kyrus Lanxter and former Tennessee and Florida State standout Brandon Warren.

Maryville also has quite a group in former Rebels Curtis Tate, Aaron Fowler, Dez Horne, John Garrett, Isaac Edmiston, Jordan Damron, Tyler Maples and Ryan Click, who hit the game winning shot at the end of double overtime to win the 2007 state championship game.

The county schools also boast a nice line up, with recent Heritage standouts Andrew Pryor, Hunter Bailey and Eric Dunlap in attendance, along with current Mountaineers Blake Ervin and Keenan Berger.

Ervin, a sophomore rising star, is worth the price of admission alone, and admission to league games is free.

William Blount boasts a strong representation of former Governors Ballard, Cochran, Austin Haworth, Jordan Glasgow and Jonathan Johnson. Current Governors Addison Hatfield, Hunter Pesterfield and Isaiah Hannah also use the league to keep their game sharp.

Sometimes, even William Blount coach Kevin Windle, a one-time, high-scoring big man at Maryville College, gets in on the action.

Warren isn’t the only former Vol in the league. Skylar McBee and his brother, Chase, have a team and former national champion and Canadian football standout Jermaine Copeland has fielded a team.

Ballard said the league came to together in the simplest of ways … word of mouth.

D up, or you'll give up 100 in a heartbeat.

D up, or you’ll give up 100 in a heartbeat.

“ I know a lot of these guys from playing against them back in the day of course” Ballard said, “so one guy knows this guy, who knows another guy, who’s younger cousin plays on the school team right now, who has all his friends, and then, all of the sudden you’ve got yourself a squad.”

Ballard said even he’s surprised at times to see who comes walking in the gym.

“ I used to play AAU against Skylar, and to see him come in the gym because he knows a couple of guys that you know, it really just shows you how small of a world it is,” Ballard said. “You see guys like Brandon Warren, who has scored in Neyland Stadium, and Jermaine Copeland, who has a national title ring and had a career as a professional athlete, it’s a pretty crazy thing that we’ve kind of become accustomed to.

“I’ve even seen guys come in the gym that I went to school with when I was in middle school at Morristown when my dad coached Morristown West”

The guys aren’t a bunch off wash-ups, Ballard said. Multiple games have gone past the century mark in terms of scoring. Injuries aren’t uncommon, and friendships get tossed aside a lot in the heat of battle.

“They come to win,” Ballard said. “They’re all competitors and they don’t want to go home without a W.

“It’s one of those things that doesn’t leave you after that last buzzer sounds. These dudes can still play, too.

“We had a team score 148 today, and they pressed the whole game. We have teams that usually score 90-plus every game. We are still working on our TV deal.”

Games take place on Sundays from 1 to 8 p.m., with this week the last before the playoffs. Players or teams interested in joining the league can contact Cochran or Ballard at 865-274-9111 or 865-806-5750.

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