You could call them “the Unforgettables.” Or maybe “the Untouchables…”
Those terms have been used to describe various other teams in the past, but they would also most certainly apply to the group of former Williamsburg High School athletes that led the Yellow Jackets to two Class A state championship football games and an appearance in the 2015 Sweet 16 state championship basketball tournament, among other accomplishments.
Skyler Griffith. Michael Rose-Creekmore. Corey Shelton. Eric Poore. Garrett Faulkner. Chase Lowrie. Ethan Wilson. Fred Massey. These are the senior members of the 2014-15 Williamsburg boys basketball team that went 25-5, winning All “A” region, 50th District and 13th Region championships before losing to Doss, 56-50, in the first round of the KHSAA Sweet 16 state tournament at Rupp Arena.
The accomplishments of these players, along with junior teammate Andrew Griffith, will never be forgotten in Williamsburg. It was only two years ago that this team was making their run to the Sweet 16, but in many ways it feels like it has been longer than that. Perhaps it’s because so much has transpired over the last 24 months, both in the lives of these special athletes, and in the community at large.
Two members of the 2014-15 Yellow Jackets are currently playing basketball at the collegiate level. After getting the opportunity to play at Rupp as a junior at Williamsburg, Andrew Griffith transferred to South Laurel High School for his senior year. It was there that he helped the Cardinals basketball team to a 29-7 overall record in 2015-16, including 50th District and 13th Region crowns. The Cards advanced all the way to the semifinals of the Sweet 16 tourney last year before they, ironically, fell to Doss, 70-63.
Griffith signed with Union College initially, but would later transfer and return home to Williamsburg, where he is now a varsity member of the University of the Cumberlands men’s basketball team.
Corey Shelton also signed with Union after his senior season at WHS, but like Griffith, he found himself leaving Barbourville after finding out that being a Bulldog wasn’t the best fit for him either. He now plays at Campbellsville University, where he too is a member of the varsity men’s basketball team.
As luck would have it, the Patriots hosted Campbellsville in a men’s/women’s double-header this past Monday night at the O. Wayne Rollins Center. That meant Griffith and Shelton would definitely be under the same roof at the same time, and most of the other members of the Sweet 16 group were more than happy to make an appearance as well.
Prior to the start of the men’s game Monday (UC won in a thriller, 68-66), seven of the eight senior members of the 2014-15 Williamsburg basketball team graciously agreed to be interviewed. Each of them were given the opportunity to update everyone on what life has been like since their history-making run at WHS, and also to reminisce on their once-in-a-lifetime experiences while wearing Yellow Jackets uniforms.
Corey Shelton: On the switch from Union to Campbellsville – “Union looked out for me, and they gave me a good place to go, but I just went for basketball. I didn’t really think about any of the other reasons for why I should go, and when I got there I found out that I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. I didn’t like how I was living, or the situation that I was in.”
“Coach [Brent] Vernon (Campbellsville), who actually coached us when we were eighth graders and freshmen, had also recruited me. I didn’t end up signing with them, but he still gave me a chance to come play there. I ended up switching schools, and I’ve found that I feel more comfortable where I’m at now. I like playing for coach Vernon, and I really like the campus.”
On returning to Williamsburg to play at UC as a member of an opposing team – “It’s pretty cool, because when we were younger this used to be like professional basketball to us. We used to come here and think that these guys were the best players ever. Football too. We were all huge Cumberlands fans. It’s different to come in here and play against coach [Don] Butcher, and also against Andrew since he’s here now, but it’s cool to be home.”
On his days at Williamsburg – “That was easily the best time of my life so far. It was a great time, and there were a lot of big things happening in the town.”
“It was a great run getting to play with my brothers, the guys that I grew up with my entire life. We just always kind of knew that we were going to make something special happen.”
On the future – “I’m going to hopefully stay in Campbellsville, and continue my playing career there. I’m going to see where that takes me first of all, but then I’m planning on going into sports management. I also have a minor in athletic coaching and business, so if I could become a coach, I think that would probably be my fallback plan.”
Skyler Griffith (signed with University of the Cumberlands for football during senior year at WHS): On life after high school – “The plan was to come down here and play football, but as I was working out I just kind of lost the love for playing. I miss it, of course, but I just wasn’t really into it as much as I once was. At that point, I just thought that it was a better choice for me not to do something that I knew I wasn’t going to be putting 100% effort into.”
“I played JV basketball last year, and I enjoyed it, but that ended up being a similar situation to how I felt playing football.”
“I’ve been helping out with coaching middle school football (at Williamsburg), and right now I’m the head coach of the seventh grade basketball team. I’ve been really getting involved with that, because later on I would like to be a teacher, and also get into coaching full-time. That’s the plan right now. It’s a lot of fun, and I could really see myself doing that in the future.”
On having his brother, Andrew, at UC, playing basketball – “It’s a blast watching him play. Like Corey said, when we used to come watch games at Cumberlands, it was almost like the NBA. It’s really neat to watch him play here now, and I hope that he sticks with it.”
On his days at Williamsburg – “Those were some great, great times. High school was the best time of my life. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. I miss playing with this group of guys. I miss seeing them everyday, but life goes on.”
Eric Poore: On life after high school – “I’m a sophomore at the University of Kentucky. I’m studying political science with a history minor on a pre-law track, so I’ve been busy with that, and I’m also involved with the music program up there. I’m a member of the men’s chorus, so I do a lot of singing.”
“It’s been a good time so far. I’m also a member of the AcoustiKats, which is a men’s a cappella group. They were actually featured on the Sing Off a couple of years ago on NBC. One of the guys who was in that group is actually our coach now, so we’ve been learning a lot of really good things from him, and we’ve been having a really good time together.”
On singing the National Anthem prior to tipoff of the 13th Region championship game in 2015 – “That was really neat. I’ve been singing since I could talk. All of the athletic ability that I have comes from my dad’s side of the family, but my mom’s side of the family is super-musical. I kind of lucked out and got a little bit of both talents.”
“I had been singing before basketball games probably since freshman year, and our senior year we were actually hosting the region tournament at the Arena. I got lucky, and was able to sing there as well. It was one of the coolest moments of my life to be able to sing the National Anthem before the region championship, and then get to play in the game.”
On having siblings that still participate in athletics at Williamsburg – “I stay pretty busy with my stuff at UK, and where it’s a little farther away I don’t really get to come down as often as I would like to, but I’m really super-proud of my brothers. It’s great to see your younger siblings excel at things. That’s all I could ever hope for them.”
On his days at Williamsburg – “Our goal growing up was always to make it to Rupp. I’ve been fortunate enough to go with my dad to the Sweet 16 just about every year since the seventh grade, and our senior year the goal was to play on that floor. We finally made it, and that was the highlight of my life up to this point. How many people can say that they’ve played at Rupp Arena? That was an awesome experience, and something that I’ll never forget.”
On the future – “Now I’m just looking to finish my undergrad work, and hopefully go to law school somewhere. I’d like to get a law degree, and maybe come back and give back to my community a little bit.”
Garrett Faulkner (signed with University of the Cumberlands for track and cross country during senior year at WHS): On running in college – “It’s been fun. My teammates here have been like my best friends since day one, so that’s been cool. The competition level has been really challenging. It’s definitely been a lot harder, but we get to travel a lot, and getting to see new places has been a lot of fun.”
On his progression since coming to UC – “It’s been challenging. The practices have been a lot harder, but I definitely feel like I’ve improved a lot since high school.”
On his days at Williamsburg – “Hanging out with these guys was probably the best part of it. You won’t remember every game that you played in, but you’ll remember just hanging out in the locker rooms or on bus rides.”
On the future – “Athletically, I just hope to improve over the course of the next two years. Academically, I want to finish my undergrad work, and go to PA school.”
Michael Rose-Creekmore: On life after high school – “After we graduated, I shipped off to basic training in Fort Benning. I went through that, came back, waited for the spring semester to start at Cumberlands and now I’m here majoring in Criminal Justice.”
On his experience in the military – “The hardest part about it was not getting to talk to everybody every day. I only got like two phone calls while I was down there, so I never really knew anything that was going on with everybody else.”
On being back home – “It’s good. I hang out with Skyler every day, and I see Garrett and Ethan occasionally.”
On his time at Williamsburg – “Me and Skyler were just talking the other day about how much we miss it, and how we wish we could go back. Those were the glory days, and the best times of our lives.”
On the future – “I’m hoping to be a case manager at a prison.”
Chase Lowrie: On life after high school – “I chose to go to Eastern Kentucky University, and I chose not to play sports, other than intramurals, which I’m tearing it up at right now (Editor’s note: The rest of the group couldn’t help but laugh out loud at this comment). I’ve actually had a pretty successful career in sports after high school. My teams have won the basketball and football intramural championships. We didn’t do too well at dodge ball, but I was really good myself.”
“School is going well also. I am a biology major, pre-med. I hope to go to med school one day, if I can get accepted.”
On his days at Williamsburg – “It was a good ride. Junior year we started to realize that we could do something special, and then our senior year was a blast.”
“We gave it our best shot in the football state championship, and then in basketball season we won the All ‘A’ region. That was awesome. Then we got to go to Rupp, which is something that I always dreamed about.”
“Looking back on it, those were some of the best times of my life, but they were also some of the hardest times in my life. It was just great being together with these guys all the time. That’s what made it special.”
Ethan Wilson (signed with Union College for football during senior year at WHS): On life after high school – “Kind of like Corey said, I went to Union and I just didn’t really feel at home there. I tried my hand at it, but I didn’t really like it.”
“I started talking to coach [Matt] Rhymer, and I decided to come to UC to play football. When I was going through camp I tore my labrum and had to have surgery, so I had to miss out on this past season.”
On life at UC – “I’m majoring in exercise-sports science, with a minor in business. The atmosphere here has been awesome, especially seeing all of these people that you know. The teachers are great, and classes are going great.”
On his time at Williamsburg – “When I moved there my sophomore year I was kind of nervous, because by that time everyone kind of already has their close-knit groups that they hang out in. But when I got there everybody just kind of took me in like I had been there since I was little. It was really awesome.”
On the future – “Next semester I am transferring to the University of Tennessee. I have a walk-on tryout there, and I’m going to try my hand at it. You always dream of it, and after getting hurt I didn’t want to end my college career not knowing if I could do something at the next level. I just want to give this a try, and see how it goes.”
Fred Massey, who came to Williamsburg from Harlan County, played football and basketball for the Yellow Jackets during his senior year of high school. He signed with Union College to play football, but is no longer with the team.
He was not present at Monday’s reunion. He still resides in the area, however, and his Facebook page says that he works in contracting.