The Walkthrough: The talent on the Hill deserves your attention

Evan Heichelbech is the sports editor for the College Heights Herald during Fall 2017.

Evan Heichelbech

To say that WKU has good athletes is an understatement. It’s an understatement because for a relatively new Division 1 athletics program, WKU has been able to draw higher caliber athletes than most might expect.

Names like Courtney Lee and George Fant will resonate with WKU fans for a long time. And while both Lee and Fant had considerable impacts on the court during their athletic careers at WKU, there are a handful of characters on campus in 2017 that will go down as some of the most memorable athletes in their time wearing the red and white.

Athletic Director Todd Stewart hired Michelle Clark-Heard five years ago, giving her the reigns to revitalize a historically successful women’s basketball program that had lost its appeal. What has she done in those five years? Well there’s the five 20-win seasons, two conference championships, two NCAA Tournament appearances and two WNIT appearances. Oh, and Clark-Heard coached two of the program’s 38 1,000-point scorers. Other than all that, there’s really nothing to talk about.

Kendall Noble and Micah Jones – the two guards responsible for over 2,000 points in their careers and a lion’s share of the Lady Tops on-court success – have been at Clark-Heard’s disposal for the entirety of her tenure at WKU.

Clark-Heard is quick to compliment her two veteran guards, calling it “bittersweet” that she won’t enter next season with the two most familiar faces to the wildly successful program she has established.

Noble is very much in the conversation to be considered one of the best to ever don a Lady Topper uniform. The redshirt senior is in contention for her second consecutive Conference USA Player of the Year award and owns the only two triple doubles in program history. Triple Noble, as I like to call her, is undoubtedly worthy of a spot on Lady Topper Mount Rushmore.

For as many highs as the women’s team is enjoying, the other historic basketball program on the Hill is having a year full of quite the opposite. First-year Head Coach Rick Stansbury’s squad has slipped to 13-16 on the season, but even as the Tops are trending further downward with each game, their most productive player is excelling at a meteoric rate.

In nine games since Jan. 26, junior forward Justin Johnson has totaled 146 points and 102 rebounds. His averages of 16.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game are Fant-like in nature, and he’s doing it all on an injured knee.

Justin Johnson will not go down as a WKU legend. He likely won’t crack the top ten in any major statistical categories. But, for me at least, the Hazard native will be remembered for the high motor and pure effort he plays with every time he steps on a basketball court in a Hilltopper uniform.

As hard as it can be to watch this WKU team play at times, watch Justin Johnson play while you have the opportunity to.

If you think WKU’s current crop of athletes is falling short of making an impact on a national scale, tune in to the NFL Draft Combine today. WKU will have two major representatives present.

Forrest Lamp and Taywan Taylor will have their first official chance to impress NFL Scouts specifically for the Draft in May. Lamp is widely projected to go in the first two rounds. Taylor is also considered a lock to be selected in one of the seven rounds.

The collection of talent that has converged at WKU at the same time like it has now is rare, and it deserves your appreciation.

Reporter Evan Heichelbech can be reached at 502-415-1817 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @evanheich.