Blair Green (pictured) is following her mother’s footsteps to Lexington.
That’s where the Harlan County High School basketball star will be playing next season as she’ll be taking the hardwood floor as a freshman for coach Matthew Mitchell’s Kentucky Wildcats. Just like her current Harlan County girls’ head coach and mother, Debbie Hoskins Green, who played for UK women’s team – then called the Lady Kats – as a freshman during the 1987-88 campaign.
Asked about Blair following her to UK, her mom had this to say.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of Blair for choosing University of Kentucky,” said Green last week. “During her unofficial visit at Kentucky and watching her interact with the coaches and players, there was just a comfortable genuine connection between them all and her true personality really shined through.
“I think during that time she just really knew Kentucky was the place for her. Her dad (Elgie Green who currently serves as girls’ assistant coach at Harlan County) and I are big believers in Coach Mitchell. We know he will help Blair grow into the best player she can be and also the best person she can be which is really just as important to us. She will also wear No. 5 that I wore while I was there. It’s just going to be a really special time for us and I really can’t even put it into words.”
A leading candidate for Kentucky’s Miss Basketball honors this winter, Blair Green – the 6-1 senior who is scheduled to sign with Kentucky officially next week (Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.) at a ceremony at the high school -- was highly recruited by many major schools, including UCLA, Louisville and Tennessee, but she decided to stay close to home.
“Kentucky had always been one of my top three choices, but what made me commit to them was really the connection that I had made with Coach Mitchell,” said Green, an All-State performer and one of the country’s top players. “I could tell that he was really genuine and not just telling me things that I wanted to hear. When he offered me, my parents were with me and he just talked about how he loved my game and that he really wanted the opportunity to coach me. He and his coaching staff have seen me play for several years. They had seen me play great against the best in the nation and they had seen me play when I didn’t play so great.
“But they were always the same to me no matter how great or bad I played, because when you’re playing in Nike EYBL league you will get exposed, everyone does. It has the best high school players in the country. It’s not like (you’re) coming to watch a high school game.
“So, I really felt like they know my game and all parts of it what’s great and what I need to improve on. The unofficial visit really just confirmed my feeling and I just knew that I was supposed to play for Kentucky and represent my state. When I’m there, I just feel at home and I don’t want to leave.”
It’s no surprise that Green is friends with UK junior standout Maci Morris and Kentucky’s 2018-19 roster will feature two players – a freshman and a senior -- who grew up in the same rural county. And that doesn’t happen very often in many programs other than the players who are from the same large city.
Before coming to Kentucky, Morris starred at Bell County High School. And Green grew up in Middlesboro in Bell County where she was a seventh-grade starter for Middlesboro High School. Her parents also coached at MHS.
“Our moms (Debbie Green and Patti Morris) are the closest of friends and have been since kindergarten,” said Blair. “They grew up together, were teammates at Harlan (High School) and goodness it seems like they are always on the phone together or texting with one another.
“When Maci’s dad (Lewis Morris) moved to Bell County to coach the boys’ basketball team (many years ago), our moms were connected once again, and Maci and I became close friends. She has always been a big sister to me and even though we played against each other, we were each other’s biggest supporter.
“We both have been through so many similar struggles with trying to reach the same goals. I feel very blessed to have her as one of my closest friends that I can count on and trust. I’m so thankful I will have her with me my freshman year and we will finally get to play together. Our work ethic and personalities are a lot alike.”
Debbie Green – who after one year at UK transferred to Lincoln Memorial University where she remains as the school’s all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball with 1,907 points in 96 games -- says her daughter is definitely more prepared for college than she was years ago.
“Blair is definitely more ready and mature than I was at the same age,” she said. “We have taught Blair from a very young age, once we knew that she had the ability to play at an elite level, that if she wanted to play for a Top 25 program she would have to have a special commitment and work ethic.
“We also took her out of her comfort zone starting in sixth grade where she played on Elite travel teams (in AAU) with girls who were also very talented, and their goals were the same as hers. She had to build relationships with new players, coaches, sacrifice her time with friends and social events, and manage her travel and workout schedule.
“She is also very involved with school clubs, volunteers at the Boys and Girls club eight hours a month and will have 18 hours of college credit hours (from dual-credit programs via Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College and UPike) going to University of Kentucky. She knows she’s ready to move on and feels confident in challenges that may come her way. But nothing can really prepare you for playing in the SEC until you are there.”
At Harlan County High, Blair recently was named football homecoming queen and was voted Miss Harlan County by her peers.
Her friendly personality certainly didn’t hurt.
“It was an honor to be crowned homecoming queen and also voted Miss Harlan County by my peers,” said a pleased Blair. “I always hope I have a smile on my face and I acknowledge everyone I come in contact with.
“Over the last four years I hope my classmates have seen that I have always tried to be a positive influence, and someone others can look up to and I care for them all. I love Harlan County High School and I’m proud to be from Harlan County.”
When Blair’s basketball season begins on November 27, she and her Lady Black Bears teammates will be hosting her former team, Middlesboro High.
As mentioned previously, she first saw varsity action as a Middlesboro Lady Jacket when she was in seventh and eighth grade, averaging double figures in scoring both times. And her father was the head coach.
Blair is coming off a remarkable 2016-17 campaign when she averaged 23.1 points and 7.2 rebounds as Harlan County dropped to rival Harlan in the 13th Region finals in Corbin. The Lady Black Bears finished the year with a 28-3 mark and they are a top contender for a trip to the state tournament this season. In addition to Blair, Harlan County has senior Kaylea Gross, a third-team All-State performer.
Even against double- and triple-teams, Blair somehow has found ways to overcome them.
“I think my versatility, ability to move without the ball and court vision is something that I always try to use to my advantage and it has really helped me overcome double and triple teams,” she said. “It can be frustrating but it’s also something that I have gotten used to. I always just try to play through it and play my game.
“There is always something I can do for my team besides score, it shouldn’t affect my hustle, rebounding or ability to make the open pass. I hope that coaches are still able to see and feel my presence on the floor and know that I always give 100 percent and try to make everyone around me better.”
On being a candidate for Miss Basketball in Kentucky, Green added, “It’s an honor to be a top candidate for 2018 Miss Basketball, some of my best friends and AAU teammates are also in the running and they are all very deserving players. It’s a very talented class.”
When next fall rolls around, it’s sure going to be fun to watch a couple of standouts – Morris and Green -- from the southeast Kentucky mountains play on a major stage called the SEC, arguably the nation’s toughest conference in women’s basketball.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.
UK Photos submitted
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught