On a recent morning David Tapley, Director of the Kentucky Premier girls basketball program, was making the 100-mile drive from his home in Monticello to Lexington’s Rupp Arena to spend the afternoon and evening watching the state girls basketball championships.
Tapley was talking to a writer about his program, which draws players from all over the state and has a storied history on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit. The writer made the mistake of asking for a quick synopsis of players who have come through Premier’s system.
He started by mentioning Crystal Dangerfield, who played at UConn from 2016 through 2020 and was the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year for the Minnesota Lynx in 2020. Tapley then paused because there is no such thing as a quick synopsis when you’re talking about the Premeir program.
“You know what?’’ he said. “The list is too long. How about I just e-mail you something later tonight?’’
Tapley followed through with a list of eight Premier alumni with accomplishments ranging from McDonald’s High School Americans, to college scholarships and where they landed and what they have accomplished in the WNBA.
But Tapley’s list was too brief and didn’t come close to telling the complete Premier story. In the meantime, the writer found a list of prominent Premier alumni on the program’s website. It includes more than 100 players from the last decade that have gone on to play in college with more than a dozen that have gone onto the WNBA.
“We pride ourselves on building around girls that take academics as importantly as they take basketball,’’ Tapley said. “We’ve had a lot of success in the past and we plan on having a lot of success in the future.’’
When you look at the Premier roster for the 2022 spring and summer season, there’s no reason to believe the program won’t match its past success. Tapley has been active as a coach throughout the program’s history, but he’ll focus mostly on the administrative side this year. Co-Director Trent Milby will coach Premier’s Under-17 team and he’ll have a roster that is loaded with potential Power Five and mid-major recruits.
Premier’s Class of 2023 will provide lots of experience and lead the way for this year’s team. But the biggest recruits are actually from the Class of 2025 and they’ll play with the Under-17 team.
Haven Ford, a 5-7 point guard from Morehead, KY., will run the show and she’s ranked No. 518 on All-Star Girls Report’s 2023 recruiting list and Tapley said she’s a likely mid-major recruit, who could draw Power Five interest with a strong spring and summer.
“Haven is a great on-ball defender and that’s her biggest strength,’’ Tapley said. “But she also is a good shooter and she’s getting better in that area.’’
Ford will be joined in the backcourt by 5-10 Kensley Feltner (No. 383 on ASGR’s list), 6-foot Abby Holtman (No. 354) and 5-8 Jakayla Thompson (No. 331).
“Kensley is a good all-around player, who is tough as nails and she’s a double-double machine,’’ Tapley said. “Jakayla is the perfect combo guard because she’s equally good on the point or as a wing. Abby is a prolific shooter. She’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen.’’
Brianna Byars, a 6-foot power forward is ranked No. 322 in ASGR’s 2023 rankings, and Tapley said she can score and rebound equally well. Byars will be joined up front by two highly-ranked players from the class of 2025.
Zakiyah Johnson is a 6-1 small forward from Louisville’s Sacred Heart High School and she is ranked No. 2 in the nation by ASGR. Tapley said Johnson has a strong academic history and is being recruited by all the big-name programs.
“This kid is a pro,’’ Tapley said. “She can be whatever she wants to be.’’
But Johnson isn’t the only highly-touted member of the Class of 2025 on Premier’s roster.
Leah Macy is a 6-foot small forward from Elizabethtown, KY, who plays at Louisville’s Mercy Academy, and is ranked No. 16 in the nation by ASGR.
“I also see Leah being a pro someday,’’ Tapley said. “She’s a great outside shooter and a strong rebounder.’’