By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Outlook optimistic for WCHS basketball
Eli Speaking 10-26.jpg
Senior Pioneer basketball player Eli Kuykendall spoke at the District 6 Media Day in Manchester on Tuesday. Kuykendall said he wants to model himself after C.J. Taylor who was a good leader last season. - photo by Brad Durham

The Region 3, District 6 Media Day was hosted by Thunder Radio in Manchester at Prater’s BBQ on Tuesday. There are four teams in the district, Warren County, Coffee County, Franklin County and Shelbyville. Because there are only four teams in the district, all four teams are assured a playoff berth in the region tournament against teams to the east in District 5. The introductions were not only for new teams in the district, but several teams have new coaches.

There were two polls conducted at the press conference. One was a coaches poll and the other was a media poll. 




Coffee County girls team is coached by Joe Pat Cope, and Warren County is very familiar with coach Cope and his team. They played each other twice last year. The Lady Red Raiders lost last year’s senior, Bella Vinson, who signed with David Lipscomb. Vinson’s younger sister, Oliva Vinson is a freshman and will be playing on the varsity. 

Coach Cope, “I thought the Lady Pioneers were much improved last year. They get after you on defense, and I think they will be the most improved team in the new district. We have to continue to do what we do, and it will be a different year without Bella. It is going to be tough to tell how the district ends up. We are probably the favorite to win the district, and Warren County is right there. Shelbyville and Franklin County are rebuilding, and it will be interesting to see how it ends up.”

The boys have a new coach, Andrew Taylor who also happens to be the girls volleyball coach. Coach Taylor will have five seniors on the team. Several basketball players on the football team are headed to the playoffs. Taylor is looking to install his philosophy and in his words, “keep improving.”


The Rebelettes are coached by Amber Gilliam, who lost only one senior from last year’s team. Warren County played Franklin County twice last year, so the Lady Pioneers are also familiar with this team. Gilliam played at Franklin County in high school, and Shelbyville’s new girls’ basketball coach, Kyle Turnham was coaching the boys’ team when she was a student. There are several connections between coaches in the new district.

Franklin County’s girls are a team that is rebuilding during Gilliam’s third year as head coach, and Gilliam has been building the program from the ground up. She has a lot of young kids who turned out for summer camp and are participating in basketball at her feeder schools. Warren County plays North and South middle schools in Franklin County, which is another way that the Warren County players are familiar with Franklin County players.

The Franklin County boys have a new boss, who in some ways is the same as the old boss. Zach Holt is the new coach, and he spent last year under the previous coach as an assistant. The former head coach was Zach Holt’s father, Mike Holt who sadly passed away in August earlier this year. His son, Zach was formerly an assistant coach at Motlow, and Zach Holt was hired as head coach this past summer.

Zach Holt promised to do things differently than his late father. Holt said that he was not “old school” like his father, and that the team will be moving the ball around more, giving the players more freedom. Zach Holt wants his team to run and shoot threes. Holt did not have time to scrimmage other teams this summer, and like all coaches, he is ready to hit the practice floor on November 1.


The Eaglettes have a new coach, Kyle Turnham, who is a veteran coach who last yearcoached at Central Magnet in Murfreesboro. Turnham has also coached at Blackman and Riverdale. Turnham is a personal friend of Rick Insell who led Shelbyville to multiple state championships. Insell is now the head coach of the MTSU Lady Raiders basketball team, where Turnham’s wife is a Senior Associate Athletic Director. 

There have been many head coaches since Rick Insell left for MTSU, and Turnham is intent on changing the culture and reversing the downward spiral the Shelbyville girls’ basketball team has experienced. Turnham has his work cut out for him, and he said, “I don’t have to win a game, but we are going to change the way the girls have played.” The girls from the team who spoke said that are excited about the change Turnham is bringing to the team, and that they like him.

The Shelbyville boys team also has a new coach, Kody Howard. Howard spent last year as an assistant coach at Dodge City Junior College. Howard is from west Tennessee and coached at Lake County when Shelbyville’s football coach, Josh Puckett was coaching there.

Howard vowed to run a more wide-open offense at Shelbyville than the team ran last season. He has five seniors and five sophomores on the team. Howard said, “Four of our five sophomores are potential starters. I think we are 12-deep, and a lot of players will be getting playing time.”


Lady Pioneer coach Anthony Lippe brought two Lady Pioneers with him, senior Jaden Smartt and junior Mia Hobbs. Lippe announced a new assistant, Gina Holt, the wife of assistant J.W. Holt. Gina Holt is a former Lady Pioneer player and she played in college at Tennessee Wesleyan University.

Lippe outlined the goals the girls on the team developed over the summer. The goals were to have a winning season, to win 20 games, to win the district, and to have a high free throw percentage. Lippe said, “You cannot win girls basketball games without making layups and making free throws. Last year we shot 55% from the free throw line, and we want to improve on that this season.”

Afterwards, Jaden Smartt responded to how being at Media Day inspired her for the upcoming season. Jaden Smartt said, “It makes me really excited. I am in a basketball mood and ready to go.” Mia Hobbs said, “I am ready to get into it.” 

Jaden Smartt is going to be playing the 5 position, and she will be the post player around the basket. Jaden Smartt had a test in the next period, and was ready to get back to school. Mia Hobbs said she missed only easy classes to attend Media Day.

Chris Sullens, the Pioneer head coach, brought senior Eli Kuykendall and junior Kaden Rutledge to the press conference. Sullens stated that the teams are straightforward. Sullens said, “We want to win the district, then make it to the region final, and then to the substate and see what happens from there. Those are our goals every year. We will be starting a sophomore at point guard.” Sullens stressed that he will be continuing the culture that has been started at Warren County in his program.

Kaden Rutledge said, “Playing football is a different animal. My dad and brother have been working with me all summer, and I am going to take what I have learned into the basketball season. Basketball is my first love.”

Eli Kuykendall said, “I want to do what the guys before me did. C.J. Taylor was a good role model, and I want to be like him. I want to go back to work.”

Southern Standard on Sports was at Media Day and the new video show features interviews with both Warren County head coaches and remarks from the Lady Pioneer players Jaden Smartt and Mia Hobbs, as well as Pioneer players Kaden Rutledge and Eli Kuykendall. An interview with Coffee County girls coach Joe Pat Cope is also featured in the show.

Southern Standard on Sports is free and available by downloading the Southern Standard app and going to the Standard’s website,