By John Stepp For The Times-Tribune
LONDON — There aren't many basketball players from Southeastern Kentucky who have accomplished as much Ty Proffitt.
Proffitt, a former All-State guard for the South Laurel Cardinals, experienced the triumph of a KHSAA State Championship in 2005 and a victory of a lifetime when his Morehead State Eagles defeated Louisville in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in 2011.
With that impressive resume, Proffitt returned to his former high school to be honored and presented his No. 13 jersey before the home crowd last Friday. To make the night that much better, Proffitt was greeted at half court by his former South Laurel coach Steve Wright, who led the Cardinals to the state championship in 2005, and now coaches at Pulaski Southwestern.
The relationship between Proffitt and Wright exemplifies the special bond that is created between player and coach. Both were excited to share the moment together.
“He (Wright) has been a huge part of my life. He's been a role model for me and he's helped me, along with my parents, to accomplish what I did in my career. We're going to be friends for life,” said Proffitt. “Tonight is more than just getting my jersey. I had a great high school coach and I'm happy to have played for him, and happy to see him here tonight.”
Wright conveyed the same feeling for his former point guard.
“We have a lot of memories here. We had a run of about eight years here that some people would die for and Ty was a big part of that. We gave a lot of those jerseys back to the players when I was still here but Ty was still playing in college and we couldn't get him his,” said Wright. “Ty was not only a good player but a fine young man. It was a privilege to coach him. He was pretty good, too. He made me look smart a lot of nights, that's for sure.”
Proffitt was brought back on a night in which the Cardinals took on their cross-town rival, the North Laurel Jaguars. Despite the bitter rivalry, having Jaguars coaches Brad Sizemore and Roscoe Denny, along with the South Laurel coaching staff at the game, made the night that much better. Sizemore and Denny were both involved with the Cardinals' program during Proffitt's tenure.
“I love those guys to death. It's hard not to cheer for South because that's who I am, but if people knew how much time Coach Sizemore and Roscoe put into my game, they would understand why I can't just cheer for South," said Proffitt. "Those guys were a big reason I was successful in my career. Those guys have done so much for me, and there is no way I couldn't cheer for them."
Out of all of the accompishments throughout Proffitt's career, perhaps the most rewarding is the 2005 state championship from his South Laurel days.
Proffitt was a junior at the time and helped his team to a 32-4 record during the title run, which included a a 66-65 overtime win over Pleasure Ridge Park in the semi-finals of the state tournament, in what was arguably one of the best games in KHSAA history.
"The state championship was awesome. There have been a few games that compared to that state championship game at the college level, but it seems like, with each passing year, it gets better and better," said Proffitt. "I walk in here and I get to see our state championship banner and I get to see all the guys that I played with and that's a memory we'll remember for the rest our lives."
Wright compared the state championship run to a dream come true.
"Every coach dreams about having a group like that. We had a lot of good teams here but that one obviously reached the pinnacle and allowed us to reach our dreams," said Wright. "They had talent and they worked hard, but the biggest thing was there wasn't anything they didn't believe they could accomplish. They always believed they could win from the time they were in the second grade on, so they weren't real hard to coach."
Proffitt's basketball career has taken him many places. He committed to play for Notre Dame out of high school, before transferring to Morehead State. He's played in the NCAA tournament and even traveled to Ireland for a couple weeks his freshman year of college. But out of all the places he's been and the games he's played, South Laurel will always be his home.
"For 18 or 19 years of my life South Laurel is who I was. To come back and have the guys who molded me as an athlete — Coach Wright, Coach Hammonds — and even the North Laurel staff with Coach Sizemore and Roscoe, it means a lot," said Proffitt. "I'm just happy to have played here. When you get older and you hang it up and are done, you start to appreciate what you did and accomplished. I appreciate my time at South Laurel."
And all of South Laurel appreciates Ty Proffitt.