Four men who played key roles on the only Logan County boys basketball teams to make it to the state tournament headline the second class of inductees into the Logan County Cougars Foundation Athletic Hall of Fame. Three of those four became highly successful coaches. They join two other coaches with sparkling credentials and three other athletes who knew great success playing for teams from the Land of Logan in this special group.
The Hall of Fame Class of 2016:
Earle Shelton, Lewisburg Class of 1938
Wallace ‘Buck’ Sydnor, Olmstead Class of 1939
Jimmie Nuckols, Auburn Class of 1951
Diana Grinter Hunter, Olmstead Class of 1979
Stacey Mason, Logan County High Class of 1984
Regina Robey, Logan County High Class of 1984
Lora Spencer, Logan County High Class of 1986
Howard Gorrell, Auburn Coach 1964-71, first LCHS principal
Gerald Sinclair, Coach of Adairville, Auburn, Chandlers, and Logan County high schools
They will be inducted into the Hall of Fame between games of the district basketball doubleheader with Todd Central on Friday, Jan. 8.
Here’s a closer look at the inductees, all of whom are college graduates:
The late Earle Shelton led Lewisburg to Logan County’s first-ever non-classified regional basketball championship in 1938. He was all-region, all-district four years, and all-county twice. He was the Rangers’ top scorer as a freshman, leading the Coach Billy Haynes’ Rangers to the district finals. Shelton became a key player for Coach Ed Diddle’s Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, which were among the nation’s best collegiate teams. He started in the NIT finals at Madison Square Garden when it was the nation’s major tournament—not the NCAA.
Shelton returned home to coach Lewisburg, beginning in 1946-47. His 1949 team made it to the regional finals. After they lost to Glasgow, it was determined that several players had mumps. Three years later, he was the Olmstead coach and his team won the district. His 1955 Olmstead team won the district, beating his alma mater in the finals. His 1955-56 team won the county tournament in December. He coached his 1957 team to the district championship, upsetting one of Lewisburg’s best teams ever along the way before winning over Russellville in the finals. He was coaching OHS when its new $125,000 gym opened and the school was able to host the district instead of Russellville being the host. He ended 17 years coaching in the county after the 1963 season.
Buck Sydnor led Coach Basil Smith’s Olmstead Ramblers to the regional championship and the state quarterfinals in 1939. From there, he played four years for Coach Diddle at Western. He was All Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
Team, All South Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Team and helped lead the Hilltoppers to two appearances in the National Invitational Tournament, including the Championship Game in 1942. He was the leading scorer on the 1942 team. After that he played on the All Star Service Team-Pacific during and after World War II, and played for the Chicago Stags of the NBA.
As a coach, he was the bench boss for Daviess County High School from 1949-62. His teams had a record of 248-113 and went to the state tournament in 1952, 1957 and 1958. The ‘58 team finished as state runner up. Sydnor was named the 1958 Kentucky High School Coach of Year. He was inducted to the Daviess County High School Hall of Fame in 2003.
After coaching both Hopkinsville and Bowling Green High for one season each, he became assistant coach at Western Kentucky University from 1964 to 1971 under Coach Johnny Oldham. The ’71 team reached the NCAA Final Four In 1996 he was elected to the Western Kentucky University Hall of Fame.
The late Jimmie Nuckols played varsity ball for Auburn High School from 1947-1951. He was credited with being the first in the area to shoot the jump shot. He averaged 23 points a game. In his senior year, Coach Garland ‘Red’ Garrison’s team won the district, the regional, and went to the state tournament in Lexington. They won their first game at Memorial Coliseum, but lost the second game. He made all district, all regional, and all state.
Nuckols was offered a scholarship to Western by Coach Diddle, but turned it down. He chose to go to Lindsey Wilson College. While there he was named Mr. Basketball and a Kentucky Colonel. Lindsey Wilson was a two-year college then. He got a full scholarship to Pfeiffer College in North Carolina. He and three other ballplayers from Lindsey Wilson went to Pfeiffer where they were called the “Blueboys” from Kentucky. He was the leading scorer his two years at Pfeiffer and was given the title “Jumpshot Nuckols” from fans and teammates. He was known as Mr. Basketball in the conference and received many accolades during his play there.
Stacey Mason had been starting for Coach Bill Davis at Adairville High School before consolidation sent him to LCHS for his junior and senior years. With All-State center Fred Tisdale (a charter member of this Hall of Fame) injured at the start of the season, Mason played the post on the first Cougar team. He and guard Tim Viers were the unquestioned leaders of the team. When Tisdale was able to play again, Mason moved into his shadows but consistently added double-doubles in scoring and rebounding.
Mason helped the 1984 team reach the finals of the King of the Bluegrass Tournament and to berths in the Louisville Invitational Tournament and the Ashland Invitational. The highlights were winning the regional and state tournaments. He was named to the All-State Tournament team as the Cougars finished 37-3.
Mason then played for Trevecca Nazarene College in Nashville and led that school to its first-ever appearance in the NAIA national tournament. He has remained a loyal supporter of Cougar athletics while working for many years at Logan Aluminum.
Diana Grinter Hester was an outstanding basketball player and track star at Olmstead High School. She bridged the gap among the Flowers descendants—cousins Gracie
Mason and Nancy Jones when girls basketball returned to the Land of Logan and Lillie Mason (another charter Hall of Famer) and Littie Jones. The Ramblerettes never lost a district game while she was playing for coaches Denny Milam and Lugene Rogers. She was named All District five straight seasons, beginning as an eighth grader. Grinter also won the state 110-yard hurdles as a junior in the 1978 track meet.
She was recruited to play basketball by Kentucky Wesleyan College, and she added softball her freshman year. Her last two years at WKC she played four sports—adding volleyball and tennis, making her a 12-letter winner.
As an adult, she has been a teacher, counselor and coach. During 29 years as an educator in Owensboro, she has coached girls basketball, volleyball, boys and girls tennis, and boys and girls track. After she retired from public school teaching and coaching this year, she has been named girls tennis coach at Kentucky Wesleyan.
Coach Hester and her husband, James Ray Hunter, have three children, not quite as big a household as the one she grew up in at Olmstead with 13 siblings.
Regina Robey Lanier grew up in Adairville but spent her early high school years in Germany where her step-father, William Wilson Jr., was stationed with the U.S. Army. They returned home in June 1983, and she immediately made a huge impact on Coach Jane Burton’s Lady Cougar track team. At the Barren River Conference track meet in May 1984, she finished first in the 100, second in the long jump, and first and third in relay events along with Theresa Flowers, Melissa Martin, Tracy Mason and Janice Sydnor. A month later, she won state championships in the 100 meter dash and (with the others) the 400 meter relay.
Mary McIntosh Robey’s bringing her family back to Adairville proved to be a plus for LCHS. Regina’s late brother, Patrick Robey, was a key player for Logan’s 1993 regional runner-up basketball team, and another, De Wilson, was quarterback of Logan’s most successful football team in 1998.
Robey-Lanier lives in Madison, Tenn. She holds three associate degrees, has worked for a title guaranty company for over 11 years, and is a legal assistant. She has four children.
Lora Spencer was a dominant center for Coach Jim Thompson’s early Lady Cougar teams. She was the centerpiece of Logan’s most talented front line ever flanked by Tracy Mason and Cindy Huffines. All three of them played NCAA Division I basketball. Spencer was named Honorable Mention All-American by USA Today.
Spencer holds the distinction of being the only athlete from Logan County or Russellville to play basketball for the University of Kentucky. More than that, she became a starter for the Lady Cats.
From a large family (one of her brothers, Hall of Famer Joseph Jefferson, became a starter for Coach Tony Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts), she learned to fend for herself. She often kept a change of clothes at school in librarian Gwyneth McKinney’s office, ready for whatever challenges she would encounter after practice that day. That experience has helped her succeed in life.
After a career as a professional fashion model, including living in France, she returned to college and is now a lawyer. Not long ago, she sat in on a session of the U.S. Supreme Court. She has also recently had another life-changing experience, getting married this year.
Gerald Sinclair was head coach of more Logan County schools than anyone else. He coached Adairville in the late sixties, Auburn from 1972-76, and then Chandlers until consolidation in 1982. Then he was named the first head coach of the Logan County Cougars.
Despite tremendous pressure, Sinclair coached the Cougars to the 1984 state championship. Their 37 wins were the most in state history with the only three losses coming in the state’s most prestigious invitational tournaments, the King of the Bluegrass, the LIT and the Ashland Invitational. When the Cougars fell in overtime to Coach Guy Strong’s Clark County team in the King of the Bluegrass finals, Courier-Journal prep sports specialist Bob White said, “Nobody remembers who wins the King of the Bluegrass. They remember who won the state tournament.”
The state champions were from Logan County! They were and still are the youngest school ever to win the Sweet Sixteen.
Sinclair was named Kentucky Coach of the Year, in a vote which was taken before the postseason began.
One of two original guidance counselors at LCHS along with JoAnn Schweers, Sinclair coached the Cougars for four seasons.
He died this year in Clarksville where he and his wife Joyce, also a former LCHS teacher, had retired.
Howard Gorrell was a huge success as basketball coach of Auburn High School. His Tigers won seven straight district championships from 1964-70 and reached the regional finals twice—in 1967 and 1969. No other coach in Logan County history can match that record.
He retired from coaching in 1971, handing over the reins of the Cougars to Gerald Sinclair. Gorrell served as Auburn principal from 1971 until consolidation in 1982. After that he was named the first principal at LCHS and was in that role when the Cougars became state champion. A couple of years later, he left Logan to become superintendent of his native Todd County. Following retirement, he now serves on the Todd County Board of Education.
Along the way he became one of the state’s top basketball referees, often officiating the biggest games in the state, usually with partners John McCarley, Wilson Sears or Mike Stevenson.
Howard Gorrell was a star player for Austin Peay and finished second in the nation in free throw shooting.