McWhorter accepts challenge as Garrard girls coach

Published 3:30 pm Monday, May 13, 2024

Cassandra McWhorter loves a challenge, and she knows she has found one at Garrard County.

McWhorter has been named the new girls basketball coach at Garrard County, where she will try to revive a program that hasn’t won much meaningful hardware since the turn of the century.

The former Lincoln County and Somerset coach takes over a program heavily populated with young players whom she hopes can turn the Lady Lions around.

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“It may take some time, but I know it can happen and I look forward to that opportunity,” McWhorter said. “It’s definitely going to be a different challenge I’ve never had, but I’m looking forward to that. I’m not going to back down from a challenge.”

At her introduction Wednesday in the high school library, McWhorter sat at a table where a dusty championship trophy from 1994 was displayed. That’s the year of Garrard’s only 12th Region title, and athletic director Mark Scenters said that’s something the school would like McWhorter and a generation of players who aren’t even in high school yet to change.

“We have a really unique opportunity here to rebuild and reestablish and start a new era in girls basketball. That’s what we hope to do with the hiring of (McWhorter),” Scenters said.

McWhorter has been one of the most successful coaches in the 12th Region since 2010. She coached for 10 seasons at Lincoln and two at Somerset, compiling a 260-117 record with eight district championships and two regional titles.

She has long been associated with Lincoln, where she played and coached, but she has called Garrard County home for the 18 years she and husband Kenan, a local pastor, have been married.

“We’ve been a part of this community since my husband and I have been married … but never really, truly been a part of it as far as sports and school,” McWhorter said, “so I just look forward to my kids being here, to being in school and being able to go to the square to grab something to eat and see people and speak and let them know that we’re here and we want to be here.”

McWhorter was 222-93 at Lincoln from 2000-10, winning consecutive regional titles in 2012 and ’13. She spent the 2012-22 and ’22-23 seasons at Somerset, where she went 38-24.

She left Somerset last year and joined the Garrard program as an assistant coach under Evan Preston, who resigned last month after two seasons with the Lady Lions.

“Being an assistant just shows you a different view, a different perspective, and it actually made me hungry to coach again,” McWhorter said.

She said her experience in coaching has led her to realize that while the game remains important to her, it is not the only important part of her life – or even her job.

“I think I’ve changed over the years as far as wanting to impact girls,” she said. “And I’ve always wanted to impact girls on and off the floor, but just developing the whole student-athlete is important to me.”

McWhorter will be the ninth coach at Garrard in 22 seasons since Ken Hurt ended a 25-year run as the program’s most successful coach that included 12 district titles and one regional title.

Since Hurt retired in 2003, the Lady Lions haven’t won a district championship – their last was in 2000 – and have reached the regional tournament only five times.

“I can remember Coach Hurt being here and the success they had … and we have a lot of former players in the community (and some) parents that are former Lady Lions, and they’re excited to see that go back to what they remember,” McWhorter said.

More recently, the Lady Lions have had 10 wins or fewer in five of the past seven seasons. They were 10-21 in 2023-24, and while there were three players on that squad who will be seniors next season, everyone else on the roster is in middle school this year.

That includes McWhorter’s daughter Keziah, who will be an eighth-grader next season and who will play for her mother for the first time.

“It’s going to be a different aspect for our relationship. I’m not going to treat her any different than any other player in that locker room when we’re … in between the lines, but it is special to think about that … because she’s just grown up in the gym with me,” McWhorter said.

McWhorter said having her daughter on the team is just one more source of motivation for her.

“I’m not going to put my own kid in a program that I don’t think can be successful,” she said.

The audience for McWhorter’s introduction included about 20 current and potential players, and she said she believes interest in girls basketball remains high in the community.

“It’s just getting them interested at an earlier age so we can start building some of those fundamentals at an earlier age,” she said. “And once you start creating that excitement around a program it catches hold, and then each year if you can have a solid four to six or seven kids per grade level, that’s how you can start building that program.”

With the summer season fast approaching, McWhorter is getting right to work. Open gym sessions will begin Monday, and she is already at work on a summer schedule.

“It’s just getting them in the gym as soon as possible, just getting them to where we can start having consistency of being around each other,” she said.

Those are only the first steps on what McWhorter knows will be a long journey.

“It is going to take some time, and I hope the parents can have that patience to see the future and to really rally around these girls and encourage them to build for the future and what is here and what is capable of happening here,” she said.


Cassandra McWhorter speaks Wednesday during her introduction as the new girls basketball