*This is the first of a two-part basketball feature which first appeared in February ’17 Issue of Owensboro Living Magazine.

It’s Basketball season in the Bluegrass! With high school teams preparing for the district tournament, March Madness just around the corner, and the Mavericks chasing their fifth BPL title in April, this is the best time of year for hoops fans in Owensboro.

With that in mind, we decided to share two stories of local basketball legends who added to Owensboro’s rich basketball tradition as players and continue their legacies by staying involved in the game after their years on the court.

Randy Embry and Laurie Townsend Idlett were KHSAA Mr. and Miss basketball while playing at Owensboro High School and Apollo (respectively). They both enjoyed successful college careers and forged relationships on and off the court that impact them today as they continue to live their passions for the game.  

Laurie Townsend Idlett: Love for the Game

Petite, spunky and more than athletically gifted, she has discovered her perfect niche, one that reinforces her love for the game of basketball, which she began playing at the Owensboro YMCA and extended into college.

Laurie Townsend Idlett, Apollo’s stand-out point guard and Miss Kentucky Basketball in 1994, now provides the color commentary for Western Kentucky University’s women’s basketball alongside Barry Williams, who has done the play-by-play for 30 years—including when Laurie played for Western from 1995 to 1998.

One of Laurie’s assistant coaches, Mary Taylor Cowles, became head coach a few seasons back. “They were looking for a color commentator and she and Barry got to talking, and they called me and asked me if I’d be willing to try it out and do it for a season, and I think this is my fifth or sixth year now, and I’m still doing it,” Laurie said. ”I was kind of nervous at first, because I had never talked on the radio. It took some time to get used to it, to get the timing down, to get a routine.”

Sitting courtside in headphones with a mike, Barry and Laurie­ work in tandem for IMG Sports to call and to provide analysis of Western’s home games at E.A. Diddle Arena. “I’ve been around basketball my entire life—doing color commentary was a way for me to get back and be around the game. I mean, I have a front row seat for every game, and the thing that really intrigued me about it was that it was Western, where I had played. I get to be around the game again and watch the players and the coaches, which just kind of fuels my love for the game because I can talk about it and give my two cents, so to speak, alongside Barry . . . I’ve known him forever and when he asked me, I wanted to do it for him, as well, because we have a really good friendship and good rapport. That was an added bonus that I got to sit alongside him,” Laurie said.

Since Barry knows Laurie’s playing history and expertise as a point guard and shooting guard, he frequently asks about experiences she had while on The Hill to compare to what the present players may be experiencing, and incorporates this into their on-the-air dialog. For example, what’s it like when everyone else has gone home for Christmas Break, and it’s just you and the team on campus to play basketball? As a former Lady Topper, Laurie knows firsthand, and can share her experiences and insight. She said that it’s extra special just “being able to think back and reminisce and relate to those same types of experiences I had as a player that I’m getting to watch and comment on now.”

Although Laurie helps coach her 9-year-old twin sons’ recreational basketball team, she says she is not ready for a bigger coaching job.

Doing game analysis involves arriving early for the pre-game and staying for the post-game wrap-up. All in all, each home game involves a 3- to 4-hour time commitment. And there’s homework. She prepares for each game by reviewing the roster, team stats, media releases, season trends, scouting reports, as well as the coaching staff’s offensive and defensive strategies. “It’s a lot of fun; I really enjoy it,” Laurie said. “It allows me to give back to the university that gave me such an awesome experience. I love basketball. It’s fun for me to be able to comment on it and to watch different teams come in to Diddle Arena and play; they play some pretty good competition, like Louisville, Vandy, Indiana—the highest level of competition at Division 1 that you can be part of, to see how it all unfolds.”

Read part two (Randy Embry) here.