Hornets’ Sparks to pull double duty with Alice Lloyd College

Published 1:01 am Wednesday, May 26, 2010

COAL GROVE — Wayne Sparks didn’t have to choose.

The Coal Grove Hornets senior has been an outstanding player in basketball and baseball. So when it came time to choose a college career, Alice Lloyd College made it easy for Sparks.

They’re letting him play both sports.

Sparks signed a letter-of-intent Tuesday to play baseball and basketball for the Eagles.

“It’ll be a great experience. Baseball hit me first, but (Hornets’) coach (Randy Ward) showed me how much fun basketball could be. I’m very excited to play both,” said Sparks.

Sparks’ big numbers in baseball attracted the Eagles to their program.

Sparks batted .493 with three home runs as he led the team in almost every offensive category including fewest times struck out. On the mound Sparks was 6-3 with 89 strikeouts, 16 walks and a 1.40 earned run average.

“Wayne has an excellent attitude,” said Hornets’ head baseball coach Dean Mader.

“I coached Wayne in football, basketball and baseball and he was the first one there and the last one to leave. He’s one of the hardest working kids I’ve coached and he’s good in the classroom.”

Eagles’ baseball coach Scott Cornett not only thinks Sparks can have an immediate impact, but he sees a great deal of improvement in his game in the near future.

“I see him as a starting pitcher. He has a live arm and his ball has a lot of movement,” said Cornett.

“He’s just 17 years old. He can put on 10 to 15 pounds and I think he has a chance to throw the ball in the low 90s, maybe this year. He’s got a nice curveball and loads and loads of potential.”

Sparks is confident he can play at the college level.

“You can’t be scared. I’ve faced some of the best kinds at the high school level. There will be better athletes in college, but with time I’ll mature and get better and I’ll compete,” said Sparks.

Ward remembers when he took over the program three years ago and Sparks was just a sophomore. He knew he had something special in Sparks who was special mention on the Associated Press Div. III all-district team.

“When I came to Coal Grove they hadn’t won a game the year before. Three years later we were 15-7. For three years that’s the quickest turnaround you can expect and Wayne was a big part of it. He was there the first day,” said Ward.

“It’s nice to see a kid who helped the program right itself get some reward for it.”

Eagles’ basketball coach J.R. Hammond has played against and coached against Hornets’ head coach Randy Ward when he was at Greenup County (Ky.) High School, so Hammond was aware of the teachings Sparks had experienced.

“I know coach Ward does a great job. I know his players will play defense superbly,” said Hammond.

“(Wayne) has a great shooting percentage from the floor. With his size and athleticism, we think he will turn into a great win player where he can use his shooting and athleticism.”

Sparks said the Alice Lloyd coaches as well as the campus were the biggest thing that drew him to the school.

“The campus is beautiful and the coaches I’ve met are great. I can’t wait to play for them, but I’m there first to get an education,” Sparks said.

Sparks plans to major in physical therapy.