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Like father, like son for Colby duo

12/5/2011

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Kevin Cox would like his son, Luke, to have the experience of playing in a state basketball tournament, much like he did himself in Hays back in the late 1970s.

Getting to travel to a bigger city and seeing how you stack up against other quality teams across the state is the ultimate cap to your season, said Cox, an assistant coach at Colby High School.

That has yet to happen for father and son since they combined forces for the Eagles last year, so they have decided to enjoy the next best thing -- the preseason Hays City Shoot-Out, which celebrated its 29th anniversary this weekend.

Because Colby stays at home to play in its own mid-season tourney in January, and because the Eagles haven't had a state-caliber boys' team in several years, the Hays preseason tournament is the team's only out-of-town tourney.

"We really like this tournament," Cox said last weekend. "Get to see different teams, three days of basketball. And we always like coming to Hays."

Cox has fond memories of Hays, where he attended college at Fort Hays State University and played basketball.

A shooting guard, Cox recorded a solid career for the Tigers and provided one of the most talked about shots in Gross Memorial Coliseum at the time.

As a sophomore in 1979-80, Cox hit a long shot from the right wing with the score tied at 100 and just a few seconds left in the game to beat rival University of Nebraska-Kearney 102-100.

Like a lot of good stories from days gone by, this one has gotten better through the years, and some people even remember Cox's shot as being from half court.

"No, it was only about a 25-footer," he said with a smile. "And we didn't even have the 3-point line then."

Cox followed in his own father's footsteps, taking a job at Colby after college so he could raise his family in western Kansas.

Leonard Cox had retired from the railroad in the mid-'70s and moved his family from California to rural Kansas and settled in Weskan, where he had played high school basketball and town team baseball in the 1940s.

Son Kevin starred on the basketball court for the Coyotes, leading them to the state tourney in 1976.

Now, Grandpa Leonard and Grandma Elsie Cox, who live in Sharon Springs, get to follow the achievements of a third generation.

Folks in Hays got a glimpse of what to expect from Luke Cox in the future during Friday night's consolation game with Hays High.

With his team trailing by 27 points midway through the third quarter, the sophomore guard almost single-handedly led his team to victory, bringing them back to within three points by the final buzzer and finished the game with 24 points. Luke Cox, also a standout baseball player, was named to the all-tournament team.

This year, the Eagles didn't get to see different teams at the shoot-out than those on their regular-season schedule.

Colby will return to Hays on Tuesday to play Hays High, then be back home Thursday to play Thomas More Prep-Marian, the same school the Eagles played in Saturday's seventh-place game of the tournament.

Cox didn't care, saying the Eagles' young team that plays three sophomores regularly welcomes any kind of competition.

"You know they're always going to be very competitive," Cox said of Class 5A Hays High, a larger school than 4A Colby and 3A TMP. "It does us good.

"It's a test," he added. "We just have to set our sights on getting better, and this tournament definitely helps you do that."