After leading Harlan to a 22-4 record and the top spot in the 13th Region rankings all season, Derrick Akal was named the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches coach of the year for the 13th Region last week.
“I’m thankful and appreciate being recognized amongst my peers, but I understand that it’s not possible without the players who play and have played for me,” said Akal, who is in his sixth season with the Lady Dragons and has compiled a 117-66 record
Harlan will open play in the 52nd District Tournament on Monday at Harlan County High School as the No. 1 seed and will play Middlesboro at 6 p.m. The Lady Dragons have posted a 12-2 record against 13th Region, but both of those losses were to 52nd District teams, Bell County and Harlan County, in the WYMT Classic in early January.
“Going in to the district tournament I see it as a new season. I’ve been a part of teams and coached teams who had high expectations and those who didn’t have much expectation and I’ve seen both win and lose,” Akal said. “So for us, it’s about preparation and respecting the process one game at a time.”
Akal is a 1984 graduate of Cumberland High School where he was the point guard for Ralph Roberts’ team and helped lead the Redskins to the 52nd District title as a senior. Akal then went on to play at Tennessee Wesleyan
When he returned to Harlan County in the early 2000s, he served as an assistant boys coach at his alma mater, then moved on to Harlan County High School as an assistant before taking the job as the Harlan girls coach in 2010. The Lady Dragons have finished second in both the district and regional tournaments the past two years and have made three straight trips to the state All “A” Classic and five in six years.
North Laurel’s Kayla Bruner was named the KABC Player of the Year, which goes to the region’s top senior.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134