Season of excellence for Cornett

By Matt Hill

Star Staff
   MOUNTAIN CITY -- Johnson County basketball player Matt Cornett has a high grade-point average, so he's obviously good with numbers.
   This past basketball season, he was good at putting up numbers.
   Cornett led the Watauga Conference in scoring, as he averaged 23 points-per-game for head coach Austin Atwood in 2001-2002.
   It was an unexpected season for Cornett. Everybody knew he had the potential, but not many people expected him to be so explosive.
   It didn't take long for people to figure out that he was the real deal.
   Cornett scored 33 points against Greeneville in a tip-off tournament at Mountain City. A few weeks later he scored 30 points at Unaka, and hit two free-throws at the end of the game to lead the Longhorns to a dethronement of the Rangers.
   Cornett definitely started out great, but it was a cold night in Mountain City on Dec. 8 that really opened the eyes of many basketball fans.
   Johnson County lost to Sullivan Central that night, but Cornett scored an incredible 43 points against the Cougars, which was the most points scored by anybody in The STAR's coverage area this season.
   Cornett didn't score in the thirties every night, but there weren't too many teams that shut him down.
   Cornett averaged 12 points per-game last year, so his average skyrocketed from a year ago.
   After being a role player last year, Cornett was counted on to be a leader in 2001-2002. He accepted the challenge, and become one of the region's top players.
   Cornett was facing a move from guard to forward this season. The Longhorns lacked size, so that forced the 6-1 Cornett to switch positions.
   The move probably benefited him, as his scoring average raced up during the year.
   Cornett didn't back down from anybody. Going up against Conference and Region champion Elizabethton, Cornett averaged 27.5 points per-game in the Longhorns two meetings with the Cyclones.
   The numbers would show that Cornett is one of the region's top players, but not everybody seemed to give him the respect he deserves.
   An All-Upper East Tennessee Team recently came out, and Cornett's name was not on the list as a first or second team selection.
   I did some research, and I found out that he had a higher scoring average than all but two players on the team.
   But I can tell you after dealing with Cornett in golf, track and now basketball, his stats and his accolades are the least of his worries. Cornett is a competitor, and he wants to win.
   The Longhorns did struggle this season, but brighter days are ahead. Cornett will be back, along with Tommy Short and sophomore point guard Judd Shoun.
   If Cornett has as big of a year next season as he did in this campaign, look for colleges to find their way to Mountain City to watch him.
   It should be an interesting season in Mountain City, as 2003 should be the year of Matt Cornett in the Watauga Conference.
   Just like 2002 was.