TOP PHOTO: Given school’s out and it’s the middle of summer, there was an impressive turnout for John Long’s signing with Johnson University.

JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – There they were just like always, Pops and Granny Crutchfield. Over the years, they’ve been there, the games, even some practices, to cheer on and support their grandson John Long. Friday was just another step in the basketball journey they’ve traveled all these years with John from Jacksboro Elementary School to La Follette Middle to Campbell High and soon to Johnson University. John signed scholarship papers with JU on Friday morning on Campbell’s Brown Court.

“One of his first words was ball,” said Granny (Laurie) Crutchfield. “He always liked ball. John was just starting to get around when he’d head out to the backyard and throw a ball to the dog, Xena, our big black Labrador. He and Xena would play and play,” said Pops (Coy) Crutchfield.

Coy and Laurie, Pops and Granny, Crutchfield.

“It’s been great seeing him growing up with it (playing basketball), and I’m glad he’s had fun with it,” said Granny. By the time he was five, he had bigger shoes than I did, according to Granny.

Mom, Amy, and Dad, John, visit with JES Coach John Philpot, John Long’s elementary school coach.

“It’s such a different game than when I played (1967-71) at Jacksboro High School. Now even the lower tier players are better than the best players in the ’70s,” said Pops, who played for the late Jim Agee.

Grandmother Joyce Long (left) and Great Grandmother Phyllis Crutchfield were on hand for John Long’s signing.

John starred at JES, LMS and CCHS, and along the way, there was a time when he and fellow Owl and Cougar teammate Devin Jones were on opposite teams. “I loved seeing John and Devin play against each other. It was quite the rivalry. Devin played at Valley View and John at Jacksboro, each their team’s best players,” said Pops. Jones Bobcats nipped Long’s Eagles for the county championship when Devin knocked down two free throws with virtually no time left for the one point victory.

Johnson University plays in the Appalachian Athletic Conference, and John Long and his Royals will face teams like Milligan, Bryan and Union (Kentucky).

Next stop for Pops and Granny is the Kimberlin Heights community of southeast Knoxville and Karnes Arena.

JES Coach John Philpot and Pops Coy Crutchfield share some John Long memories from John’s elementary school days.

(WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 06/23/2023-6AM)