For two years, Eric Coblentz played under the man who coached Akron native and former St. Vincent-St. Mary standout basketball player LeBron James to one of three state championships.
After playing at Akron under Keith Dambrot and being part of the Zips Mid-American Conference basketball championship last season, Coblentz is returning to Stark County as one of eight basketball players signed by incoming head coach Tim Walker to play for the Malone University Pioneers team.
Three years removed from leaving Lake High School as the basketball program's top-ranked scorer, Coblentz's life has come into full effect. He recently was married and is now working toward a business administration degree.
But he has come a long way from his prep days under the tutelage of Tom McBride, who will be entering his 11th year as the kingpin of the Lake basketball program.
“Eric, I can't say enough about his ability to shoot the ball and he has been a winner for us. There were eight games out of 40 that he hit game-clinching shots in the last four or five seconds and his ability to be a winner shows just how much he wants the ball in clutch situations,” McBride said.
“Eric struggled early as a freshman and sophomore but he worked hard his junior and senior year. He really matured and showed what he was able to accomplish from the get go.”
One basketball game that stands out to McBride immensely was against a team known for having the best high school fans in Ohio and at their peak during an aesthetic run to the top of the Division I basketball universe two years straight.
Against defending Division I champion and state battleship Canton McKinley at the heralded Canton Memorial Field House, Coblentz was the only Blue Streak to score in double figures in a double-digit loss to the Bulldogs. Despite the wide margin of the setback against the eventual two-time state champions, Coblentz's 28 points left a lasting image on McBride and Bulldogs forward Ricky Jackson, who embraced Coblentz at mid-court after the game.
When asked if Coblentz's performance won over the best fans in Ohio, McBride countered with his own assessment.
“Well, you know, let me put it to you this way. That game showed that Eric can play at any level and that is why he went to Akron to play Division I college basketball. However, Eric wanted to play 32 minutes a night in college and not just two or three,” he said. “That game you speak of showed that he will not allow anyone to stand in his way because he knows what he can do and what he is capable of once he is on the floor. After his Malone career, he does want to try and continue his career overseas and see what he can do from there.”
Page 2 of 3 - It is no secret that Eric's path may have been rendered incomplete without the one person placing him in a targeted position to succeed. The manager of the Hartville Marketplaace and Flea Market, Marion Coblentz is a devoted father of four sons who have all participated in the Lake basketball program.
Marion's experiences are the same ones McBride can share in reference to his two sons Jake, who will be a freshman at Lake High School and Joe, who will be in the fifth grade this year.
But the stability inside the family is the X-factor to why four sons have carried on the venerable Coblentz name.
“There is a lot of support inside that family. The support system implemented has allowed for his four sons to play basketball. He takes them places not just in Canton but AAU camps and others to make them better basketball players. Marion knew when Eric was in camps, he was going to stretch his level to get to the next level,” McBride said. That comes back to the game against Canton McKinley. That game told Eric he knew he could compete at a high level in that contest.”
Eric didn't go through Lake without having struggles first. As a freshman and sophomore, Coblentz struggled academically. Even though it was not to the point where he may have been rendered ineligible, the struggles were enough to make him toughen up in the classroom. By the time his junior and senior year arrived, Coblentz had fought off academic woes and overcame an injury to become a major contributor to the Lake program.
McBride recalls a shooting clinic staged by his shooting guard. Against Kent Roosevelt, Coblentz made life rough for the Rough Riders. He finished a near-impeccable 11 of 13 from the field with and six of those shots were from outside the arc. His ability to put the game on his shoulders when the stakes are high is a trait that will be vital to the Malone program along with his ball smarts.
“He has that knack to put a game on his shoulders when the clock is running down. He knows when a shot is either good or bad and when to attack the rim. But he can hurt you from the outside too if you give him an open look,” he said.
When Coblentz is not in the leading role of a sniper on the court plotting his assassination of a defense from long distance, he can be found spending time with his former prep coach and his family. And it is no secret that McBride treats him like he is a third son to his family.
But the major asset that drives him greatly is a trait well honored in the Lake area. A devout Christian, Coblentz takes pride in his rock solid faith. He closely follows the motto of Malone University, which is “Christ's Kingdom First.” A solid example of this is just how Coblentz is quick to point out that he learns something new after every game and shares it with his coach, who is a devout Catholic that can attest to Coblentz's religious setting.
Page 3 of 3 - Malone University prides itself on honor in regards to winning and losing but also glorifying God no matter what happens. When asked if Coblentz has experienced maddening losses, McBride could not find any one setback but did speak of Coblentz's strong faith.
“Eric has a strong Christian standard. He is very active in his group. Before every game, he would carry a Bible with him and recite a verse from it and then pray to God to give him the strength to remain focused,” he said.
“Sure he has taken some hard losses. He held on to me tight after one loss. He takes it hard and doesn't like to lose. But after games, he will share with me what he has learned win or lose. He follows closely what Malone expects from their athletes. You can believe he will leave his heart and soul on the floor for Malone. Coach Walker will be getting a player with Division I experience and his team will be an offensive powerhouse.”
Coblentz will join Jeremy Duerr and Trevor Groot as Blue Streaks playing in the college ranks. Duerr and Coblentz at Malone while Groot will be a sophomore at Mount Union College and Josh Habeck will play at Walsh.
“I want to be able to see all of them play this year and if my schedule allows me, I plan on being there for all of them,” McBride said.