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The Suburbanite
  • Sunday Special: Federal League coaches missed on all-league picks

  • Sunday Special: Federal League coaches selected their all-league boys basketball team last week, but missed on a Hoover High School star.

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  • Picking postseason all-league teams is never easy. The smaller the team, the tougher the challenge to make sure the most deserving players get recognized.
    Coaches decide their respective league teams. For example, Federal League boys basketball coaches vote and select that team, and the girls coaches do the same for the girls teams and so on. The Repository does not have a say in those selections.
    Having said all that, the Federal League boys basketball first-team selection had a glaring omission when it was announced last week. Hoover High School senior Dom Iero, arguably the best player in the league and certainly among the top five, was not included on the first team. League coaches did the disservice to the All-Federal League team, and by extension to Iero by not recognizing his talents in his final season of high school basketball.
    It is impossible to know how coaches voted because it is a secret ballot. Perhaps that should change in the coming years. Usually, coaches will vote for at least one of their own players above others for, if nothing else, loyalty. However, the league coaches know that Iero should have been on the first team. My guess is, to a man, they would almost all agree in a tie game with 10 seconds left the one player they would all want on their team with the ball in his hands is Iero.
    Hoover head coach Randy Montgomery nominated both Iero and senior Harrison Blackledge for the first team. Both are deserving players.
    “I nominated them both for that and all-district,” Montgomery said.
    One league coach who attended the vote said he was shocked Iero didn’t make the first team.
    Montgomery also said Iero was nominated for league player of the year. The coaches went with Perry senior Jeremiah Jackson, who was the league’s leading scorer.
    “Looking back at some of the games, particularly in the league, (Iero) didn’t have strong games a couple of times,” Montgomery said. “That may have been a factor. I know he had a good game against McKinley. Your games in the league are factors.”
    Surely Iero didn’t have “great” games every time Hoover played a Federal League game. No one does.
    “He’s a phenomenal athlete and a tremendous competitor,” Montgomery said. “That’s an intangible not many kids have, at least not a competitive drive like he does. He’s at his best in key moments as we’ve all seen.”
    BASEBALL ON DECK
    Iero is as good a three-sport star as Stark County has seen. He is going to the University of Akron to play baseball. He could have been a Mid-American Conference-level football recruit. Because of his lack of size, he would have been a stretch to play Division I college basketball.
    Page 2 of 4 - “He committed to play baseball so early that all the basketball people who would have had an interest in him didn’t pursue him,” Montgomery said. “I’m sure he could have played in college. His size would have been a factor in what level. He’ll have a great career in baseball.”
    Iero isn’t the kind of kid to complain about a postseason honor. His play speaks for itself. He finished his career at Hoover as the school’s third all-time leading scorer. His buzzer-beater to get Hoover into the district championship game will not soon be forgotten, either.
    It would have been nice if the league coaches had put together a legitimate all-league team that paid Iero the proper respect his career deserved.
    BLACKLEDGE IMPROVES
    There probably was no player this past season who made a bigger improvement from last season to this season than Hoover senior Harrison Blackledge. His athleticism, speed, strength and, most important, his footwork were all much better than they were a year ago. Some college is going to get a steal in taking him because he is only scratching the surface of his potential ceiling.
    “His work ethic from the end of last season all the way through this year was tremendous,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think a day went by in the spring or summer when he didn’t do something that made him a better player. He was as improved a player as I’ve ever coached and he did it all through hard work.”
    When a player improves his physical ability as much as Blackledge did, the best part to watch is his confidence improve. Blackledge made himself a go-to player in the clutch and is one of the reasons Hoover reached regionals. Because of Blackledge’s scoring ability, Hoover didn’t have to rely on Iero to score as much as he did a year ago.
    Blackledge has not decided on a college yet.
    “He has a lot of options,” Montgomery said. “His grades will be a factor, too. There are a number of Division II offers and he has some high-level Division III opportunities. Academically, he’s strong and he could end up at an Ivy League school if they have any spots.”
    TOLES, TIMKEN LOADED
    Timken was overwhelmed in its regional semifinal game against Northland, the state’s No. 1-ranked boys basketball team. Northland is a veteran team that is used to winning.
    Timken is getting there. In fact, in the last six years, Timken head coach Rick Hairston has the most successful basketball program in the county. He has played in more district title games than anyone else, and he has gotten out of the district twice during that span.
    Page 3 of 4 - One reason why the Trojans will be better next year is freshman LePear Toles. He already has been offered by Ohio University, and Toles is the kind of basketball junkie who is only going to get better between now and next high school season.
    It will be important for Hairston to watch Toles’ development on and off the court and adjust his team and program as he sees fit to suit Toles best.
    HARTLINE STILL WORKING
    Just because Brian Hartline signed a new five-year contract with the Dolphins earlier this month, one that very well should set him up for the rest of his life, that doesn’t mean he is on Easy Street. Hartline was on the “Dan LeBatard Show” last week when he told the radio host, “I’m kind of busy. I’m working at a drive-through up in Ohio, freezing my butt off.”
    LaBatard thought Hartline was joking, according to a cbssports.com report.
    He wasn’t.
    Hartline owns the drive-through in the Columbus area with a friend.
    “Somebody has to work it,” Hartline said. “It’s the American dream … owning your own business.”
    HUGGINS IS FINE
    West Virginia athletics director Oliver Luck stopped in town for last week’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club speech, and Luck was asked if his men’s basketball coach, Bob Huggins, is in trouble. The Mountaineers had a tough season and finished 13-19 and 6-12 in the Big 12.
    Huggins’ position at West Virginia is safe. “I love being Bob Huggins’ boss,” Luck said, laughing when an audience member asked the question. “I don’t think ‘Huggs’ is any danger of being fired. He did have a rough season. It’s the second losing season in his career. The great thing about college basketball is, it only takes a couple of players to turn it around. The corollary is it only takes a couple of bad apples to bring you down. I figure the guy has won 720-something games. He knows how to turn it around.”
    WHY NOT BIG TEN?
    The reason why West Virginia did not join the Big Ten is easy. First, the school wasn’t asked to join. Second, West Virginia does not have the academics accreditation Big Ten schools have.
    “We’ve been a neighbor to Ohio State for a long time, and Ohio is a Big Ten state,” Luck said. “We are not an AAU university. American Association of Universities is the top category for academics and research. Every Big Ten university is a member. That plays a role in terms of our not being a Big Ten member. We’re a land-grant institution. Our academics in terms of secondary schools doesn’t compare to what’s here in Ohio and other neighboring states.
    Page 4 of 4 - “You can’t legislate your way into a conference and you can’t litigate your way into a conference. It’s like going over to someone’s house. You have to be invited.”
    CENTRAL CATHOLIC OPENING
    Central Catholic High School is looking for a boys basketball coach, and one of the names that should be at the top of the Crusaders’ list is former GlenOak head coach Scott Giammarco.
    One of the reasons GlenOak hired Giammarco is his relationship in working with players from all schools at skills camp he runs. Giammarco is known to be one of the better youth clinicians in the area.
    He would do well at Central and he seems ready to get back into coaching after taking a year off to catch his breath and recharge his batteries.
    REMARKABLE
    A group of Plain Local fifth-grade girls is setting the pace for GlenOak to have a pretty good girls basketball team in about five or six years.
    The fifth-grade girls travel team recently improved to 29-0. What’s remarkable is the team’s two-year record is 64-0, with 11 tournament titles. The team has outscored opponents, 1,992-425 in those two seasons.
    I’m not sure what’s more noteworthy here: Those accomplishments or the fact that someone is keeping track of all those fourth- and fifth-grade team stats.