Editor’s note – This is a part of a continuing series of previews for the third annual Ohio Valley Hoops Classic Basketball Tournament that will be played Dec. 2-4 at the Southern State Patriot Center in Hillsboro. This story features a matchup between Paint Valley and Centerburg at 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3.
In most years if you were to attend an open gym at Paint Valley High School you would not expect to rub elbows with Division I college coaches. However, this is not most years. Numerous D-I college coaches have found their way to “The Jigger,” as the Paint Valley Gym is affectionately known, to see Paint Valley’s 6-11 junior center Dylan Swingle. Swingle is generally considered one of the top five juniors in Ohio, and he already holds scholarship offers from West Virginia, George Washington and Kent State, with others sure to follow.
In most Paint Valley games, Swingle towers over the opposing team’s big man. But, the Bearcats matchup against Centerburg in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic is not most games. Centerburg has a high profile big man of their own in 6-9 junior Ross Ryan. He was recentlty picked by 270 Hoops recently as the third best junior prospect in Central Ohio – just behind fellow OVHC participants Jerome Hunter and Dane Goodwin.
As exciting as the big man battle is, they won’t be playing a game of one-on-one. Centerburg coach Andy Cauley was selected as the Division III Coach of the Year by the Associated Press last season after his Trojans finished with a 20-5 record while winning the Mid Ohio Athletic Conference with a 13-1 record. Besides Ryan, Centerburg returns three other prominent players from that squad. Gunner Gregory, a 5-10 senior, averaged over 13 points per game last season. Fellow seniors Nate Johnson and Sam Backiewica averaged 9 and 6 points per game, respectively.
After back-to-back appearances in the district championship game in 2014 and 2015, Paint Valley struggled with inexperience and injuries last season on its way to a 3-18 record. Coach Dave Shoemaker and his Bearcats are looking to bounce back this season. Aside from Swingle and his 18.9 point average, Paint Valley returns several other players. Andrew Brunner is a 6-3 senior who averaged 7 points per game last year while hitting 37 three pointers. Drake Purdum, a6-1 senior, is another outstanding shooter, hitting 25 three pointers last season. Both Brunner and Purdum were honorable mention SVC performers a year ago. A couple freshmen, 6-3 Bryce Newland (starting QB on football team) and 6-0 Cruz McFadden could also see time.
Obviously, this game provides a rare opportunity not often seen in small school basketball; two highly regarded big men going head to head. The matchup is made more intriguing because Swingle and Ryan played on the same AAU team (All Ohio Red) together this past summer. In fact, the two are good friends off the court with each attending one of the others’ games last season. And, the two teams actually faced each other during a summer camp game at the University of Dayton. According to both coaches, it was a highly competitive game with Centerburg pulling out a close victory. There is no reason to think the game on Dec. 3 will be any different.
Interesting side note – Dave Shoemaker is Paint Valley’s all-time winningest coach. After a successful stint in the 1990s he returned to the helm in 2012. In between, Shoemaker actually spent a little time as the national coach for the tiny island country of Montseratt.
This story was submitted by Bennie Carroll, the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic director and girls varsity basketball coach at Blanchester High School.