PERRY TOWNSHIP – In the early days of Perry basketball, there was one man who stood above the rest.
When Perry first began competing in boys high school basketball during the 1960-61 school year, Leonard V. Volbert was the man at the helm.
Volbert led the Commodores to six outright Northwest Conference titles and one co-championship season. He posted a remarkable conference record of 59-1 in those seven seasons.
On Saturday, Perry will dedicate the high school gymnasium in Volbert’s name between the conclusion of the junior varsity game and the start of the varsity game against Delphos Jefferson.
Bill Shively, who is on the school board and is a longtime friend of Volbert’s, said Volbert meant so much to the Perry community.
“This (the dedication) has been talked about for some time. I would say it’s been a couple years since we started talking about it,” Shively said. “We (at Perry) dedicated the baseball field and the football field. So, we thought we should do something for him with the gymnasium.”
Volbert attended Perry from grades 1-9. Perry did not have a high school at the time, so he attended Shawnee High School and graduated in 1952.
At Shawnee, Volbert excelled in football, basketball and baseball, earning a total of nine varsity letters. He was second team All-Ohio as a receiver in football his senior season. In basketball, he was All-Ohio his senior year, averaging 28.8 points per game. That scoring record stood until 2002.
Volbert went on to John Carroll University on a basketball scholarship and later completed his education degree at Ohio Northern University.
In 1957, Volbert began his coaching career as the junior high boys basketball coach at Perry. Then in 1960-61, he launched the boys varsity basketball program at Perry.
After seven years at Perry, Volbert went on to coach at Lima Central Catholic for three years, West Milton for two years and then Brookside High School for the remainder of his 25 years. His overall coaching record was 278-147. In 2010, he was inducted into the Shawnee Athletic Hall of Fame.
Volbert was known for getting the most out of his players.
“He really got his teams in shape and ready to play,” said John Barcus, who played for Volbert in 1961-62. “He wasn’t a great deal older than us when he started to coach. The thing that made him so impressive was that he was a very good athlete himself and he would really push us on the court.”
Barcus, who is a pastor at the Kibby Street Church of Christ in Lima, said Volbert was much more than a coach.
“This is a very deserving honor for him and possibly well overdue,” Barcus said. “He was a good coach, a mentor and he really cared about his kids. Leonard and his wife Jean would always have their house open to all of us.”
The 78-year-old Volbert, who resides in Amherst will be at Perry Saturday for the dedication. Perry Schools is urging former players from 1961-1968 to attend.