Bob Seggerson: A look at past eras of abundant basketball talent

When looking back on the basketball talent that our area has produced over the years, it’s possible to identify talent rich era’s that featured gifted individual players who led their schools on deep tournament runs to state. It appears that there is another strong wave of very young athletes on the horizon ready to make their own impact on our basketball history.

But first, let’s take a look at four earlier eras that I believe were blessed with exceptional basketball players. Keep in mind that this list is limited and there may be teams and players that have slipped past my memory or research.

The 1940’s were a basketball talent rich time in the Lima-land area. Lima Central High School, qualified for state in 1941 and 1943 led by gifted players like Jack Maisch and John Reed. Bluffton, a basketball powerhouse in the 1930’s and 40’s, played at state in 1940 and 1942 tournaments. Russ and Rich Gratz powered the Pirates. The 1944 Lima St. Johns and 1948 St. Rose teams both played for a state championship. The two teams boasted legendary athletes. For the Johnnies it was players like Tom McPheron and Bob Riepenoff, and for the St. Rose squad, Johnny Mulcahy, Tom Williams and John O’Connor. Delphos St. Johns captured a state title in 1949. The Blue Jays featured Dick Honingford, Ralph Wagner and Dave Schmelzer. Miller City captured the imagination of the entire state while winning the state championship at the end of the decade. They were powered by Ralph Meyer, Frank Schroeder and Joe Lammers. Sylvester “Stretch” Goedde, Neal Schmidt, Tom Riepenhoff, Johhny Walsh, and Dick Dawe were also memorable players during the WW II war years and shortly after.

Jump to the mid to late 1960’s and another bumper crop of athletes made an appearance. The 1965 Shawnee team advanced to state and boasted four players who signed with division one colleges. (Jeff Miller-Ohio State, Denton Sullivan-Nebraska, Adrian Zuber-BGSU, Bruce Burden-Kent St.) The ‘68 Lima Senior High squad made it to state on the shoulders of likes of Mel Foster, Paul Howard, Ben White, Greg Saucer and Bill Sharp. Bath closed the decade with a team ranked at the top of the AP poll powered by two University of Kentucky recruits, Jim Andrews and Steve Penhorwood. Dan Sadlier (Dayton), Kerry Myers (Tennessee), Jeff Stocksdale (Indiana), Dan Perry (Kentucky), Joe Fisher, Jack Kill and Tom Heckman (all Dayton), Jim and Jerry Carder (Findlay) and Bobby Butler (Central St.), reinforced that era as a period blessed with gifted athletes.

The late 1980’s through the mid 90’s makes the list as well. The 1989 LCC team made their school’s first appearance at state with Eric Volbert, Travis Merry and Brett DeCurtins leading the way. In 1990 and 1991, Bob Hoying, Scott Brunswick and Kevin Niekamp led St. Henry High School to two state championships. Those two Redskin squads are in the argument as the best teams to ever compete in this area. LCC sent three teams to state in the early 90’s led by the legendary Aaron Hutchins and his brother Anthony, along with Salento Boddie. In 1991, Wayne Trace steamrolled to a championship, powered by a gifted lineup that included Rob Welch, Bill Hall and Russell Jewell. In 1992, the Spartans rode on the incredibly talented shoulders of the incomparable Greg Simpson and his partner, Demond Lyles, along with Larry Chambers to the state championship game. USV captured a title in 1994. Jason Williams, Jason Kearns and Shawn Sanders paced the Rams. Lincolnview made two trips to state in the mid-nineties with a loaded lineup that included Brandon Pardon, Wes Dudgeon, Chad Pollock and Frank Kill. They were crowned champions in 1997. Jon Wooley, Kevin Sensibaugh, Mark Bishop, Ryan Maag and Kyle Pottkotter added to this era’s dominance. The presence of two Mr. Basketballs, (Simpson and Hutchins) made this era a no-brainer for inclusion on this list.

Perhaps the most impressive run of talent this area has ever seen began in 2010 and lasted for several years. It began with LCC’s run to a state championship led by Desi Kirkman, Ty O’Connor and Austin Stolly. Two spectacular players, Dakota Mathias and Reggie McAdams, were the catalyst that carried Elida to state in 2012, where they were seconds away from winning the title. O-G’s two trips to state title in 2012 and 2013 climaxed with a championship highlighted by an historical performance by T.J. Metzger with support from Matt Kaufman and Michael Rosebrock. In a three-year period from 2014-2016 LCC made three trips to state bringing back two state championships and one runner-up trophy. Led by a dominant lineup that included Martyce Kimbrough, Xavier Simpson, Dantez Walton, Trey Cobbs and Ethan O’Connor, the T-birds set a standard for excellence that will be difficult to match. Lima Senior fell two points shy of a state championship in 2016. The Spartans were led by Ohio’s Mr. Basketball, Xavier Simpson, along with Rico Stafford and Ruben Flowers. Crestview brought home two state championships (2014, 2019) led by a slew of Etzlers (Cam, Javin, Kalen). Lima Perry made their first appearance at state in 2017 led by their talented backcourt of Orion Monfort and Plummie Gardner. Marion Local joined the talent parade with a 2018 title behind Nathan Bruns and Tyler Mescher. And you can add Taren Sullivan, Will Vorhees and Tyler Ulis (he’s ours) to that era. The fact that several of the players in that time frame are still pursuing professional basketball careers in the United States and Europe (3 with NBA experience) emphasizes the dominance of talent in that era.

As the 2022-23 basketball season progresses there appears to be a very promising crop of young talent ready to stake their own claim to fame as a generation of ballers to remember. The rosters of many of our area schools are dotted with impact freshman players, at a rate never seen before. And they follow on the heels of a very strong Sophomore class. To add to that, my hoop-loving aficionados in the area inform me that there is also a treasure trove of young junior high basketball players waiting in the wings. I will explore this new wave of talent in a future column.

Get ready. We may be bracing for another era of basketball rich talent with the potential to propel their teams to a berth at state.