SHIFTING THE COURT An inside look at the evolving 2017-18 men’s and women’s basketball seasons
THURSDAY, FEB. 15, 2018
A walk-on’s hard work pays off P6 A freshman exceeds expectations P12 Isaiah Butcher’s fostered confidence P16
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ELIZABETH BACKO
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
MANAGING EDITOR Kaitlin Coward DIGITAL MANAGING EDITOR Hayley Harding SENIOR EDITOR Marisa Fernandez
‘Post’ wins awards, produces special edition
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his past week has been full of excitement and anticipation for Posties. For weeks, our sports staff, photographers and designers have been preparing for our special basketball edition. Also, our Digital Production Editor Taylor Johnston put in extra time to code a landing page for all of the stories, including the ones that couldn’t fit into print. The tabloid has also been rearranged slightly so all the basketball content is paired together. The puzzles, news briefs and police blotter are near the end of the edition rather than on pages 6 and 7. That was not the only commotion in our newsroom this past week. On Feb. 8, Managing Editor Kaitlin Coward and Assistant News Editor Lauren Fisher ELIZABETH BACKO / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF spent the day in Columbus at the Ohio News Media Association convention. For the past few years, The Post has earned a few awards at the convention. The staff entered several stories and a few editions from last academic year — the year we transitioned from having a daily print product to a weekly tabloid. The Post earned awards in nine of the 10 collegiate categories and received the Frank E. Deaner Award for Excellence in Collegiate Journalism, Division A. The Frank E. Deaner award is granted to the top newspaper in each division. Specifically, The Post earned first place in design, photojournalism, headline writing and opinion writing. The staff also placed in news coverage, in-depth reporting, arts and entertainment, multimedia and best website. As a staff, we are incredibly excited and proud of one another. We will continue putting in the hard work to produce great content for all of our readers online and in print. We hope the basketball edition is exactly that. We’re also adding to the fun with this edition. Post staffers will be at the men’s basketball game Saturday at a table in The Convo. Stop by for the chance to win a free T-shirt by signing up for our daily email newsletter, Post Haste, and liking and following The Post on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll have several editions from this year on the table, possibly along with a sweet treat. It’s a great chance for us to interact with our readers and to learn more about why people pick up The Post.
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he 2017-18 season was supposed to be a year of transition for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Only one season has gone according to plan. The women’s team recently beat Kent State and Ball State and only lost by two to Mid-AmeriANDREW can Conference standout Central Michigan. With a GILLIS young roster, the ceiling is as high as it could be. Sports With multiple winnable games on the schedule Editor ahead, the women’s team has a chance to turn what looked to be a retooling year after the loss of great seniors into a special one. The men’s team, on the other hand, has been ravaged by injuries that have come at both ends of the roster. After Jaaron Simmons left for Michigan in April, the Bobcats looked to be in trouble at the guard position — it was to be expected. But then guards Teyvion Kirk and Zach Butler looked to be competent enough to mitigate the loss of one of the MAC’s best players. Then a wave of injuries that no one has ever seen before washed over the Bobcats. First it was forward Jason Carter, who is presumably out for the season. Then it was forward Kevin Mickle, who tore his meniscus in his left knee. He’s still playing through the injury, as are guard Mike Laster with his shoulder, guard Jordan Dartis with his hip and guard/forward Gavin Block with, well, everything. Freshmen forwards Ben Vander Plas and A.J. Gareri have also been bitten by the injury bug, too. All the injuries have limited the Bobcats, who have had to rise above the injuries to do whatever they can to scrap together a healthy lineup, on the floor. Add that in with a few close losses and a few blowouts, and the men’s team hasn’t seen the season it’s wanted. There’s not much time to right the ship, but the signs are there. But that’s what makes the end of college basketball season exciting. Both teams are up against the clock, and it’s time to figure out who can do what. Just a little more than two weeks are left in conference play, and there’s still so much to be decided. The women’s team looks primed for a bye to Cleveland, and the men’s team has work to do if it wants a home game in the first round of the MAC Tournament. In the following pages, we’ve got stories about it all: Gabby Burris becoming a freshman standout, Kevin Mickle’s journey from a soccer player to a basketball player in Athens, a column on coach Saul Phillips, and a story about James Gollon and his brother’s relationship that will touch anyone who reads it. There have been good and bad storylines from both the men’s and women’s team this season, which has made for an interesting few months in The Convo. Our men’s and women’s basketball reporters have enjoyed covering the season thus far — I know I have. This special edition of the tabloid was enjoyable to work on and fun to produce. Our editors, designers, editorial staff and, of course, Assistant Sports Editor Spencer Holbrook, worked incredibly hard to produce this content, which I know will be enjoyable and exciting to read through. We’ve got plenty of season left, so please, continue to read The Post in the next few weeks. We won’t disappoint. I promise. Thanks for reading, Andrew Gillis
4 / FEB. 15, 2018
Better keep Saul JIMMY WATKINS
FOR THE POST
Fire Saul Phillips? Really? The movement exists, somehow. The reasoning is simple on the surface: After back-to-back promising 20-plus win seasons, Ohio is the worst team in the Mid-American Conference. Without context, those facts vindicate the Twitter storm calling for Phillips’ job. But of course, context and nuance still exist (I think). Phillips has one year remaining on his contract after this season, and it makes no sense to prevent him from at least finishing it. Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, six Ohio coaches have paced The Convo’s sidelines. Just one of them — John Groce — won more games in his first four seasons than Phillips. And Phillips hasn’t even completed his fourth yet. Two of those coaches led Ohio to the tournament within their first four years. Phillips appears unlikely to repeat that success, but John Groce’s 2009-10 team won the MAC Tournament after finishing 7-9 in conference play. None of those coaches dealt with the avalanche of injuries Phillips is still trying to dig out from under this season. Jason Carter has played three games, and Jordan Dartis’ hip and Mike Laster’s shoulder are both constant threats to give and pop out. Kevin Mickle is playing on a torn meniscus; Gavin Block deals with a bruised pelvis one day, and his wrist is taped the next. Sure, every team deals with nicks and bruises this time of year — but not surgeries and casts or putting off surgeries and casts just so players can try to finish the season. By the way, doesn’t the fact that so many of Phillips’ players are pushing through significant pain prove how strongly they believe in him? I get it: He’s a personable guy who tells great stories and keeps his players loose. But the commitment his players have shown seems rooted in something much deeper. Maybe he’s earned their eternal trust after the way he handled the turmoil from last season. Lest we forget, the 2016-17 season was the season until Antonio Campbell broke his foot; even then, the Bobcats were a coast-to-coast Jaylin Walker layup away from playing for a tournament berth. That, of course, led to Jaaron Simmons transferring to Michigan during the offseason, one of four outgoing transfers from last year’s team. Maybe Phillips should’ve been able to sway his all-conference guard from bolting. Maybe this column isn’t written if Phillips succeeds in doing so.
OU COACHES: RECORDS AND NCAA TOURNAMENT APPEARANCES IN THEIR FIRST FOUR YEARS Billy Hahn: 42-45 — 0* Larry Hunter: 60-51 — 0 Tim O’Shea: 62-58 — 1 John Groce: 85-56 — 2 Jim Christian: 49-22 — 0* Saul Phillips: 63-58 — 0 * Note: Hahn was coach for only three seasons, Christian for only two But he turned a disaster into a promising long-term future by swinging Teyvion Kirk after Drake fired its coach and Kirk de-committed. Kirk has his flaws — all freshmen do — but he leads his team in scoring in a league with a deep batch of point guards. Kirk’s coach hasn’t been perfect this year, either. Phillips owns the worst home MAC loss in school history, a 91-57 drubbing by Toledo on Jan. 16. His team has struggled to transfer practice to games for extended stretches. He’s owned up to his share of blame on both fronts. But Phillips shouldn’t be — and won’t be — fired. He responded well after a difficult first year, and he should be allowed to respond after a snakebitten one. Stop and consider why those struggles have occurred. Phillips plays two freshmen point guards and employs several other ballhandlers throughout each game. He changed the offense from a pick-and-roll-centric attack that involved one player dictating most of the action to a style that requires every perimeter player to make reads they weren’t asked to make before. Those all sound like excuses. Phillips would never publicly acknowledge any of them as validation for a 3-9 conference record. But considering the various unforeseen roadblocks he has faced, don’t you think he deserves an excuse? Twitter is dumb. Don’t fire Saul Phillips. Circle back next year if the team is healthy and these results persist.
Coach of the bench The Bobcats’ most popular walk-on has plans to become a coach after college
ANDREW GILLIS SPORTS EDITOR
am Frayer has been a different Sam Frayer this season. In previous seasons, Frayer, a forward, was the one going nuts at the end of Ohio’s bench at every exciting moment. This year, however, he’s been much tamer. He wants to look more professional — he wants to look like a coach. “I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack every game,” Frayer said. “It’s a lot of fun, but every game I’m trying to be a little more serious about it.” He’s trying to be more serious because he wants to prove to other programs that he can be a successful graduate assistant next season. But it’s not just the toned-back bench celebrations that have changed for Frayer. He spent the entire summer traveling the country working at different camps and meeting with coaches, trying to make as many contacts as possible. And in season, his 50-plus letters he’s sent have yielded no results yet. But he said that’s to be expected with the season in full swing. “I’ve worked on some scouting reports, scouted some other teams, sent them to other teams and coaches,” Frayer said. “They probably don’t even look at it. Just like, ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing.’ Just trying to treat myself like I’m a coach now.” Coach Saul Phillips has taken note, too. “It really started to manifest itself this summer when he committed to going all over America and doing camps,” Phillips said. “Sure there’s some of fun to that, it’s also hard damn work for not a lot of money. To hear him talk about his conversations one-on-one with head coaches at places he was, he was asking the right questions. He was putting himself in the right place.” Phillips has his own experiences of going through the walk-on to coach process, too. He graduated from Wisconsin-Platteville under head coach Bo Ryan
Sam Frayer watches the Bobcats’ promotional video before Ohio’s game against Akron. (BLAKE NISSEN / FILE)
and went to Wayne State to become a graduate assistant for Greg McDermott. Because of that, Phillips, who said that he would give any coach a recommendation for Frayer, has tried to talk with Frayer about his options after this season eventually ends. “For one, I’ve told him that there are some things about him trying to get into it that are similar to me trying to get into it,” Phillips said. “So there’s a path there for him. He’s actually got a huge advantage: He’s in a Division I program. So that’s a big head start on me.” One of Phillips’ recommendations, however, was that Frayer spend at least the beginning part of his career outside Athens. Phillips didn’t rule out a return but said it’d be best for Frayer to separate his collegiate career from his professional one. Frayer has already started that process. He’s going to attend the Final Four in San Antonio at the end of March, one
of college basketball’s best networking times of the year, in hopes of making a connection for next season. Meanwhile, back in Athens, Frayer has tried to take on more of a coaching role to some of the younger players on the team. He said that’s one of the things he respects about Phillips: his ability to listen to younger players. Frayer has tried to emulate that. “I try to do as much as I can, but I state my boundaries,” Frayer said. “Make sure people notice me but don’t get too annoyed with me. Like, I don’t play, so it’s like, ‘What the f--- do you know?’ But I think guys on our team listen to me.” He’s also become a mentor off the court, which is where Phillips said he shines. The players can relate to him, and he can relate to them. One day, he’ll be talking about how Ohio needs to win more 50-50 balls at Akron, a legitimate critique of that game.
The next moment, he’s arguing whether he could beat a wolf in a fight — seriously. “I would love for Sam to be the head of his own program,” Phillips said. “I would listen to his press conferences every freakin’ week. It’d be great. He’s a beauty.” No one knows the next stop for the fan favorite at the end of the bench, and neither does he. But Frayer has already begun the process of changing in his jersey for a suit and tie, a process he hopes will end up with him leading a program one day. “Winning a national championship is my ultimate goal,” Frayer said. “People think I’m a little crazy, but my parents think I can do it, so why not? No one thought I’d get here.”
@ANDREW_GILLIS70 AG079513@OHIO.EDU THEPOSTATHENS.COM / 5
HEART HEIGHT over
Freshman walk-on C.J. Rhodes thought his chance had passed, until a call came in early January JORDAN HORROBIN STAFF WRITER
.J. Rhodes was hard to miss during one of his first practices with Ohio — and not just because he’s the shortest player on the team by six inches. Learning plays and positioning on the fly that other players had practiced for months, Rhodes let his inexperience show. Most of his shots rimmed out, he was
slow stepping around screens, and he struggled to put his hand up in time on jump shots. As a result, Jordan Dartis, the team’s best shooter and Rhodes’ defensive assign-
ment, was making Rhodes pay with basket after basket. “You signed up for this!” freshman guard Teyvion Kirk shouted to Rhodes. Indeed, that’s what Rhodes signed up for when he walked on in mid-January. Now he’s working to adjust to the college level, in spite of his 5-foot-8 frame, and to help the Bobcats however he can.
6 / FEB. 15, 2018
C.J. Rhodes dribbles down the court during Ohio’s game against Akron on Feb. 6. (BLAKE NISSEN / FILE)
trees. We have to pull him back from doing that sometimes ’cause he doesn’t realize he’s not 6-foot-3.” Rhodes’ first collegiate action came in the final three minutes of a blowout win over Akron on Feb. 6. He was as invisible as can be, failing to register a stat in any category while running around as the only player without a name on the back of his jersey. For the Bobcats, Rhodes will almost certainly be limited to the role of a practice player. Just don’t tell him that. He’s thankful for the better-late-thannever call from Ohio and plans to make the most of his chance, wholeheartedly. “When he finally got that call, I was real happy for him,” Kirk said. “He worked really hard. He really wanted it. Now he got it.”
He’s not a 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 basketball player … but he’s not afraid to go in there with the trees. We have to pull him back from doing that sometimes ’cause he doesn’t realize he’s not 6-foot-3.
At the start of the school year, Rhodes met guard Zach Butler on campus and soon befriended Kirk, too. The trio hung out, went to dining halls and talked about basketball together. “(Rhodes) just started talking about how he wanted to walk on for the team and started asking about tryouts,” Kirk said. “Me being a freshman, I didn’t know too much about walk-on tryouts or even if they did that.” Ohio does hold a walk-on tryout, which Rhodes attended a few weeks into the Fall Semester. He was one of about 30 hopefuls trying to be noticed in The Convo. Rhodes recalled coaches at the tryout telling him “good moves” and “good shot” and asking where he is from. It was over in about two hours. Weeks went by, then months. The season started. All the while, Rhodes waited to hear back. “No word,” he said. Rhodes watched home games in the stands and tuned in to some road games online, continuing to support his friends on the team. He kept playing and working out, including spending some nights shooting in The Convo with Butler, as he set his sights on trying out next year. Then, over the winter break, Rhodes received a call from director of operations Cameron Joyce. There was a spot on the team for him. A boatload of in-season injuries had thinned Ohio’s roster. Sometimes, the Bobcats had difficulty fielding teams for five-on-five scrimmages. That prompted coach Saul Phillips to sift through the results from the team’s walk-on tryout and pick up a player, which turned out to be Rhodes. “After trying out and not getting a call, I figured it was over,” Rhodes said Jan. 21 in a Facebook post on his personal page. “I thought that basketball wasn’t for me anymore, but I kept working hard. … I won’t take this as a joke and it’s time to eat.” The average height of a Division I player is just over 6-foot-4, according to kenpom. com. As the shortest player on most basketball courts throughout high school and now in college, Rhodes is no stranger to working hard to counter-attack adversity. He even uses the hashtag #HeartOverHeight on social media. In his senior year of high school, Rhodes was one of the leading scorers at Mount Healthy in his native Cincinnati, helping the team to a 16-8 record after just a 10-13 mark the year before. “C.J. has the heart of a warrior,” Mount Healthy coach Adair Carmichael told The Cincinnati Enquirer in January 2017. “He’s not a 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 basketball player … but he’s not afraid to go in there with the
- Adair Carmichael, Mount Healthy coach
@JORDANHORROBIN JH950614@OHIO.EDU THEPOSTATHENS.COM / 7
THE GOLLON BROTHERS After spending six years apart, James and Jakob Gollon became inseparable JIMMY WATKINS FOR THE POST
othing could stop James Gollon from watching his older brother, Jakob, play in the NCAA Tournament. It was bad enough he had to stay
back in Wisconsin for an Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU, tournament while his family attended the game in Raleigh, North Carolina. He couldn’t sit in class with Jakob scheduled to tip off against Duke at 12:15 p.m. The junior in high school filled out two brackets: one with his mind, the other his heart. The latter predicted a national championship for the Mercer Bears. So James took his laptop into the technicians’ lounge at Pacelli High School and set up a stream. But the technicians kicked him out for skipping class. James decided he’d had enough, so he left the building and watched the game at a local Buffalo Wild Wings instead. “Get out of here,” James said. “I’m not going to miss that. I don’t know why they didn’t just let me watch it in school.” James’ stubbornness paid off. Instead of sitting in class, he watched his brother lead No. 14 seed Mercer with 20 points en route to a 78-71 upset of No. 3 Duke. The phone James shared with his mother overflowed with congratulatory texts. Some from his friends, some from his mother’s colleagues. James knew his brother best through a screen in those days. Because of Jakob’s two medical redshirts and mandatory summer school, he almost never came home during his six-year stint at Mercer. Jakob came home for Christmas one time in six years. Their seven and-a-half year difference never
James Gollon (left) and his older brother, Jakob. (PROVIDED by James Gollon)
8 / FEB. 15, 2018
felt wider than during Jakob’s college days .
They talked on the phone about basketball and their respective surgeries — James had surgery on his hip in high school — but they never saw each other. All the more reason why Jakob called James before anyone else to celebrate. James recalls joyously shouting over the phone. Jakob remembers connecting with his little brother. “The interaction I had with (James) was probably more special than with anyone else,” Jakob said. “When people say, ‘Mama, I made it,’ it was kind of like that, except it was brother to brother.” THE TWO JAKES James and Jakob grew up seven years apart, but they were always together. James made sure of it. James, who is now a redshirt sophomore for Ohio, followed Jakob and his friends everywhere. Video games, sports, late night chats around a campfire — James was there. Jakob’s friends treated him like their own little brother. If James was bothering them, they would tell him. More accurately, they would bully him. When James attended a track meet with his brother’s crew in fourth grade, Jakob’s friend picked James up by the ankles and shook him like he expected something to fall out. James bawled. “We gave him enough s--- where he never bothered us,” Jakob said. James never flinched. He figured out how to hang around his brother’s high school basketball team by becoming the waterboy. And he followed at Jakob’s heels so often that people called them both Jake. Middle sister Jordan took notice of the two Jakes and became jealous. She tried her own ways to fit in. She walked around in her brothers’ shoes and baggy jerseys. She tried basketball in an attempt to get closer to her brothers, but she gravitated toward gymnastics and volleyball, which she ended up playing at Mercer, too. As a result, she didn’t share the same bond as her basketball-loving brothers. “At times, I wanted to play basketball just to be able to get closer to them,” Jordan said. “I wanted to be like, ‘Hey, let’s go shoot around in the driveway.’ I wanted to enjoy that so much. But it just wasn’t the sport for me.” Jordan earned her one-on-one time with James after Jakob went to college. But James missed his older brother during the time he needed him the most. He was 10 or 11 when Jakob left for college. All the brotherly advice he needed — how much cologne to wear, how to hide secrets from Mom and Dad, what to say to a girl you like, how to shave — left when Jakob did. “I spent so much time with him when
I was younger,” James said. “It was— I don’t want to say devastating when he left, but it was just different.” THE RE-INTRODUCTION Jakob had options after leaving Mercer. He thought about playing overseas, but an MRI on his knee revealed the need for surgery. He received coaching offers from all over the country, including a head coaching position at a community college in Montana. He rejected every one, except for a volunteer position at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He could live at home that way. He basically hadn’t see his family in six years. He’d never seen James play basketball. Though his long absence was out of his control, Jakob felt guilty. “I had been gone for so long and wanted to reconnect with James,” he said. “To some degree, I feel like I had abandoned the family going (to Mercer).” A lot changed over six years. James matured, and Jakob stayed isolated. They needed time to get used to each other again. “When he got back, we didn’t know each other as well as we should for brothers,” James said. To rectify that issue, Jakob coached for free under the coach with the most wins in Wisconsin-Stevens Point history, Bob Semling, under one condition: On nights when James played, Jakob had to be sent on “recruiting trips.” He lived in his parents’ basement at 24. “Which sucked,” he said. But Jakob also transformed his brother from a fringe Division I prospect into a scholarship athlete. And they reforged their inseparable bond in the process. James received two Division I offers before his senior season: Idaho State and Army. His hip surgery hindered his recruitment. He knew he needed a breakout season to draw attention. Luckily for him, Jakob had keys to the Wisconsin-Stevens Point practice gym. Throughout the summer of 2014, the Gollon brothers woke up early to workout. After James finished practicing after school and Jakob finished coaching practice in the evening, they met up and crafted the player James is today. First, dribbling drills: a Chris Paul between-the-legs drill, the spider drill and stationary dribbling with one and two hands. Then, shooting drills: James started seven feet from the rim and Jakob passed him the ball. Then James’ job became to finish over his brother at the rim. “Make 25,” Jakob said. Jakob would throw James an outlet pass, and James needed to dribble around a screen and make the pull-up jumper. “Make 15,” Jakob said. They watched film, talked about basket-
A young James Gollon dunks a mini basketball. (PROVIDED by James Gollon)
ball and repeated their montage every day, not usually returning home until 8 or 9 p.m. “It’s almost like a scene out of a movie,” Jakob said. “I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.” Jakob realized he and his brother shared the same drive and the same passion. They were both disciplined and goal-oriented. For people who hadn’t spent time together in over a decade, they had a lot in common — almost like they were brothers. “It was a special time because I realized we wound up being exactly the same person,” Jakob said. They spent so much time together that their mother, Debbie, enjoyed when one was too busy for the other. Jakob had been gone for six years. James was about to leave for at least four. She needed her own quality time. “I’m one the worst moms in terms of empty-nest syndrome,” Debbie said. “I have a hard time letting go.” IDOLIZERS BECOME IDOLS James looked to his brother for help to become a Bobcat. After suffering multiple surgery-requiring injuries, he enlisted Jakob’s help again to remain one. James sat out most of his first two seasons at Ohio due to shoulder and hip injuries. He had surgery on both that kept him out the entirety of last season. But he wasn’t worried — Jakob set the example of how to come back from injury. Jakob came back and made the NCAA Tournament. Jakob came back and beat Duke. Jakob would help him through this. But what if James wasn’t Jakob? Jakob feared that might be the case. He agonized over his brother’s predicament. “I had this sick feeling in my stomach that he might not be as fortunate as I was,”
Jakob said. “What if he never got healthy?” But those thoughts came to him before he saw James for the first time after the surgeries. James knew he would be back because he would do everything he could to come back. Jakob calls his brother’s mentality “healthy ignorance.” He compares James to a child swinging a baseball bat for the first time: No matter how many times James swings and misses, he’ll keep trying to hit the ball. Most adults will swing and miss once and never pick the bat up again. James believes he’ll hit the ball, too, just like he believed he’d return from his injuries. Jakob marveled at the confidence his brother displayed during rehab — sure of himself, but without an ego attached. James will tell you he gets it from his older brother. He’ll tell you he’s learned a lot from Jakob, actually. James calls him a second father figure. Coach Saul Phillips said it’s obvious James’ brother is his idol. But somewhere along the line, Jakob starting learning from James. James started teaching Jakob, whether he knew it or not. People used to call James and Jakob the same name. Now people think they’re the same person. They use the same words without ever speaking them to each other. Not only can they tell when their brother has bad days, they usually have them at them same time. It’s twin telepathy, but seven years apart. Jakob sees at least one difference, though. “I’m happy to say that he’s like me in a lot of ways,” Jakob said. “But he’s the 2.0 version. He’s the update. He’s the patch. In many ways, I look up to him.”
@JIMMYWATKINS95 JW331813@OHIO.EDU THEPOSTATHENS.COM / 9
From the ground up Cierra Hooks’ quickness and speed have allowed her to become one of Ohio’s best players this season CAMERON FIELDS | FOR THE POST
he ball was put in front of her, and Cierra Hooks snatched it. ¶ With under 10 seconds left in the game Jan. 24, Hooks defended Northern Illinois guard Courtney Woods. As Woods neared half-court, she dribbled the ball in front of Hooks. ¶ It was stripped from her hands. ¶ Hooks stole the ball, and she raced to the other end for a
layup. The Huskies missed a jump shot on the other end, and the Bobcats won 77-75. As the clock hit zero, Hooks’ teammates met her half-court and wore smiles as they celebrated the win. For Hooks, a freshman guard, it was the second time this season that she stole the ball and scored a game-winning layup. The first time was against Marshall, when Ohio won 54-52. As the Bobcats’ best defender, Hooks has cemented a spot in coach Bob Boldon’s rotation. With her quickness, Hooks can guard anybody. She’s the leader of a defense that’s been ranked No. 1 or 2 in the country for turnover margin most of this season.
10 / FEB. 15, 2018
But because of her quickness, she can also blow past anybody for easy layups, too. When assistant coach Tavares Jackson was recruiting her, he knew that Hooks had the potential to be special. “I think the fans here at OU have a lot of exciting moments ahead with her,” Jackson said of Hooks in December. “Because I think it’s just the beginning. I think she’s just scratched the surface of how good she could be.” James White told Hooks that she was going to be OK. Her recruitment was going to take a hit, but White, Hooks’ older brother, wanted her to know that she would be fine. During her sophomore year of high school, Hooks and the rest of the girl’s varsity basketball team at Thurgood Marshall High School in Dayton were practicing against the boy’s freshman team. Hooks tore her meniscus during the practice, and she missed most of her sophomore Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU, season with All Ohio Black, the team she played for. She didn’t know if she’d ever regain her quickness and return to normal. White told Hooks that it’d probably take about a year and a half for her to feel normal again. After receiving interest from Ohio State, Xavier and Cincinnati, among other schools, Hooks chose Ohio. In coach Bob Boldon’s system — one that possesses a bevy of shooters and ball handlers — Hooks has thrived. “They have a lot of shooters, and her best ability offensively is slashing,” White said. “I think she’s the best slasher in the country.” White taught Hooks how to play basketball. He also became a father figure to Hooks, even though he’s nine years older than her. The two would frequently play NBA 2K in White’s room. Hooks would usually choose the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Phoenix Suns. LeBron James of the Cavaliers and the now-retired Steve Nash, who played for the Suns, are her favorite players. Hooks doesn’t like to lose, and she didn’t back then, either. White said that sometimes he’d let her win to keep her happy. When White played in AAU tournaments, Hooks would travel with him frequently. During halftime, Hooks would go shoot on the floor. Hooks wanted to play basketball, too, so she began playing during the third grade. White has been
PHOTO BY MEAGAN HALL
CIERRA HOOKS’ STATS Points per game: Rebounds per game: Steals per game: Field goal percent: 3-point field goal percent: training her since. They would go to the YMCA and play against each other. Throughout that time training her, White noticed that Hooks had natural speed. Hooks ran track during the sixth grade, but that was the only year she ran. “I think that (speed) was born in me,” Hooks said. White said that Hooks would get almost 10 steals a game when she was little. “She was the fastest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” White said. “And she had good height, so it was like she was gliding on the court.” The first career-high in points Hooks set this season was 22, which she scored on the road against Western Michigan. She scored 15 points in the third quarter and didn’t miss a shot, using her crossover and quickness to drive past defenders for layups. “She’s good,” Boldon said after that game. Since then, Hooks has continued to shine. While she was one of the first players to come off the bench until recently, Hooks has started the past four games. Redshirt senior guard Taylor Agler, who usually starts, has been recovering from an injury. Hooks’ first start was Feb. 3, when the Bobcats played Ball State at home. The Bobcats were in another close game, leading 5449 heading into the fourth quarter. Junior guard Dominique Doseck fouled out in the third quarter, and Agler fouled out with under seven minutes left in the game. Hooks was one of the few ball handlers left, and she had four fouls. She knew that she couldn’t foul out. “I wanted to win, so I had to be smart about it,” Hooks said after that game. She was. Hooks didn’t foul out, and she made 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to help the Bobcats maintain the lead. She set a career-high of 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Four days later, Hooks bested herself. She scored a career-high 30 points — her current best — Feb. 7 against Central Michigan, and she also tallied a career-high nine steals.
14.4 4.9 3.3 48.5 14.3
The last time an Ohio player nine steals in a game was December 2010, when Tenishia Benson had nine against Wright State. Hooks has 79 steals this season, and she leads the Mid-American Conference in steals per game (3.3). “She’s really a special player on the defensive end,” Jackson said. “And I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone in my years of coaching quite like her in terms of how they affect the game defensively.” Hooks’ quickness allows her to play tight defense, and it also allows her to easily drive to the basket. But as she continues her career, she still has facets of her game to improve on. Shooting the ball better will be important for Hooks. She’s a freshman now, but once teams start preparing for her more, they’ll begin to sag off and let her shoot. She has shot 21 3-pointers this season and has only made three of them. For Hooks, though, it’s about having the confidence to shoot more jumpers. She’s had open jumpers sometimes, but she’ll usually not take the shot. “When she misses a couple shots, (she’ll) kind of get down on herself,” White said. “(She’ll) get an open shot; she probably won’t shoot the next one if she missed the last two.” Still, White knows that Hooks’ jump shot will come eventually. He has high expectations for Hooks, the sister he’s trained since she was in elementary school. For this season, he wants her to win MAC Freshman of the Year. That’s a realistic achievement, particularly considering Hooks’ expertise on the defensive end. But for Hooks, who has led Ohio’s top tier defense this season, the ultimate goal is much greater. And it’s also another realistic one. “The goal is to be Ohio’s best women’s basketball player ever,” White said. “That’s the goal.”
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CURVE GABBY BURRIS continues to thrive in new starting role >>P14
12 / FEB. 15, 2018
Ohio freshman forward Gabby Burris (#41) tries to get past a Notre Dame College defender in the second half of the Bobcatsâ€™ win on November 16. (CARL FONTICELLA / FILE) THEPOSTATHENS.COM / 13
Freshman Gabby Burris succeeds in transition to starting role SPENCER HOLBROOK ASST. SPORTS EDITOR Gabby Burris walked into the Ohio media room, plain-faced and ready to answer questions. Just minutes before, she had gashed Ball State — in her first career start at Ohio — for a career-high 19 points and eight rebounds in the Bobcats’ victory. When asked about when she no longer felt like a freshman anymore and when she was grown-up, Burris answered. “Today.” Burris, a Baltimore, Ohio, native, has played a pivotal role for the Bobcats’ success in Mid-American Conference play; she’s doing so as just a freshman. Her success was to be expected by anyone who watched her or knew of her in high school; at Liberty Union High School, she was the Associated Press Ohio Division III Player of the Year in 2017 and averaged 24.8 points per game and 11.6 rebounds per game after missing her junior year with a knee injury. But that was high school. Being the best player on the high school team doesn’t always translate into a college gym. For Burris, however, that success is translating to The Convo. “Gabby’s a great competitor,” redshirt senior Taylor Agler said. “Coming into college, that’s one of the biggest things is the competition level and the speed of the game just increases, and it’s been an easy transition for Gabby because she is an unbelievable competitor, and she loves playing hard.” That competitive nature that Burris possesses started out earning her a reserve role; she came of the bench in each of the first 20 games. In her first 13 games, she scored over double-digits only four times. In the 11 games since, though, she has scored in double-digits seven times. In that span, she’s averaging 11.4 points per game. She has taken on a new role, as well. Burris is now a starter as a true freshman, alongside freshman and fellow starter Cierra Hooks. For Agler, who is the only senior on the team and is largely considered the leader on the floor, it’s easy to teach Burris. Agler knows Burris will listen and do what 14 / FEB. 15, 2018
Gabby Burris makes her way down the court during Ohio’s game against Central Michigan on Feb. 7. The Chippewas defeated the Bobcats 74-72. (EMILEE CHINN / FILE)
It’s been an easy transition for Gabby because she is an unbelievable competitor, and she loves playing hard.
- Taylor Agler, redshirt senior
she’s asked, as well as do her part to make the team successful. “Having teammates (like Burris) that want to play really hard all the time, that’s just one less thing you have to worry about,” Agler said. “Anyone that makes mistakes, but they’re trying their best and trying their hardest, that’s an easy fix.” Burris has been crafting her game all season, getting better as time has passed. There was never a time when she thought she was going to earn valuable minutes in the rotation, or even start, this season. She expected nothing and continued to work hard. It paid off. But in the midst of traveling for a full MAC schedule for the first time while managing classes, Burris isn’t worried about hitting a “freshman wall” and losing production on the court. She just goes about her day. “I feel like I just go about the day,” Burris said. “Like ‘Oh, I’m kind of tired so I
BURRIS’ STATS Points per game: 9.7 Field goal percentage: 43 Rebounds per game: 4.3 should take a nap.’ I just go with the flow.” Whatever her day consists of is working. When it was time for her to start her first game, she was sitting on the bench, waiting for her name to be called as the starting lineups were announced. It was different than her usual position behind the bench, cheering on the starters. But that’s OK. She’s been making plays for the Bobcats all season, but that’s the day she grew up.
Drawing charges, changing momentum Logan Maxfield draws all sorts of fouls to help the Bulldogs win
TREVOR COLGAN FOR THE POST
Athens High school junior guard Logan Maxfield (25) looks to pass the ball to a teammate during the game against River Valley on Dec. 8. The Bulldogs won 79-51. (ABIGAIL DEAN / FILE)
A whistle blown. A technical called. And as Justin Hynes approached the free throw line for the Athens Bulldogs, clapping was heard. The clapping was coming from Logan Maxfield, the Bulldog who always seems to be drawing fouls to try to get momentum back going Athens’ way. He was clapping because he was back to his old tricks. Whether it’s charges, drawing shooting fouls or baiting technical fouls. It doesn’t seem to matter. Maxfield is always on the floor, always around the play and always trying to change the shape of the game. Sometimes, however, he has to pay the price. “It really hurts sometimes, man,” Maxfield laughed. Hurt might be an understatement, as Maxfield, a junior, has elbow bursitis that flares up randomly. But, in the moment, he probably doesn’t feel it. “I think it’s a delayed pain,” Robert Maxfield, Logan’s dad, said. “It’s take the charge first, feel the pain later.” Baiting the other team into committing a technical foul in a close game isn’t the only example of Logan changing the game in the Bulldogs’ favor. In Athens’ Jan. 30 win over Jackson, Logan made a 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs up one point, then took a charge on the other end. Those two plays ended up as the biggest of the game, but coach Mickey Cozart pointed out another play by Maxfield that he was more impressed with. Cozart raved about the play Logan made a little before his last-minute heroics. On a loose ball, Logan dove from almost out of nowhere onto the floor, getting possession of the ball for the Bulldogs. Every Bulldog on the floor and on the bench was fired up, and it was an almost visible shift in momentum. “That’s big time stuff,” Cozart said. “Guys that play like that, can play for me, anytime.” Logan has countless other examples of changing the game in the Bulldogs’ favor. It normally looks like this: someone, often
I think it’s a delayed pain. It’s take the charge first, feel the pain later.
- Robert Maxfield, Logan’s father
times Logan, forces a turnover — either by poking the ball out or by jumping a passing lane — then Logan finishes his layup at the hoop by getting fouled. The physicality Logan plays with may come from his other sport: football. On fall Friday nights, the hits he makes while tackling his opposition are what’s heard. And on winter Friday nights, Logan hitting the hardwood after drawing a charge is what’s heard. One may hurt a little more than the other for Logan, but both change the game positively for the Bulldogs. “Football fuels basketball, and basketball fuels football,” Robert said. While his dad sees the connection between the two sports, one big difference remains. “I don’t have pads on or anything,” Logan said. The fire that Logan plays with doesn’t just come against opponents, it can come in practice, against his teammates, too. Standing around, shooting free throws at the end of practice, he takes a
few steps back, gets a running start and reaches for the rim. On the way up, he grabs and holds. “Oh, look at Logan, he can jump,” junior Eli Chubb yelled from across the gym. So Logan tries again, this time trying with two hands. He misses the rim, slipping and falling on his landing. “I knew that was going to happen,” Cozart said with a laughing. One more try for Logan, this time on one of the main hoops in the gym, not the side ones he had tried on at first. He does it again, rocking the rim this time. “Told you I could do it,” he yells as his teammates congratulate him and celebrate with him. Logan’s attempts start others in trying to grab rim or dunk. He may have not been the best to do it, but he was the first to try it and get his team going, just like he does during a game.
@TREVOR_COLGAN TC648714@OHIO.EDU THEPOSTATHENS.COM / 15
Stepping forward Athens has not lost since Isaiah Butcher was put into the starting lineup saiah Butcher has a self-proclaimed destiny, one he made when he was about 3 or 4 years old. That destiny is to play professionally. That isn’t hyperbole, either. The kid who could catch and throw a ball before all the other kids and couldn’t understand why they couldn’t do what he could would look at his parents and say that playing sports was his destiny. Things didn’t come easy for Butcher — the youngest of four — playing sports growing up. Whether it was playing his dad, his sisters or his cousins, he wasn’t given any wins. He had to earn them. When Butcher sat on the varsity bench his freshman year after the junior varsity games, it was a step on his journey of reaching his destiny. When he started getting playing time at the beginning of this season, his sophomore year, it was another step. And when he was put into the Bulldog starting lineup midway through the season, it was another step. But there can be stumbling blocks on that journey. Those stumbling blocks come sometimes when the expressive 6-foot-4 forward receives flak from opposing fans and players. His dad, Mark, has a simple reminder: Don’t let them get in the way of your destiny. “I don’t let him forget that,” Mark said. Isaiah, who was inserted into Athens starting lineup Jan. 23 to fill in for the injured Dalton Cozart, is a big guy who can play both inside and out. He can shoot the 3-pointer; he can score from the post. He can fill up the scoresheet quickly doing either one. Don’t forget his court vision, which allows him to make a pass — sometimes a no-look one — from the high post to a cutting teammate right on time. He has made major contributions to the eight-game winning streak the Bulldogs are on as of press time. He isn’t afraid to take the open 3-pointer or to take the ball to the hoop. “He had some sophomore moments, but he’s going to,” coach Mickey Cozart said after Isaiah’s first start. “He’s not a
16 / FEB. 15, 2018
Isaiah Butcher looks to make a pass into the paint during Athens’ game against River Valley on Dec. 8. (ABIGAIL DEAN / FILE)
guy that’s going to be afraid to take the big shot. He just doesn’t know what fear is.” And he isn’t just taking the open 3-pointers — he’s making them. Isaiah is shooting more than 50 percent from 3-point range since being inserted into the starting lineup. “I just get the ball, and it happens to go in,” he said. And being able to play both inside and out with ease? All confidence from Isaiah. “The big men are supposed to come out and guard me, and I can go in and out,” he said. “So yeah, it’s pretty easy.” For as confident as Isaiah is in his game, his pregame ritual is a stark contrast to that. The public address announcer calls his name and No. 33, then Isaiah rises from the Athens bench, jogs through the line of his teammates and feigns throwing a pitch to a waiting Blake Stover, who then swings an imaginary bat for a home run. And as Isaiah watches the pretend ball sail into the crowd, it is the polar opposite of his confidence — his
He’s not a guy that’s going to be afraid to take the big shot. He just doesn’t know what fear is.
TREVOR COLGAN FOR THE POST
- Mickey Cozart, Athens coach
pretend pitch ends in giving up a home run instead of getting a strikeout. His confidence probably stems from the hard-fought wins he earned against his family growing up. That confidence also comes from his dad, making sure his son is always at the top of his game. “He’s a hard worker,” Isaiah said of Mark. “I just want to prove to him that one day I could maybe make it to the pros.” And no matter where his son is playing, Mark, and the rest of the family — mother Rose and mawmaw Sue — are going to be there watching him, probably the proudest, most confident family in the gym. “I liked high school sports, I liked college sports, I liked the NFL, the NBA, college ball. But, I’ll be honest with you right now, if my son ain’t playing...” Mark said before trailing off. “I’m so excited to watch him. There’s nothing like watching your son play and doing well at it.”
The injury waiting game A lengthy list of injuries, severe and minor, has turned some Ohio players into spectators
BREAKDOWN OF OHIO’S INJURIES Player: Jason Carter, #1 Injury: stress fracture Games missed: 21 Player: Jordan Dartis, #35 Injury: hip Games missed: 2
JORDAN HORROBIN STAFF WRITER
en Vander Plas admits he’s dozed off for brief moments. Jason Carter has, at times, resorted to juggling tennis balls. James Gollon, when it was his turn, stopped traveling for road games and stuck his nose deeper into his studies. There’s only so much a player can do while waiting out a long-term injury. Ohio knows that all too well. Returning scholarship players have missed 27 combined games this year due to injury, as well as countless practices. A pair of injured freshmen inflate those numbers even more. The result is scrambled lineups and thin game rotations, which have contributed to the team’s last-place standing in the Mid-American Conference. The hardest part of recovery, as players will say, is the helplessness of watching from the sideline. “I would expect us to be a lot more pouty than we are right now,” coach Saul Phillips said in regard to his team’s position in the conference. “The only guys that get long in the face are the guys that can’t be out there practicing.” After a practice in early December, Carter said he couldn’t recall a time since childhood that he’d spent more than a few weeks off a basketball court. That’s why, in his return from a lower right leg injury that kept him out the first month of the season, he was eager for the wait to be over. “That’s what that month of no basketball will do to you,” he said at the time. “You’re just like, ‘All right, I’m just happy to be back out here.’ ” But on Dec. 16 — just three games later — Carter was back on the bench wearing a walking boot. He had a stress fracture.
Player: Mike Laster, #24 Injury: shoulder Games missed: 1 Player: Kevin Mickle, #23 Injury: knee Games missed: 3 Player: A.J. Gareri, #44 Injury: shoulder Games missed: 12 Player: Zach Butler, #0 Injury: shoulder Games missed: 1 Ohio sophomore forward Jason Carter celebrates on the bench after a big play in the second half of the Bobcats’ 73-66 loss on Jan. 26. Carter is likely out for the remainder of the 2017-18 season due to a foot injury. (CARL FONTICELLA / FILE)
The team hasn’t made an announcement, but Carter, a preseason all-conference pick as a forward, appears to be shut down for the season and in position to receive a medical redshirt. Now, when he isn’t taking part in shooting drills and the occasional juggling, he can only watch. For someone who is used to playing virtually non-stop throughout the year, that’s tough to do. “Especially in those games that are close and you can’t be out there helping the team,” he said in December. “But it (has) helped me in just learning how much I miss the game.” For Vander Plas, Carter’s roommate, the wait is over — to some extent. Vander Plas, a forward, broke his tibia on a spin move during an open gym in the second weekend of September. He spent two months wearing a hard cast and using a scooter to motor around, then began his rehab process by stretching with
bands and doing balance exercises. Shooting drills, squatting and sprints followed, until he finally returned for his first full practice on Jan. 15. Ohio has played nine games since then — all without Vander Plas. As with Carter, there has been no announcement from the team about Vander Plas’ situation, but it’s a near-certainty he, too, will be redshirted. Under that assumption, his time off the court had less to do with an inability to help the team, and more to do with an inability to help himself. He is a freshman, after all, who needs time to acclimate to playing at the college level. “Everyone else is in midseason form, and I’m still recovering from an injury,” Vander Plas said. “It’s definitely a challenge. Yeah, I put some pressure on myself, but it’s all good. Just pushing me to get back and work the hardest to get as good as I can right now.” Another freshman who had a late start to the season is forward A.J. Gareri. He injured his shoul-
der in late July, had surgery in October and worked his way back to full health by mid-December. At its worst, Gareri’s injury prevented him from raising his hand above his head. But since his first full day of practice Dec. 14, he’s played in 10 of Ohio’s 16 games. Players seeking someone with a light-at-the-end-of-thetunnel mindset should look no further than Gollon, a redshirt sophomore guard, who has found his way into the regular rotation after an injury-stricken season last year. Last spring and into the summer, Gollon had two surgeries in a three-month span. He knows injuries can be isolating when they take players out of their regular routine. But injuries are unifying, too. “It’s kind of like when you have people around you who are also hurt, it helps you a lot,” he said. “Because you kind of help each other out and motivate each other to get through it and push through it.”
Player: Ben Vander Plas, #5 Injury: leg Games missed: all season Gollon is happy to share his experience with those currently in the thick of their recoveries. When he has heart-to-heart conversations with teammates, he tells them to look at what lies ahead. “It’s never been nothing more major than me just telling them, ‘Well, look man, if you’re dealing with a three-month injury, you can make it through,’ ” Gollon said. “ ‘I just sat out for 12, 14 months.’ … So I just tell them to put it in perspective.” In some contexts, injuries are an excuse for underperforming teams. Phillips doesn’t like talking about how injuries have impacted his group, but they make up a dense chapter of this season, whether he likes it or not. And while Phillips uses the players available to him, others must wait — patiently or otherwise — for their chance. “In a perfect world, everyone would be healthy,” Phillips said.
@JORDANHORROBIN JH950614@OHIO.EDU THEPOSTATHENS.COM / 17
ANDREW GILLIS SPORTS EDITOR
FOLLOW THE LEADER How Mike Laster’s work ethic made him one of the Bobcats’ most reliable leaders and scorers
hen Mike Laster talks to Zach Butler, the conversation carries weight to it. Butler, a freshman guard, was supposed to join a roster behind former point guard Jaaron Simmons. Instead, Butler found himself playing behind another freshman, guard Teyvion Kirk. So Laster talked to Butler and began to teach him some of the lessons he had learned himself — specifically, about work ethic and waiting for a turn to hit the floor. After all, Laster had been there before. “I kind of tell him the struggles I went through,” Laster said. “I tell him all my experiences, kind of help them learn from what I’ve grew from at an early age. If I’m able to give them this advice early, they wouldn’t go through the same stuff that I went through. They’re going to do it a little better than I did.” Even with his on-court product the best it has ever been, Laster’s key role has been the off-court work he put in when no one was watching, and the lessons he can provide from it. “The role that I’m playing right now, it’s really cool, for real,” Laster said. “I feel like a lot of people listen to me and take what I say and account for it.” It’s the role that Laster has embraced, the team’s leader because of his on and off the floor habits. All of the work that he put in has culminated in a senior year that, team record aside, has gone about as well as it could for Laster. “The difference between him and most people, in the world in general, is that he not only leads with his words, but he leads with his actions,” Kirk said. “(He’s) one of the best seniors you can have around.” He’s not a vocal leader per se, but he doesn’t need to be. Everything he needs to say is nonverbal when he takes the floor with his injured left shoulder wrapped up. It’s a lead-by-example model, and it’s one that has worked for the Bobcats by their hardest working player. “The biggest thing you can do for me is be available,” coach Saul Phillips said. “(Freshmen) need to have somebody like that to look at to say, ‘OK, this is what a senior looks like. This is what I need to try and become.’ ”
Ohio senior guard Mike Laster poses for a portrait. Laster, a four-year player, could have transferred to another school but decided to stay in Athens. (BLAKE NISSEN / PHOTO EDITOR)
18 / FEB. 15, 2018
Over the last few weeks, Laster has played through pain. Everyone knows it. Everyone can see it with each trip down the floor whenever his left arm is held close to his stomach. Just how much pain he has is a question difficult to answer. But it wouldn’t make much sense for Laster to talk openly about his left shoulder, which has come wrapped in a brace for the last few weeks. At Eastern Michigan on Jan. 20, his shoulder popped out of place while going for a rebound. His arm got locked up going for the ball, and, for good measure, he landed on his left side, too. Laster had it set back into place and returned to the game. Ten days later, it happened again at Bowling Green. Laster went into the hallway, removed his jersey and had his shoulder put back into place by the training staff once more. “I don’t know, I don’t want to know, I don’t want to ask,” Kirk said of what he knew of Laster’s pain. “That’s probably a tough situation. He’s grinding it out, playing hard and producing for us with an injury.” The shoulder can, Phillips said, pop out of place at any second. He also said the injury has limited Laster in some ways, as he’s had to make variations to his game that have been restricting. Instead of driving to the rim like he normally would, he’s had to pull up short and shoot fadeaway jumpers. Despite his injury, he leads a Bobcat team decimated by injuries elsewhere on the roster in minutes per game. But for Laster, it’s not his style to complain or willingly sit out. It’s the first attribute his teammates will mention when asked about him. Laster’s work ethic has put him in a position that few — except for those who know him — thought possible for the first two and a half years of his college career.
Laster has forgotten about his last two seasons on purpose. But Laster’s minutes reduction from his sophomore to senior season has demonstrated his dedication to the Bobcats. He was Phillips’ first recruit at Ohio in 2014 out of Cass Technical High School in Detroit. Laster started 17 games his freshman year, but, over the next two seasons, he didn’t make one start. “You can’t really think about stuff that happened before,” Laster said. “You’ve just got to keep moving forward.” Laster averaged just 1.9 points per game his sophomore year in just 9.4 minutes after a strong start to his career. In his junior season, it looked to be more of the same. But then Antonio Campbell, Ohio’s best player out for the season, went down with an injury and was out for the season. The
Bobcats needed minutes from elsewhere in the lineup. That’s where Laster, who continued to work throughout his minutes reduction, came into play. He averaged 21.8 minutes per game in the 16 games without Campbell and pinned together a five-game stretch in which he reached double digit points. Even though he wasn’t starting, Laster had carved out a nice little niche for himself on the team. But the most impressive part of that isn’t the improved stat line or the increased role. It’s the work that preceded it. “It’s easy to come in the gym when you get 35 minutes a night and shoot,” senior forward Sam Frayer said. “But when you’re getting three or four minutes a night and the shots aren’t falling, that’s when it’s hard, that’s when you really test your character. Mike’s got good character.” Laster kept working with long nights in The Convo, perfecting whatever he could for his eventual chance, whenever — and if ever — it would come. “The progress that he’s done off the court that no one has seen is what’s the biggest impact and the biggest thing we take away from that,” junior guard Gavin Block said. “He’s doing everything when no one is watching.” Laster never made a problem about his lack of minutes. He just kept working. But to Laster, that’s the only way of doing things. He won’t brag about it, either. Yet, that doesn’t mean that no one else can for him. “I sound like a broken record,” Phillips said. “There has not been one person that has put more sweat equity in this, even when they weren’t necessarily getting the returns they wanted, than Mike.” At the outset of this season, Laster’s role still was in flux. His position as a starter still wasn’t sealed as the season drew closer. But in Ohio’s first few games, he established himself as not only a starter but the go-to scorer when the Bobcats needed one. He scored double-digit points for 12 games in a row from November to January and is the team’s second leading scorer (14.7 per game), just narrowly behind Kirk (15.1 per game). And for Laster, his grind is something that can’t be seen by fans or casual viewers of Ohio basketball. It’s only something that can be found out by talking to his teammates and coaches. It’s not the oncourt product that has been meaningful for the Bobcats — it’s the relationships he’s built off the floor, too. “You never set an arrival date for a player — you just keep plugging away until they get to the point where they’re comfortable enough to make the plays they need to make,” Phillips said. “It has been a very rewarding year in terms of watching Mike Laster grow as a person, as a player, as a leader.” @ANDREW_GILLIS70 AG079513@OHIO.EDU
SIDE-BY-SIDE SENIOR YEAR
MINUTES PER GAME
14.7 POINTS PER GAME
2.9 REBOUNDS PER GAME
1.7 ASSISTS PER GAME THEPOSTATHENS.COM / 19
Student shows officer fake ID; puppy ownership disputed ASHTON NICHOLS STAFF WRITER Police officers are not likely to accept a fake ID. The Ohio University Police department dispatched officers to the lobby of Bromley Hall on Feb. 8 for a report of an intoxicated woman. While the officers were attempting to identify the woman, she showed the officers a fake ID, according to an OUPD report. She was arrested and charged with underage drinking and possession of a fake ID, and she was transported to Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail. UNKNOWN ADDRESS The Athens County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report Feb. 10 of a man who was said to have made a friend on the internet. The friend said she lived somewhere outside Athens. While the man was talking to her on the phone, the line went dead, according to a sheriff’s report. He said her phone battery was low, so he was not surprised when the line went dead, but she had previously said the car across the street was flashing its lights and he was worried for her wellbeing. He had no actual address for the woman, so nothing could be done.
THE MISTAKEN PUP The sheriff’s office took a report of theft of a puppy Feb. 12 on Vore Ridge Road. After deputies spoke with the dog warden and the prosecutor’s office, they determined the puppy’s ownership was a civil matter, according to a sheriff’s report. Both of the owners had dog tags for the puppy and were claiming ownership. NOBODY’S HOME The Athens County Sheriff’s Office responded to Dover Township on Feb. 8 for a report of a possible breaking and entering. The caller said the house across the street was supposed to be unoccupied, but they could see lights on inside. Deputies checked the residence but found all doors and windows to be locked, according to a sheriff’s office report. There were no signs of tampering or forced entry and no signs of any criminal act. No one was seen or heard in the house. UNWELCOME The Athens County Sheriff’s Office received a report Feb. 10 when a Mill School Road resident said a woman they knew walked into their home unannounced and was not welcome. Deputies did not charge the woman with trespassing.
Kelly Sabaduic outside of Scott Quad. (MEAGAN HALL | PHOTO EDITOR)
They gave her a ride down the road to another residence where she was welcome, according to a sheriff’s report. THE TRESPASSING DAD OUPD was dispatched to Wray House on Feb. 10 for an intoxicated man, according to an OUPD report. The man was found sleeping on a sofa. The man told the officer he was staying with his son but was unable to tell officers where his son lived. Officers arrested the man and cited him for disorderly
conduct by intoxication. THE TIRED MAN The Athens County Sheriff’s Office assisted the Athens County Emergency Medical Service on Feb. 12 with unresponsive man located in a vehicle in The Plains. The man told EMS he was just tired. He refused treatment and had a friend drive him home, according to a sheriff’s report.
Bill in Ohio House could save students dozens on textbooks; someone shot during alleged burglary KAITLYN MCGARVEY FOR THE POST Ohio University students are preparing for midterms with the start of week five. Here is some of what has been going on in and around Athens: HOUSE BILL 337 COULD EXEMPT SALES TAX FROM COLLEGE TEXTBOOKS A new bill introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives could save students dozens of dollars on textbooks. Ohio House Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Columbus, first presented Ohio House Bill 337 in September. House Bill 337 would exempt 20 / FEB. 15, 2018
textbooks from Ohio’s sales tax, which has inflated 1,000 percent since 1977. The bill is now with the House chair and the speaker of the House, which means it will be referred to a committee and then voted on at a future hearing. Textbooks cost about $1,500 per year, or about 10 percent of the average cost for tuition at public colleges in Ohio, Duffey said. Despite other representatives supporting the bill, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio recently announced its opposition to the tax exemption. The association would be affected by the change because some of the money from those taxes goes to Ohio counties.
The bill would cost the state about $30 million every two years, which is a “drop in the bucket” for a budget of $72 billion, Duffey said. Routinely, the state exceeds expenditures by a revenue of $30 million. With the proposal of House Bill 337, faculty senates throughout Ohio have been asked to endorse the bill. OU Faculty Senate passed a resolution unanimously supporting the bill at its February meeting. STUDENTS COULD SOON BE ABLE TO BORROW BIKES ON CAMPUS OU students will soon be able to participate in a campus bike-sharing program. Landen Lama, the president of OU Stu-
dent Senate, is leading the process and hopes to have a bike company picked out by the time he graduates in May. Lama is coordinating with the university to pick a bike company, choose locations for the bikes and figure out what the program may cost for participating students. Students want bike stations all over campus, according to a survey Student Senate conducted. The results of that survey will be forwarded to the university. Lama is advocating for the university to use the bike racks already on campus as opposed to having specific stations for them. Seventy-eight percent of students surveyed said they would participate
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in a free bike-sharing program. That number drops to 47 percent if students had to pay a small fee for the program. Lama did not want students to have to pay for the bike program, but that is likely not possible, he said. PERSON SHOT IN POSSIBLE BURGLARY A person was shot during an alleged burglary in Athens, according to a news release from the Athens Police Department. APD received a 911 hang-up call Feb. 12 from 42 W. Carpenter St. Officers were told a burglary had occurred at the residence. They determined someone was shot during the incident and fled
MULTIMEDIA CONTACT EB823313@OHIO.EDU
the scene before officers arrived. Two light-skinned black men left the area in a black four-door Honda Accord, according to the news release. Both were about 6 feet 3 inches tall. One was about 220 pounds, and the other had a “slender build.” APD later received a call that a gunshot victim had arrived at the OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital emergency room. That person was treated and transported to a hospital in Columbus. The incident is under investigation, according to the news release.
@KTLYNMCGRVY KM451814@OHIO.EDU THEPOSTATHENS.COM / 21
the weekender African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo to bring high energy, harmony to MemAud MAE YEN YAP CULTURE EDITOR
When Winsome Marcia Chunnu first watched Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform live, she could not sit down. “It was high energy. There’s a lot of movements and the way they harmonize is amazing,” Chunnu, the strategic director for diversity and inclusion and multicultural programs and initiatives, said. “For most of the concert, I was standing.” In celebration of Black History Month, the Grammy award-winning South African musical group Ladysmith Black Mambazo will return to Athens as part of Ohio University’s Performing Arts and Concert Series. The group will perform at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Admission is $15 for OU students, $22 for senior citizens and $25 for general admission. The event is co-sponsored by various organizations including OU’s multicultural center. Ladysmith Black Mambazo began in the early ’60s in the city of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, the namesake and home of many members of the group, according to its website. The word “black” in the group’s name refers to oxens, and the word “mambazo” is a Zulu word which means chopping axe, referring to the group members’ vocal strength. The music performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo is based on a type of South African traditional music named isicathamiya, which originated in the mines of South Africa and was developed by black workers who were given poor working conditions. The workers would gather together and sing as a form of entertainment. Since its inception, the group has recorded with various artists includ22 / FEB. 15, 2018
ing Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton and Michael Jackson. The members have also performed for movie soundtracks like Disney’s The Lion King. Ladysmith Black Mambazo has won Grammy awards in 1988, 2004, 2009, 2013 and 2018. In 2017, the singing group was nominated for Grammy awards for its albums Peace and Love for Kids & Parents Around the World and Shaka Zulu Revisited. “They are a world-renowned group, so they’ve traveled extensively all around the world performing,” Chunnu said. “It’s an honor to have them in Athens.” Alex Bucaro, a sophomore studying communication studies, sometimes listens to South African music and said it sounds different from common pop music songs because classic instruments are used more often instead of technology. “I feel like it’s more original,” she said. “I like it.” Bucaro is interested in attending the event and watching the group perform. The different music genre would attract a different crowd, and it would be an interesting experience to watch Ladysmith Black Mambazo live, she said. “I’ve been to some of the country concerts, and they were fun,” Bucaro said. “But I bet a different group would be interested in going to see a whole different genre.” Chunnu describes the lineup in the performing arts series as a learning experience. If the performance is by an international group, it’s an opportunity for the international population in Athens to support and enjoy the show and also for the domestic population to learn about other countries, and vice versa. “It’s part of what we strive to expose
Ladysmith Black Mambazo will perform at MemAud on Friday night. (PROVIDED VIA Performing Arts and Concert Series website)
IF YOU GO What: Ladysmith Black Mambazo When: 7:30 p.m., Friday Where: TempletonBlackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium Admission: $15 for students, $22 for senior citizens and $25 for general admission
our students, faculty staff and community members to,” she said. Chunnu said she’ll be attending the event Friday and is excited to watch Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform live again. “I’m just looking forward to being in the space and experiencing that high energy, very uplifting — but also educational — moment again,” she said.
WHAT’S GOING ON? KEVIN PAN SLOT EDITOR
Friday Jim Wachtel and Just Gigs at 5 p.m. at The Corner, 120 W. Union St. Jim Wachtel will be joined by Just Gigs at Corner during happy hour. Wachtel’s Facebook page describes his music as vocal interpretations of seasoned storytelling. His shows merge together rockabilly, country, blues and jazz. Admission is free. Spotlight Shabbat: Jewish Women at
6 p.m. at Hillel, 21 Mill St. The musical Shabbat focuses on the voices of experiences of Jewish women, both now and in the past. All genders are welcome to attend, and a Shabbat dinner of homemade pizza will be served. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP. Admission is free. Angela Perley & The Howlin’ Moons
at 9 p.m. at The Union, 18 W. Union St. Enjoy a night filled with music from the band originally from Columbus led by a former Ohio University student. Admission is $6 in advance, $8 at the door. Blues and Booze with Worthless Excuse at 10 p.m. at the Smiling
Skull Saloon, 108 W. Union St. BootBandits, Nerak Roth Patterson Band and Worthless Excuse will perform at the Skull. BootBandits describes its music as a versatile mixture of psychedelic and blues with a southern rock influence. Admission is free.
The exterior of Little Fish Brewing Company, 8675 Armitage Road, in Athens. (HANNAH RUHOFF / FILE)
Saturday The Big Sit at 8:30 a.m. at Factory
Street Studio, 37 Ohio Ave. Sponsored by Athens KTC – Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center, students and Athens residents alike are invited to a morning of quiet meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Before the meditation, Lama Tom Broadwater will briefly discuss why meditation is an important part of life. Coffee, tea and snacks will be shared after the event. Admission is free. Strouds Run Shoreline Clean Up at 10
a.m. at Strouds Run State Park, 11661 State Park Road. Hosted by Friends of Strouds Run, all are invited to join a shoreline cleanup effort as the water level will be its lowest point, granting cleaners access to discarded items. Attendees are recommended to bring mud boots, water, snacks
and gloves. There will be a chance of coming across broken glass, fish lines, pocket knifes and “sometimes really gross stuff.” Admission is free. Radio Lark with Jackie Popovec at 6 p.m. at Jackie O’s Taproom, 25 Campbell St. Music will start with Jackie Popovec first, followed by Radio Lark, an indie-pop band, at 7:40 p.m. Admission is free. Josiah Whitley at 7 p.m. at Little Fish
Brewery, 8675 Armitage Road. Singer-songwriter Josiah Whitley, originally from Wheelersburg, will perform a combination of folk, blues, country and rock. Admission is free. Valentine’s Weekend with John Horne
at 8 p.m. at Athens Uncorked, 14 Station St. An evening of solo jazz guitar played by John Horne can be found at Athens Uncorked for people looking for a romantic night. Admission is free.
Sunday Little Fish Yoga at 11 a.m. at Little Fish
Brewing Company, 8675 Armitage Road. It may be winter, but yoga sessions are still taking place at Little Fish. The session will be held inside the taproom and will be led by instructor Erin Pfahler. Attendees are asked to bring their own mats. Brew will be available afterwards. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Inclusive Science Day at 2 p.m. at Athens Community Center, 701 E. State St. Hosted by the Ohio Valley Museum of Discovery and OU’s National Science Teachers Association and Student Council for Exceptional Children, the event will make science accessible to all learners with and without special needs, according to its Facebook page. Admission is free.
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