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This year’s senior group of boys basketball is among the best ever produced by the Toledo area, and St. John’s Jesuit’s Marc Loving has the special distinction of being at the head of the class.
The basketball valedictorian, so to speak.
The versatile 6-foot-8 forward-guard again heads up the All-Blade boys basketball team by repeating his selection as player of the year.
Also on his resume are Ohio Division I player-of-the-year honors the last two years, and a second-team All-Ohio selection in 2011. This year he is a leading candidate for the state’s Mr. Basketball award. That award along with All-Ohio picks for this year are announced next week.
“I’m humbled by it,” Loving said of his accolades. “I feel like I’ve worked hard to be where I’m at right now, and I’m looking forward to working even harder [in college] to become a better player.
“I need to work on having consistent energy on offense and defense, and to be more of a vocal leader that gets all of my teammates involved.”
Loving is part of five-player group that is not only the tallest and most talented ever chosen in 18 years of the All-Blade team, but can reasonably be rated as better than this year’s Division I All-Ohio first team.
Don’t believe it? Compare the selections.
Loving, who committed to Ohio State not long after his freshman season concluded at St. John’s, signed to accept the scholarship offer in November.
He is one of four players on this year’s All-Blade team to sign with a Big Ten program.
The fifth — Bedford’s 6-6 senior forward Jackson Lamb — might likely also have played basketball there had he not opted instead to play baseball on scholarship at Michigan.
Rounding out the Blade boys squad are Whitmer’s 6-7 forward Nigel Hayes and Bowling Green’s 6-8 forward Vitto Brown, who have each signed to play at Wisconsin, and Anthony Wayne’s 6-9 center, Mark Donnal, who has signed with Michigan.
A testament to how talented this quintet is can be illustrated by the superb players who did not make the five-member first team.
Napoleon’s 6-5 senior Jordan Lauf (21.6 points, 9.6 rebounds), who has signed to play at Toledo, was an All-Blade pick as a junior when he led the Wildcats to a Northern Lakes League title.
This year, Lauf did not crack the top five. Nor did the impressive senior guard tandem of Clemmye Owens and Tony Kynard from Rogers, who have each signed to play Division I college ball at Bethun-Cookman in Florida. Nor did future University of Findlay guards Austin Gardner of St. John’s and Ricardo Smith of Whitmer.
“All those players are great,” 34th-year Titans coach Ed Heintschel said. “One after another, just outstanding players.”
Loving missed just one game during a four-year career that has been the area’s best over the past 20 years.
With the fifth-ranked 20-4 Titans having been upset by Rogers in last the district semifinals, Loving closed his career as St. John’s all-time scoring (1,678 points) and rebounding (711) leader. He also broke the school’s single-game scoring mark this season with a 42-point effort in a win over Lima Senior.
Loving owns these records at a school that has sent six teams to the state final four since 1993, and boasts seven first-team All-Ohioans.
“If he’s not the top player we’ve ever had here, he’s No. 1 or No. 2 at the top,” Heintschel said. “He set records here that I don’t think will ever be broken. He has set the bar pretty high.”
Numbers do not tell the full story of Loving’s impact on the program.
“There are few guys who can do at 6-8 what he does,” Heintschel said. “We see what he does every day in practice, and it’s just amazing. The word versatility jumps to mind when you describe Marc.
“He is also unselfish. I’ve told his teammates how lucky they are when a star player doesn’t have a selfish bone in his body. That’s one of the reasons we moved the ball so well.”
Loving has been goal-oriented since he arrived at St. John’s.
“Coming into the season our goal was to win a state championship, and we wanted to work hard to accomplish that goal,” said Loving, who admitted he was not exactly obsessed with that mission. “Not really, because I didn’t want to put more pressure on myself or the team.
“We just wanted to set our standards high and reach them by working hard. I came to practice focused on getting better and making progress every day.”
Perhaps the best illustration of the respect Loving has earned came last Thursday, after his 29 points, 13 rebounds and four assists were not enough for St. John’s in a 66-55 loss to Rogers.
Overcome by emotion on the bench, Loving was consoled by several of the Rams’ players.
“He has drawn a lot of attention to our program because of the quality of play that he displayed every night,” Heintschel said. “You know people were looking up to him and admiring him as a player, and he’s very humble.”
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.