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COLUMBUS — It seems whenever anyone who knows him is asked about Marc Loving, they eventually get around to saying some form of the phrase, "He's such a good kid."
He's also a pretty good basketball player.
That's the main reason why Loving, a 6-foot-8 gentle giant for St. John's Jesuit who is headed to Ohio State, is the 26th annual winner of the Associated Press Mr. Basketball award, emblematic of the top player in the state.
Loving averaged 21.3 points and 8.2 rebounds a game while shooting 60 percent from the field, 30 percent behind the arc, and 70 percent on free throws. A two-time player of the year in Division I, he led his team to a 20-4 record.
Loving is the fourth basketball player from the Toledo area to win the top individual award.
Jim Jackson won the first two Mr. Basketball awards in 1988 and ‘89, followed by William Buford in 2008. Natahsa Howard won the Ms. Basketball award in 2010.
Loving is a two-time All-Blade player of the year, being named the honor for this season and at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Buckeyes coach Thad Matta was asked what he saw in Loving.
"Size, athleticism and his ability," he said. "He's very, very skilled for his size. He's from a great high school program and he won a ton of games up there. And he's a great kid, from a great family. That's what sold us from the get-go."
Loving's coach, Ed Heintschel, talked about Loving's versatility, his court IQ and his shooting range, then veers to where every conversation about the big kid seems to go.
"He is a low- to no-maintenance guy with a very, very high return," he said. "He's been a pleasure to have on the team. This kid is a can't-miss as a human being."
Lots of other people do the talking for Loving and his game. He's more of a soft-spoken type, quick to laugh but more prone to short answers than elaborate soliloquies about how good he is.
When the subject turns to games he influenced this past season, he didn't mention his school-record 42 points at Lima Senior when St. John's was without one of its key starters. Instead, he said words that have to sound sweet to Matta, who extols the virtues of gritty defense at every opportunity.
"We were down by a couple of points and I had a big blocked shot, a good stop," Loving said. "We went down and scored and I got another rebound and it changed the whole game."
He's unlike many elite high school players in that he doesn't really like to talk about himself. Asked what separates him from other great prep stars, he replies, tongue in cheek, "Being 6-8."
Loving lives in Toledo with his parents — his mother works for Owens-Corning and his father for Chrysler — and a 12-year-old sister.
He's a humble, clear-headed, smart (B average) kid, unlike a lot of others. He doesn't have a posse. He doesn't have an attitude. He does not have a sense of entitlement.
"He's just a real solid, solid kid," Heintschel said. "Comes from a great family. Never in trouble, kind of a low-key kid. Pretty quiet. He got more verbal this year as a senior, which was very helpful. He lets the game come to him a little bit, but if necessary he'll impose his will on the game."
When Loving is asked about the 42-point game, he almost swats it aside like an opposing layup.
"It was all in the flow of the game. I try not to force anything," he said. "Then once the double-teams start collapsing, I looked for the open man and we got good shots."
That doesn't sound like a prima donna. It does sound like the 2013 Mr. Basketball.
Among those he beat out for the award are St. Clairsville's Dan Monteroso, Luke Kennard of Franklin, Ironton's Zac Carter, and Isaac McGlone of Carroll Bloom-Carroll.
Loving joins a list of past winners that includes three-time winner LeBron James, Big Ten player of the year Trey Burke, and two-time All-American Jared Sullinger.