MILLBURY - A former Lake High School athlete and lifelong Flyers supporter has taken over as the high school's boys basketball coach.
Ryan Bowen, a 1992 graduate of Lake, was hired last month. Bowen, who served as the Flyers freshman boys basketball coach the last two seasons, played baseball, football, and basketball at Lake.
"I'm really excited about it," Bowen said. "I ran the youth program the last five years, so I know all the kids coming up. It's a great group."
Bowen also has owned a barbershop in Millbury for the last 16 years.
"I've been here my entire life," Bowen said. "From kindergarten on, I never left. I started a business here and I know a lot of the people. It's time to give back."
While the basketball program has a new coach, it is uncertain where the team will play its home games after devastating tornadoes destroyed Lake High School last month.
Lake athletic director Dave Shaffer said Bowen's deep commitment to the Lake community was a key as residents continue to cope with the disaster.
"He played here at Lake and he lives in the community and owns a business here," Shaffer said. "He's committed to the kids. He's always been involved with Lake athletics."
Shaffer also cited Bowen's high level of intensity.
"We know he has an awful lot of energy," Shaffer said. "He knows the game and has that excitement. We thought he was the perfect candidate."
Bowen's challenge also is magnified by the team's recent performance. The Flyers posted a 7-34 record over the past two seasons, including a 2-24 mark in league play.
Lake has won just one Suburban Lakes League boys basketball title and that came back in 1999. The Flyers also lost their leading scorer and rebounder, Alex Cordell, to graduation from a team that went 3-17.
"The program has struggled," Bowen said. "It has had only one winning record in the last 15 years. We've been through a bunch of coaches. I'm not looking to go anywhere else. I hope to stay a long time and build a solid program. I think I have the right kids to do it."
Bowen said the Flyers seventh grade team won a league title last season and the eighth grade team also has been successful.
Shaffer said Lake officials have had discussions with several area schools about where the Flyers will play their home games.
"Most of our conversations have been with Owens [Community College]," Shaffer said. "They've offered to let us play there. But there's nothing confirmed at this point. We're looking at all our options."
Shaffer described the last few weeks dealing with the surreal aftermath of the tornadoes as "very emotional"
"I was a graduate of Lake. I've never left Lake. I've been here since the fifth grade," he said.
Shaffer said long hours spent at the high school made it feel like a home away from home.
"I've probably spent more time at that school than I have at my house," he said.
Bowen said the players seem to be working even harder since the storm.
He said Central Catholic basketball coach Jim Welling, who previously coached at Lake, donated the school's gym for Bowen's team to use this month.
"This will be a challenge. My friend's house was destroyed and my parent's house was hit hard," Bowen said. "But the community has been fantastic. The support has been great."
He said the program plans to use a vacant gym at St. Jerome Elementary School in Walbridge for its practices.
"A lot of people have stepped up, including numerous coaches," Bowen said.
Shaffer said the bright spot and uplifting element has been the response of volunteers and the donations from area individuals and groups.
Shaffer said the Lake athletic department will be selling some of the school's vintage sports trophies next Thursday from 1 to 7 p.m. in front of Lake Elementary School. He said the trophies are from invitationals and not from league or Ohio High School Athletic Association events. The costs for small trophies are $5, $10 for the medium-sized awards, and $15 for large. The proceeds benefit the reconstruction of the district's athletic facilities.
"Words don't describe how humbling the support and donations have been," he said. "It's been unbelievable."
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