Tuscarawas Valley returns four starters from regional finalist


Tuscarawas Valley Basketball
With four returning starters, this year’s Tuscarawas Valley boys basketball team is not
going to sneak up on anyone. Last year the Trojans wore the proverbial Cinderella Slipper all the way to the Division III Athens Regional Final. Tusky Valley is one of the favorites in
the Eastern District (Division III) along with Garaway to reach the

The Tuscarawas Valley Trojans (16-10) sent its fans on a magic carpet ride last season wearing the proverbial Cinderella Slipper all the way to the Division III Athens Regional Final where they bowed out to ultra-talented Wheelersburg.

The Trojans, who were just 11-9 in the regular season, found a way to win five consecutive games in an underdog role. Along the path, Head Coach Steve Franks’ crew knocked off Sandy Valley, Coshocton, West Muskingum, Fort Frye, and Seaman North Adams.

However, with four returning starters, this year’s Trojans are not going to sneak up on anyone. Tusky Valley is one of the favorites in the Eastern District (Division III) along with Garaway to reach the regional.

“Expectations are high and players have been talking about how our league is going to prepare us for the tournament,” Franks commented. “The players have a real good idea of what they are up against, and we just hope to have momentum going at the same time we did last year.”

Although no starter will be over 6-foot-3, the majority are between 6-foot-0 and 6-foot-3 which is a nice luxury.

Senior Pat Kane (6’1) returns at guard where he averaged eight points per game, four assists, and three steals. Kane is a heady player who was the quarterback on the playoff football team the past two seasons. The returning starter also brings a good defensive prowess to the table.

“Pat is our floor leader and our quarterback on the floor just like he is in football,” Franks relayed. “He is a great defender and can shoot from the outside.”

Senior Jacob Brown (6’0) returns at shooting guard. “Downtown” Brown can fill it up from the perimeter and was a main reason for the post season success a year ago. Brown really stepped up his play in the tournament, and scored 20 or more points in three of the six tournament contests including averaging around 17 points per night all told. For the year, the long-range artist averaged 12 points an outing, four boards, and three swipes. Brown holds the TV single-game record for most three pointers with seven.

“Jacob is our leading scorer and he picked up right where he left off last year in our first scrimmage as he was shooting it lights out,” the Trojan boss extended. “He has a great motor as well.”

Also returning is senior Steven Spillman (6’1), who also enjoyed a successful tournament run by averaging 13.7 points per game. For the year, the co-offensive football player of the year in the district averaged 11 markers nightly and added three caroms. Spillman is a very strong kid, who is also a very good defender.

“Steve is our quiet leader,” Franks said. “He is going to play more inside this year with some added strength put on in the off season. Steve is a slasher on offense who can shoot a little bit as well, and we will ask him to guard the opposing team’s best player whether it’s an inside or outside player.”

Spillman and the above mentioned Kane showed how good they were on defense in holding the reigning Eastern District Player of the Year (Tyler Engle) to just 4 of 20 shooting including just 2 of 16 behind the arch in the Trojans win over Fort Frye in last year’s district final. Engle holds the record for all-time three-point makes in Ohio.

The fourth returning starter is senior Kurt Elsasser (6’3). The hard working Elsasser does a lot of dirty work for the Trojans. Last year, as a junior, he tallied seven points per game and five boards.

“Kurt does all the dirty work for us and will handle the duties on the interior,” Franks stated. “We asked him to get strong and he did that, and he is what us go with all the things he can do.”

“We will be senior run with seven total on the roster,” Franks said. “Experience will be our biggest strength, while our lack of size could be a weakness with our tallest starter being 6-foot-3.”

Other players vying for the fifth and final starting spot are: senior Sam Gergley (5’9), senior Kurt Host (6’1), and senior John Sites (5’10). Gergley will most likely get the nod with Host being the first inside player off the bench.

The Trojans are an experienced bunch with a tough conference (PAC-7) schedule and apretty good non-conference slate that should once again prepare them for a deep tournament run. No doubt, the Red and Black will be a favorite along with Garaway.

The conference schedule includes heavy weights Fairless, Akron Manchester, Wooster Triway, and CVCA.

Tusky Valley had not won a sectional title since 1991 before cutting the nets down a year ago, and it was 1988 when the Trojans last enjoyed their only regional birth. Ironically, coach Franks was the star player on that squad which ended up losing to Hamilton Badin in the Division III state finals, 68-63. Franks was a sophomore on that team and is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,170 markers. Dover Head Coach Bob Von Kaenel was roaming the sidelines for the Trojans at that time. The 1988 squad will be honored in the season opener against Sandy Valley.

Other non-conference games include East Canton, Tusky CC, Indian Valley, Garaway, Strasburg, Claymont, and Alliance Marlington.

Lost to graduation were Adam Hafer and Josh Lewis.

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