Today we’re proud to announce the winner of the eighth annual JJHuddle Boys Basketball Player of the Year award. The best of the best…
JJHuddle Ohio HS Basketball Player of the Year
Kevin Vannatta, Upper Arlington, sr. (UNC-Asheville)
Following a 2012-2013 campaign that saw the Upper Arlington Golden Bears finish the season at (12-11), which ended in a two-point opening round defeat to Olentangy, head coach Tim Casey and his squad knew this year could be much different. The Black and Gold returned point guard Danny Hummer and some key role guys along with our 2014 JJHuddle Player of the Year, Kevin Vannatta.
The Golden Bears received key contributions from plenty of their roster, but none had more of an impact than the 6-foot-2 inch senior. After splitting their first two games, the UNC Asheville signee spearheaded a 26-game winning streak, which ended in heartbreaking fashion to powerful Lakewood St. Edward in the state title game. Vannatta’s senior campaign and tournament run was one of the greatest stretches by a single player in recent memory.
His efforts earned him 1st Team AP All-Ohio honors and 1st Team All-Central District.
Putting up great numbers is certainly admirable, but when you do it on the state’s highest level (Division I), against the state’s best competition, and on the state’s biggest stage, that is something special, which is exactly what Vannatta was the entire year.
When giving away a player of the year award or any postseason honor, we always look at the whole body of work taking into account regular and postseason contributions, regular and postseason team success, and overall value of that particular player to a team. Vannatta fit the bill on all accounts.
He averaged 18.8 points per game accounting for 544 points and 32 percent of his team’s scoring. Vannatta converted 178 field goals on 53 percent shooting, which included 28 three-point field goals. The lefty accounted for 30 percent of UA’s field goal makes.
Being aggressive with his bulldog mentality and his using his superior basketball IQ, Vannatta was able to get to the free throw line 200 times on the season converting 160 of those attempts (80%). Not surprising, the All-Ohioan made 40 percent of the Golden Bears freebies on the season. Ironically, he attempted nary a free throw in the overtime loss to Ed’s.
In addition to his scoring totals, Vannatta averaged 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per night. He led the team in rebounds, and was second in assists and steals only to Hummer.
We hear all the time how the great players raise their level of play during the playoffs, tournament, etc, and Vannatta certainly did that. After a solid regular season averaging a smidge over 17 points per game, the senior went on a scoring spree against some of the state’s best competition. Vannatta scored 26, 29, and 27 points respectively in consecutive games against Gahanna Lincoln, Pickerington Central, and Columbus Northland to reach the state’s final four. His first appearance inside Value City Arena didn’t show any signs of letdown as the future Division 1 hoopster poured in 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting in a triumph of Trotwood-Madison.
Though, it wouldn’t end the way Vannatta and the Golden Bears had hoped, it did very little to take away from one of the best individual showings in recent tournament history. Words do his season little justice, it was one of those situations you had to witness to fully understand the magnitude.
For a team and coaching staff that prides itself on unbelievable team basketball and ferocious defense, it was the offensive play of a certain Kevin Vannatta that stole the show for this Golden Bears’ outfit.