OHSAA Commissioner Dr. Dan Ross presents LeBron James with the Circle of Champions award (Photo by Gary Housteau)
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For as exciting as Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's 59-53 Division II state title win over Dayton Thurgood Marshall was on Saturday evening, fans and players were just as excited to have SVSM alum and NBA superstar LeBron James in the house.
James, who won three state titles with the Irish in high school, sat in the first row behind the SVSM bench sporting a green jacket with gold 'SVSM' lettering to support his alma mater.
And the Ohio High School Athletic Association recognized James inducting him into the Circle of Champions at halftime.
For the third straight year, the OHSAA selected individuals that had prominent roles in the history of Ohio interscholastic athletics.
James was a shoe-in.
He is ranked No. 4 in the OHSAA record book for career scoring with 2,646 points playing for the Irish from 1999-2003.
After he received his award, the SVSM student section chanted 'MVP! MVP!' for his performance this season for the Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite his success and superstar status in the NBA, James is still very close to the SVSM program.
"LeBron comes to practices and helps," SVSM head coach Dru Joyce said. "He is part of the program and he believes in what we do. It just shows what this program is about. We've got guys that understand we've built something here and we're going to keep building on it.
"He doesn't have to do what he does for our program but he does it because he loves the program, he loves what we do and he knows what it meant to him."
Giving Much Love
Marshall junior guard and University of Dayton recruit Juwan Staten led all stat-getters in the game lighting up the scoreboard for 28 points.
Staten is rated as the No. 13 point guard in the country by ESPN and is one of the top 60 players in the country for the 2010 class.
After the game, James embraced an emotional Staten and offered him some words of advice.
"He pulled me to the side and told me I was a great player and to keep my head up," Staten said. "He told me he knew how it feels because he lost his junior year in the state championship."
SVSM lost to Cincinnati St. Bernard Roger Bacon 71-63 in the D-II title game in 2002.
"It is just driving me to work harder and to get back here next year," said Staten.