Today, during the District 14 All-Star games, six of the area's best will go to the head of the class as they will be inducted into the inaugural District 14 Basketball Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place between the girls and boys All-Star games.
Of the 16 districts in Ohio, only five have their own Hall of Fame. The plan for District 14 to have its own has been planned for more than a year, said District 14 Director Tom Barrick.
The selections for the first class were obvious, said Barrick. All six coaches are already in the Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame.
“We wanted to have the cream of the crop,” Barrick said. “There were a lot of coaches that were significant to southern Ohio basketball. But those six were already elected into the state Hall of Fame. The decision by the district coaches was unanimous.”
Heading up the class are two coaches that are synonymous with winning around Scioto County, former Portsmouth coach George Heller and former Clay coach Arch Justus.
Heller coached the Trojans to a state title in 1961 and also won the Ohio Coach of the Year Award that season.
Coaching in the Greater Ohio League in the 1960s, Heller's Trojans won five league titles, 10 district titles and one regional crown to go along with the state victory. His 269-114 record, a 70 percent winning percentage, is one of the highest in Portsmouth history.
Justus coached everywhere from Northwest, Minford and even Oak Hill. He even lead the Mohawks to the “Sweet Sixteen” in 1955.
His greatest accomplishments, however, came with Panthers, leading the team to the state tournament in 1969. In 33 years, he complied more than 500 wins, and coached his teams to 18 conference titles, 20 sectional championships and six district titles. He was selected at District Coach of the Year three times and received the Life Member Award to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1987.
Joining the duo at the ceremony will be Chillicothe coach Tom Cuppert, Waverly coach C.D. Hawhee, Washington Court House's Gary Shaffer and Western Pike's Henderson Thompson.
When the six coaches stand side-by-side, there will be more than 2,300 victories between them. Barrick said all of the inductees are deserving of being part of the first class. They were, he said, another “best kept secret” in the history of Ohio basketball.
“They are all great coaches and the loved working with kids,” Barrick said. “They love to promote basketball around here and are deserving of this recognition.”
The ceremony and the District 14 All-Star games will be at Piketon High School. The festivities will begin at 2 p.m. with the girls game. The boys game will follow immediately after the ceremony.
JEFF TAEPKE can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 242.