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Posted On: 03/27/18 2:30 PM
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (21-8) just finished off winning its second straight state title.
That’s quite an accomplishment but what makes the feat even more impressive is the fact coach Dru Joyce II did it with a completely overhauled roster.
Chris Painter (2019) was the only returning starter from the 2018 state title team and he spent most of this year adjusting to a new role of coming off the bench.
Joyce spent the year getting the team to gel offensively and had it playing at an optimum level defensively come tournament time.
The future looks bright. So bright, in fact, that it’s not outlandish to think the Irish could win the next three Division II state titles giving the program five in a row.
Just a historical note: LeBron James and his crew won only three state titles, losing in the title game when they were juniors.
And when you consider that Chris Livingston (2022), a 6’4” shooting guard out of Akron, who is ranked among the top five players in his class, is reportedly headed to St. V in the fall and the Irish could also bring in LeBron James Jr. (2023) the year after it’s not out of the question to think the Irish could win six straight titles.
Here are some more reasons why a string of titles could be in the offing for the Irish.
The 6’3” junior wing took his game to a whole different level in the postseason. He tortured opponent after opponent with his ability to get into the paint and finish inside. His long arms allow him to track down balls others and defend at a high level. His mid-range game also got noticeably better as the season went on. He averaged 17 ppg., in the Irish’s two state tournament games.
The 6’1” freshman guard started nearly every game for and ended up averaging 12 points and 4 rebounds on the year. Has a smooth jump shot and is an outstanding ball handler and defender. His scoring numbers will go up as he gets more aggressive and gets to the line more. Passes well enough that it would not be a surprise if he were to average upwards of 7 assists a game next year.
The Irish return a deep front line
Marcus Johnson (2020), junior Keyshawn Jones (2019), and Darius Cone (2019) all got better as the season progressed.
The 6’5” Johnson has a huge frame that allows him to get to any spot in the paint he wants and has some of the best hands you’ll ever see. If the ball is anywhere near him he’s going to control it.
The 6’5” Jones scored 10 points in the state title game and his production increased during the postseason after a regular season where he averaged just. 2.5 ppg. Long and athletic, he can finish at the rim, defend and also is a good passer. The 6’3” Cone is the consummate glue guy. He’s always around the ball and does the gritty but crucial things it takes to win, like defend, rebound and set screens.
The 6’4” freshman post player got better and better as the season progressed. Has the potential to be an elite finisher and defender. Got more aggressive as the season went on and in a foreshadowing of things to come drove baseline in the game against Revere and nearly dunked over 6’9” Northwestern recruit Pete Nance (2018).