Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
SOUTH WEBSTER — In life, it’s hard to earn admiration from basketball fans. It’s even harder to earn admiration from those when basketball’s put on the shelf.
Throughout his career, South Webster’s Shiloah Blevins has earned admiration for his play on the court and his quiet-natured, kind-hearted personality off it. His dedication en route to becoming a three-time all-Southeast District honoree and a member of a program that made three consecutive district championships appearances has paid off in a big way.
Blevins officially signed to play college basketball at the University of Rio Grande Friday afternoon in front of his friends, family members, former coaches, and future coaching staff in a signing ceremony held at South Webster.
For Blevins, the opportunity to play his dream sport at the next level is a great accomplishment — especially considering that the senior had somewhat of a later foray in the sport compared to the vast majority of players who end up taking their talents to the next level and beyond.
“I just feel like it’s a great achievement,” Blevins said. “I didn’t start playing until my sixth grade year, so just being able to play college basketball is like a dream come true.”
While Rio Grande head coach Ken French is ultimately making that happen for Blevins, it’s clear that Blevins earned French’s trust with his character and the way that he’s represented South Webster.
“We are very excited to have Shiloah join our program,” French said. “We feel like it’s a good fit for him and us. Shiloah’s character really stood out. He’s a great young man. He is also very athletic and we feel that his best basketball is ahead of him.”
As a multi-sport athlete who focused on both basketball and soccer, that’s certainly the case just based on his individual success alone. This past season, Blevins averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds.
In soccer, the accolades were arguably greater from an individual standpoint. Overall, he obtained first-team all-Southeast District boys soccer accolades, along with back-to-back All-Ohio mentions and a Division III Southeast District Player of the Year nod this past fall.
Team success, in the form of three straight trips to a Division III regional semifinal in soccer and two trips to a Division IV district final in three seasons in basketball, went along hand-in-hand for the young man that’s nicknamed ‘The Jeep Freak.’
It’s all added up to memories that the entire Bloom-Vernon Local School System won’t ever forget — in either sport.
“It’s been great playing alongside these guys over the past four years,” Blevins said of his teammates. “We put a lot of work in … a lot of work that nobody expected us to do. I just want to personally thank Zack Keller [a teammate of Blevins’ in both sports and the scout teamer who guarded Blevins in basketball practice]. He would sit there and guard me every day without relent and without complaining about it. He’d push me and make me better. I really liked that.”
While Rio Grande’s primary color matches South Webster’s, it was obviously more than the comparable blend of red that impressed Blevins on his visits to the campus that’s nestled within a half-mile from U.S. 35.
“They’re a family,” Blevins said of the Red Storm. “They’re family-oriented. Everyone loves each other, and that had me hooked. It was a big impact in my decision, because I wanted to stay around that kind of atmosphere. Rio Grande’s basketball program is like how South Webster is, so it makes me very excited to be a part of something special like that.”
“That is one of the things that attracted us to Shiloah,” French said. “We are a family-oriented program, and we want this experience to be special for not only Shiloah, but his entire family that supports him.”
South Webster’s latest basketball and multi-sport standout will officially be labeled as a small forward, but Blevins has the athleticism to guard power forwards, and, even at the high school level, shooting guards.
“We are like everybody else right now in basketball in the sense that we are looking for versatile, positionless players,” French said. “Shiloah has an opportunity to play the 4/3 or 3/4 position. So for us, it would be a small forward.”
“It’s great to meet and get to know French,” Blevins said. “He’s almost exactly like how [South Webster coach Brenton] Cole is, and coach Cole and I have a really tight bond. I think coach French and I will develop that same type of bond, too.”
At Rio Grande, there’s no question that Shiloah Blevins will be pushed — college athletes, especially in this day and age, undergo a rigorous schedule at the vast majority of schools.
However, the support that Blevins has behind him from the South Webster community will certainly aid in the transition from successful high school standout to strong, contributing collegiate athlete.
“It’s really good,” Blevins said. “It just shows that a lot of people care. I feel like a lot of people will come out to Rio Grande and watch.”
And of course, there’s that experience that Blevins draws from playing at a small school against programs with larger class sizes in the SOC II, which certainly helps.
“It was fun for us,” Blevins said. “We just wanted to work hard in order to prove ourselves. The tough competition around the area really pushed us.”
“It’s important that when you sign a local prospect, they have the best opportunity to make it,” French said. “We have a lot of players in our area who don’t stick it out wherever they sign to play. I think that Shiloah, because of his character and work ethic, has an opportunity to have a great career as long as he is patient with the process.”