Competitive balance is a hot topic these days in the Ohio High School Athletic Association office and at schools around the state.
Poland Seminary boys basketball coach Ken Grisdale added some fuel to the fire with comments Saturday to Youngstown Vindicator writer Tom Williams after a 54-42 loss to St. Vincent-St. Mary in a Division II regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.
Grisdale was critical of the makeup of the St. V-M team and Irish coach Dru Joyce II and his comments circulated widely on social media.
“It’s wrong,” Grisdale said of the St. V-M roster. “It isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Four out of [their] five starters aren’t even Ohio kids.”
Grisdale is in his 21st season as basketball coach at Poland Seminary, a public school. St. V-M is a private school.
“We have the best Division II public school team in Ohio,” said Grisdale whose team also lost a state semifinal game to St. V-M in 2002. “It’s not right.
“[Our kids] do everything right and you’ve got to deal with that horsecrap. I’m tired of working our tail off and someone [else] can go get a kid from West Virginia or Virginia. … And you’ve got to play them — it’s not right.”
Joyce responded to the comments on a teleconference call with reporters this week.
“Sometimes after a game you may say some things that you want to take back,” Joyce said.” I am hoping that is what Coach feels about some of the comments that he made. Some things that you just don’t know and he didn’t understand to know.
“Do we have some kids who have come from out of state? Yeah. But the circumstances that they came are not what you would really want. Like Jalen Hudson, his mother and father divorced. His father lives here and the mother is ill and can’t take care of her son anymore [in Richmond, Va.] so he had to move in with his father. We are the beneficiaries of that, but it wasn’t like something he or his family planned.
“[Sophomore] VJ King and [senior] Jalen Hudson [and their families] are Ohio people. Jalen and VJ were both born in Ohio [in Akron and Cleveland, respectively]. Jalen spent much of his young life in Ohio before he moved to Virginia. VJ King has spent most of his life in Ohio then lived out of state [Charlotte, N.C.]. His family, both parents are from the Cleveland area, born and raised. Those things have been said.
“At the end of the day it is about the kids. I have good kids who have come to work every day. They work hard and they play the game as hard as everyone else. I think that is what is most important that the focus is about the kids. I am hoping Coach recognizes that some of his comments are unfounded.”
Hudson and King each enrolled at St. V-M last year, and are the Irish’s leading scorers at 16.9 points and 16.6 points per game. Hudson formerly attended Benedictine High School in Richmond. King’s parents are married and his father works in Akron.
Hudson is a Virginia Tech recruit and King has offers from several schools such as Ohio State, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Arizona, Connecticut and Wisconsin.
The Irish starting five also features senior Jarel Woolridge (4.5 points) and juniors Josh Williams (13.5 points) and Jibri Blount (6.2). Woolridge has been at St. V-M for four years. Williams transferred in this year from Barberton and Blount transferred from Linsly School in Wheeling, W. Va. Blount was raised in Pittsburgh where his father, NFL Hall of Famer Mel Blount, played football for the Steelers.
Williams is a University of Akron recruit and Blount is also a Division I prospect.
“They bring a lot of basketball skill and basketball IQ that we appreciate,” Joyce said. “They have had to understand our style of play. That has been a little bit of a transition.
“Jibri is kind of our emotional leader. He really picks guys up and is a great encourager. When things are going bad, he is the guy encouraging them. … Josh has been very proficient. He has shot the ball well. He is our assist leader and probably one of our better defenders on the ball and off the ball. They bring a lot of great basketball to the mix and we are appreciative of them being a part of this state-championship opportunity.”
Grisdale said the Irish earned the victory, but he is unhappy with how the Ohio School Athletic Association conducts tournaments solely based on enrollment.
There have been grumblings for several years about the tournament system and a new competitive balance proposal will be voted on in May. Closed enrollment public schools feature student-athletes from within their district. Private schools have student-athletes from several counties and open enrollment public schools have student-athletes from surrounding communities.
“I told my kids that there is no excuse; they beat us,” Grisdale said. “They are a better team. [But] that’s not what high school athletics is supposed to be about.
“Until people start waking up. I mean, I don’t know how taxpayers in the state of Ohio or [a] public school system, how they deal with this.
“It’s wrong. … I am so proud of the way my kids competed. [The Irish] are good players. But they are not Ohio players.”
Grisdale said he would love to see Joyce work with a public school team.
“Dru Joyce, come coach a team that you’ve got to work with rather than some AAU [prepped squad],” Grisdale said.
Grisdale acknowledged his comments might not be well received by some, but he is fed up with the structure of high school tournaments.
“I’ve taken it for 21 years,” Grisdale said. “It isn’t right. You look at my kids and they did everything we asked them to all year. I don’t know how they can justify … if [private schools] want to play [with out-of district players], put them in Division I where they deserve to be. They can’t win it there so they don’t want to go there. There’s got to be a better way.”
Joyce doesn’t appreciate Grisdale’s challenges or accusations.
“There was one comment that I don’t want to play Division I because I would lose,” Joyce said. “I guess that comment shows you how out of touch his statements were. I don’t choose what division we play in. The Ohio High School Athletic Association makes that decision. If you look at my schedule, I play mostly Division I schools. I am just going to play whoever lines up in front of me and give it my best, win or lose. At the end of the day, I can hold my head up high because that is how we have done things. We have done things the right way.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.