March Madness is back with the NCAA men’s basketball tournament underway.
The tournament generates excitement all over the United States, including in Akron, the home of several of the players who will take part.
Among them is Ellet High School graduate Breaon Brady, who will be in the lineup when Houston (31-3) takes the floor this weekend.
“It has been a blessing to go down this road and go down this path,” said Brady, a senior. “Not every person can be a part of this, and to get back to the NCAA Tournament again is special. ... My senior year has been a blast and I really don’t want it to end.”
Brady, now 6-foot-8 and 252 pounds, said he was 6-7 and 280 pounds when he graduated from Ellet.
“I started playing basketball officially during my seventh-grade year of middle school [at Jennings],” Brady said. “I got cut my sixth-grade year because I couldn’t make a suicide [sprint drill fast enough]. I remember the coach telling me to try again next year, and then in seventh grade, I was actually able to make it by a couple of seconds.”
Ellet coach Mark Fisher said Brady “started transforming his body in high school.”
“Breaon always had great feet and great hands for a big man,” Fisher said. “He has great post moves, is very broad shoulder[ed] and can rebound the basketball.”
Brady described himself as “a chubby, fat kid” in his younger days who now gets to play “on a nationally ranked team on ESPN.” He has played in all 34 games this season for the Cougars with 33 starts. He averages 6.1 points and 4.0 rebounds in 13.9 minutes per game.
Dru Joyce II will be keeping tabs on four players in the NCAA Tournament whom he coached at St. Vincent-St. Mary — Jayvon Graves (Buffalo), Jalen Hudson (Florida), Jibri Blount (North Carolina Central) and V.J. King (Louisville).
“Jayvon is a great story,” Joyce said. “Here is a young man that was always a very quiet person at St. V. He didn’t say a lot, but by the time he was a senior, you could tell his game had grown. It was kind of off the charts how he got so much more athletic. ...
"He is a young man that really wanted to be part of St. Vincent-St. Mary. The first couple of years, he and his mom, they drove from Malvern back and forth everyday to be a part of the program. When you get kids like that, that is just special.”
Graves has played in all 34 games this season for the Bulls (31-3) with 33 starts. He averages 9.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 24.8 minutes per game.
“This is my second year in a row getting to go to the NCAA Tournament,” Graves said. “We are playing together as a team and having a lot of fun. My self-confidence is high right now, so we are trying to do what we do best and do something big.”
Hudson has played in all 34 games this season for the Gators (19-15) with 13 starts, averaging 9.0 points and 2.9 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game. Last year, he led Florida in scoring at 15.5 points per game.
The two other players with a local connection are 7-1 Michigan junior Jon Teske and 6-8 Ohio State sophomore Kyle Young.
Teske, a Medina graduate, has started all 34 games this season for the Wolverines (28-6), averaging 9.6 points and 6.9 rebounds in 28.1 minutes per game.
Young, a Jackson graduate, has played in 29 games with 14 starts this season for the Buckeyes (19-14) and is averaging 6.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 21.0 minutes per game.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com.