- Jeff Gilbert Contributing Writer
For those who coach him and coach against him, it’s easy to praise Hadley LeVan for his play on the basketball court.
“He’s a great ballplayer,” says Catholic Central’s Cody Sarensen.
LeVan’s coach at Triad, Jason Malone, says, “I’ve never seen, at the high school level, players be able to do what he does.”
In a December loss to West Jefferson, LeVan did exactly that. He scored 10 points in the first half despite missing most of the second quarter with foul trouble. He had 21 points after three quarters. He scored 30 in the fourth. The total: 51 points and a school record.
Malone loves having a senior who always gives his team a chance. But what he might love more is what he, his coaching staff and LeVan’s teammates see in practice.
“He shows up every day and works like he doesn’t have any talent,” Malone said.
LeVan is a 6-foot-1 guard who averages 26 points a game, has reached 1,330 for his career and is on pace to set the school’s career scoring record. He takes almost a third of his team’s shots and is expected to do so. He shoots 47 percent, including 40 percent from 3-point range. He leads the team in assists. The Cardinals are 10-5 and 6-4 in the OHC North.
“Every time he shoots it I think it’s going in,” Malone said. “There’s not too many players I’ve ever coached that got the green light wherever they’re at.”
While others love to talk about LeVan, he does not. How does he think this season is going for him?
“Once we get to the tournament we can make a really deep run in the sectional and hopefully get to the district tournament,” he said. “I think we have a chance to win every game we play. … The friends and the role models of my coaches and others are probably my biggest takeaway from high school basketball.”
Malone said, “He’s not going to talk about himself much. He’s a team-oriented guy.”
Getting attention at a Division IV school in a small-school league like the Ohio Heritage Conference isn’t easy. Last year he averaged 18 points, but his postseason honors stopped at first-team all-OHC.
“I just try to help my team the most I can to help them win,” LeVan said. “I just try to do my job, and that’s to score and be aggressive and just do all the little things I’m supposed to.”
Where that takes LeVan after high school isn’t yet clear. NCAA Division II and III schools are interested. But he wants to go into the medical field, so that could mean a Division I school. If that happens and no basketball scholarship comes with it, Malone said that won’t stop LeVan from trying to walk on.
In the OHC, every team’s scouting report begins with LeVan. In a recent close loss at league-leading Catholic Central, Sarensen knew his team had to contain LeVan. The Irish did at times, but LeVan scored 22 points. His ability to attack the basket and score and get fouled almost brought the Cardinals back in the fourth quarter.
“You try to limit his touches and put as much pressure on him as you can,” Sarensen said. “That’s all you can do. He has a real high IQ. He knows how to be crafty to get to the free-throw line. So you can still put pressure on him, but he’s still a heck of a ballplayer to somehow get it towards the bucket and find his teammates.”
That’s what is obvious. But for Malone, who is in his second season as the Cardinals’ coach, he rates LeVan’s intangibles right alongside his scoring average.
“He’s got such a good, positive personality,” Malone said. “As much as anything, he’s a good teammate. And the guys in our program, they respect him.”
At the Central game, LeVan had a sore throat and a slight fever.
“He’s not going to make an excuse,” Malone said. “He expected to come in here, play well and win. He’ll show up tomorrow ready to work again, sick or not.”
And, as Malone says, whether LeVan thinks he’s any good or not.