Senior leader: Tolliver making huge impact for Wildcats

Cutline: Springfield High School senior Josh Tolliver drives past Springboro freshman Maxim Butler during their game on Dec. 18 at Springfield High School. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED
Cutline: Springfield High School senior Josh Tolliver drives past Springboro freshman Maxim Butler during their game on Dec. 18 at Springfield High School. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

SPRINGFIELD — Josh Tolliver remembers the play like it was yesterday.

During a freshman football game at Winton Woods, Tolliver caught a 5-yard out when he was hit by two players, breaking his leg.

He never played football again, focusing his efforts on basketball after missing his entire freshman season due to the injury.

“God was just telling me basketball was the route,” Tolliver said. “I just took that route and stuck with it. I got in the gym every day and got better. It’s taken me a long way.”

The hard work is paying big dividends for Tolliver on the basketball court. He’s averaging 16.4 points per game for the Wildcats this season.

“Despite the situation with COVID, we’re having a lot of fun,” Tolliver said. “It’s all about having fun and maturing, getting prepared for the real world.”

The senior also ranks among the leaders in the Greater Western Ohio Conference in field goal percentage at 58.2 percent. He’s also shooting 42 percent from the 3-point line and 69.5 percent from the free throw line. He’s hit several big shots in key victories for the Wildcats this season, including the game-winner in a 59-57 victory at state-ranked rival Wayne on Feb. 5.

“He shoots the ball really, really well and can he can get to the rim,” said Springfield coach Shawn McCullough. “He can score at all three levels. That’s what I tell all the college coaches I talk to about him. He can get to the basket, his mid-range is phenomenal and he can shoot the 3. He’s strong. His build is phenomenal.”

Tolliver and his older brother Jeff grew up playing sports, he said, and were competitive in “everything we did.” Jeff was an All-Ohio running back on the Wildcats football team that advanced to the state semifinals in 2019. They also played together on the Wildcats basketball team.

“It was competitive, getting to the shower first, eating first,” Tolliver said. “It’s still competitive to this day.”

When McCullough was hired to take over the Wildcats program last year, Tolliver was the first person to reach out to him, he said.

“We clicked right away,” McCullough said. “He’s quick to Facetime me or shoot me a text. We’ve had a great relationship from Day 1.”

McCullough has gotten calls about Tolliver from college coaches at every level. Recruiting of high school seniors has been difficult this year due to current college players receiving an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“”I’m going to continue to play for sure,” Tolliver said. “Whoever wants me, wherever feels like home, that’s where I’m going to go.”

More than anything, Tolliver wants to help his team win.

“I’m a team player and I want to show it on and off the floor,” Tolliver said. “I just want to be a role model for younger kids and get them on the right track.”

Tolliver’s leadership will have an impact for years to come, McCullough said.

“A lot of the younger kids, even the junior high kids, look up to Josh,” he said. “He’s the household name for Springfield basketball as everybody knows this year. All those young men, watching him in practice, they really look up to him.”

As the season winds to a close, Tolliver and the Wildcats (7-9) are hoping to make a deep postseason run.

“We want to finish out strong,” Tolliver said. “We want to get to districts first and then to state. We want to bring a title back home.”

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