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A gesture to remember: Russia player gives ball to Minster hero

Published: Monday, June 19, 2017 @ 9:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 @ 10:43 AM

Thirteen miles separate Russia High School and Minster High School in northwest Ohio. State routes 66, 47 and 112 connect them — and now so does one baseball.

On June 3 at Huntington Park in Columbus, Russia and Minster played in the Division IV state championship final. Minster won 2-1 when senior Jon Niemeyer laced a single down the line in left.

Russia left fielder Trenton Monnin fielded the ball and relayed it to shortstop Dion Puthoff as Minster's Jared Huelsman raced home with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. There was no chance to make a play at the plate. Puthoff kept the ball as Minster celebrated its third title in seven years.

PHOTOS: Russia vs. Minster

The story might have ended there. On the bus ride home, Puthoff joked with teammates about whether he should burn the ball. That would be one way to soothe the pain. In the end, however, after talking with his brother and sister, Puthoff put his disappointment behind him and decided to not only spare the ball's life but to preserve it for a lifetime.

On Thursday, Puthoff called Niemeyer's coach, Mike Wiss, to find out if Minster had held its postseason banquet. When he heard that had already happened, he called a friend who knew Niemeyer to find out where he lived. Then Puthoff drove 15 miles to Niemeyer's home to hand deliver the ball and a letter.

"Jon, I picked this up at the end of the game as something to remember my experience by," Puthoff wrote. "After thinking about it, I realized it would mean a lot more to you to have your game-winning hit ball. You played a great game and I want you to have it. Congrats on a great season and a great career."

Niemeyer wasn't home when Puthoff arrived. Alyssa Niemeyer, Jon's sister, answered the door and accepted the box with the ball and the letter.

Bryan Niemeyer, Jon's dad, didn't hear about the ball until Saturday. That's when he posted a photo of the ball and letter to Twitter. As of Monday afternoon, it had been shared on Twitter 187 times and received 680 likes.

"I thought it was worthy of some sort of notoriety," Bryan said. "I was very impressed by Dion's gesture. It was pretty cool showing what sportsmanship and high school sports are all about. That was a tough way to lose a game, a loss on a walk-off hit. That was pretty big of him."

Jon didn't think about getting the ball after the game. It wasn't until he had it that he realized what it meant to him.

"Honestly, I was just surprised he drove all the way to my house to give me the ball," said Jon, who plans to study construction management at Columbus State in the fall. "I hope to see him sometime soon so I can thank him."

Russia coach Kevin Phlipot wasn't surprised to hear of Puthoff's gesture.

"I texted him earlier this morning to tell him how proud I was of him," Phlipot said Monday. "If you knew him, that's in his character. He comes from a great family. His parents did a heck of a job."

Time has helped Russia overcome its disappointment of falling short of its first state championship since 1971. The Raiders finished 24-7 and made their first final four appearance since 1975.

"Right after the game, we were upset about it," Puthoff said. "But we're proud of what we did."

Dayton’s Scoochie Smith has a new team

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 10:26 AM

Dayton’s Brian Frank and Scoochie Smith leave the court after a victory against Davidson on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, at Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C. David Jablonski/Staff

The Boston Celtics have signed Dayton Flyers point guard Scoochie Smith.

The first-team All-Atlantic 10 guard was part of the winningest class in school history and four NCAA tournament appearances.

Smith, who was not selected Thursday night in the NBA Draft, told our David Jablonski this morning he is joining the team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season. They added Duke standout Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night.

RELATED: Former Flyer starting clothing company

Smith, who averaged 13.8 points and 4.5 assists last season, worked out for the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks before the draft.

He played in a school-record 138 consecutive games in his career.

Former teammate Charles Cooke signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves following the draft.

Dayton’s Charles Cooke signs as free agent

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 12:20 AM

Dayton seniors (left to right) Kendall Pollard, Kyle Davis, Charles Cooke, Scoochie Smith and sophomore Xeyrius Williams, far right, react after the third 3-pointer by Smith in overtime against Davidson on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, at Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C. David Jablonski/Staff
Staff Writer

Former Dayton Flyers Charles Cooke and Scoochie Smith did not hear their names called in the NBA Draft on Thursday.

Cooke signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Timberwolves after the draft, according to ESPN’s Chris Haynes. Scoochie Smith told Cox Media Group on Friday morning that he had signed with the Boston Celtics.

RELATED: Scoochie Smith finds new home

In the previous three seasons, Dayton’s Devin Oliver, Jordan Sibert and Dyshawn Pierre have all gone undrafted and gotten a chance in the summer leagues.

RELATED: Cooke made big impact with Flyers

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Cooke worked out for the Trail Blazers, Jazz, Pelicans, Timberwolves and others. Smith had workouts with the Knicks, Raptors, Mavericks and Rockets.

Negele Knight remains the last Dayton player to be drafted. The Phoenix Suns selected him in the second round in 1990. Knight played in the NBA until 1999 and scored 1,699 points.

Jim Paxson is Dayton’s last first-round pick. Portland drafted him in 1979. He scored more points in the NBA (11,199) than any Dayton player.

RELATED: Pistons draft Kennard

The only current Dayton basketball alum in the NBA is Brian Roberts, who appeared in 41 games with the Charlotte Hornets last season. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer.

RELATED: Who is Scoochie Smith

Chris Wright played in 32 games in the NBA from 2012-14. Chris Johnson appeared in 147 games from 2013-16.

Nineteen Dayton basketball players have played in the NBA, starting with Bucky Bockhorn in 1958 with the Cincinnati Royals.

Sports Today: Luke Kennard looks like good fit for Detroit Pistons in NBA draft

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 9:47 AM

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 22:  Front Row (L-R) - OG Anunoby, Dennis Smith, Malik Monk, Luke Kennard, Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, De'aaron Fox, Frank Ntilikina, Justin Jackson, Back Row (L-R) Bam Adebayo, Jonathan Isaac, Justin Patton, Lauri Markkanen, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Zach Collins, Donovan Mitchell and TJ Leaf pose before the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 22, 2017 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Luke Kennard is headed to Detroit after the Pistons took him with the 12th pick in the NBA draft. 

This looks like a pretty good opportunity for the Franklin High product who starred at Duke last season. 

RELATED: Who is Luke Kennard?

Detroit is one year removed from making the playoffs (albeit a brief postseason appearance that ended with a sweep by the Cavaliers). The Pistons finished 10th in the terrible Eastern Conference last season, three games behind eighth-seeded Chicago. 

Under the leadership of proven winner Stan Van Gundy, they were eighth in the league in defensive rating but 24th in offense. 

Kinda makes taking a tall, talented shooter make a lot of sense, eh? 

So this looks like about as positive of a position a player taken in the lottery can hope to be. 

The Pistons can really use what Kennard brings to the table, but they don’t necessarily have to lean too heavily on him right away. 

They won’t be contending for a championship in the immediate future, but there is a lot of upward mobility possible in the terrible East… 

Nobody from Dayton or Ohio State was drafted, which did not come as a surprise. 

Former Flyer Charles Cooke signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who pulled off the biggest move of last night when they traded for Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler. 

READ MORE: T-Wolves pick up UD senior

The T-Wolves are coming off a disappointing season but are still an intriguing team full of young stars, including former Kentucky standout Karl-Anthony Towns and Kansas standout Andrew Wiggins. 

It’s too bad they are in the Western Conference or this move might be even more intriguing… 

RELATED: Who are the 5 best Dayton-born NBA players of all time?

I didn’t watch much of the draft because I don’t have a favorite team and it’s hard to get excited about guys we know so little about from their brief time in college (not to mention the completely, um, foreign identities of the players drafted from overseas). 

The large number of freshmen who were drafted based almost entirely on potential rather than production furthers the point I made yesterdayThe NBA would be better off dropping its current system in favor of something more like the NHL’s

Right now bad teams are getting the rights to draft high-potential prospects but having trouble turning them into actual players, probably in no small part because they are bad teams and the prospects don’t know how to play. 

Last year only five first-round picks had a positive Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) according to Basketball-Reference.com

Buddy Hield of Oklahoma was the only rookie first-round pick to average double figures in scoring. By the way, he spent four years in college. 

So did Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdan — the only other player drafted last year to average double figures in scoring. 

Both of them averaged just over 10 points per game. 

Even with top pick Ben Simmons out all season with an injury, this seems pretty poor. And this year the new class will be younger than the last. 

An early mock draft for 2018 includes 12 freshmen as well as Vincent Edwards, a Middletown High School grad who will be a senior at Purdue this fall. 

Meanwhile, the NHL draft begins tonight in Chicago. 

Hockey prospects from North America can be drafted at the age of 18 and go straight to the NHL. 

Nine players drafted last year saw time in the NHL, including five who played 28 games or more. 

The top two picks, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets, scored more than 60 points, including a combined 76 goals. 

RELATED: Eight super debuts by pro athletes: Auston Matthews, Lebron, Wilt and more

They were ready for the NHL and proved as much, but prospects not ready for the top level of competition can also go to the minors or juniors or college, and teams don’t relinquish their rights if they do any of these things. 

There’s far more flexibility for both team and player to make a move when the time. 

Doesn’t that seem better for everybody?... 

At any rate, the Columbus Blue Jackets are not scheduled to pick in the first round after trading away their pick, but there is at least one prospects with local ties who could hear his name called this weekend. 

Carson Meyer, a forward from Miami University, is ranked No. 151 among North American skaters on NHL.com

The 19-year-old central Ohio native had 26 points in 32 games for the RedHawks last season. 

Report: Horizon League extends invitation to IUPUI

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 9:11 AM


            WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - DECEMBER 7: T.J. Henderson #1 of the IUPUI Jaguars dribbles the ball against Johnny Hill #1 of the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena on December 7, 2015 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue defeated IUPUI 80-53. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

The Horizon League has extended an invitation to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, according to a report from the Detroit News .

The HL is looking to replace Valparaiso, which departed for the Missouri Valley Conference last month .

And while IUPUI doesn’t have the basketball clout league commissioner Jon LeCrone said would be a primary focus in its plans to not only replace Valpo, but expand, the school is an ideal geographic fit.

The school sits 1.5 miles from the league office in downtown Indianapolis, which would make IUPUI a fit to replace Valpo as the travel partner for Illinois-Chicago.

›› RELATED: WSU basketball facing big changes second year in a row

Currently a member of the Summit League, which is where current HL member Oakland came from in 2013, IUPUI made its lone trip to the NCAA tournament in 2003 and haven’t had a winning seasonn since 2010-2011. IUPUI athletic director Dr. Roderick Perry worked as Wright State from 2001-07, rising from academic advisor to associate athletic director, after earning his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Dayton.

Shortly after Valpo announced its move, LeCrone said the HL has had a number of conversations over the last two years with schools that would expand the league’s footprint to the east, south, southeast, southwest and west.

Follow Jay Morrison on Twitter

At that time, LeCrone made it sound as though adding a team in time for the 2017-18 season probably wasn’t feasible.

“It’s more than likely we would be nine for this coming year,” he said. “I think we’d be in position to add at least one school in 18-19 and maybe more along the way in 19-20. We’ve studied models all the way up to 14- and 16-team leagues. I think we’re committed to growing larger. How much larger I’m not quite sure.”

But the Detroit News reported that league presidents recently held a conference call to discuss the timing and other specifics of adding a new member, and that athletic directors in coming weeks will be presented two schedules, one for a nine-team league and one for a 10-team league.

One issue with adding IUPUI is that school does not offer baseball as a varsity sport.

In basketball, Wright State is 9-2 against IUPUI, but the schools haven’t met since 1987.