One way to assess Ron Stokes as “The Rock” of famed Ohio basketball is through a selective review of the last 25 years.
At that time …
The Cleveland Cavaliers include Mike Fratello, Randy Wittman, John Lucas, Keith Smart, Paul Cyrus, Brendan Malone, Mike Brown, Byron Scott, David Bratt, Tyrone Lue, and Larry Drew. , John Baylain, and JB Bickerstaff.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are far more stable with three head coaches in Jim O’Brien, Thad Matta and now Chris Holtman.
Then there is Stokes. Ohio has had one radio network “expert analyst” in the last 25 years. it’s him
In honor of Stokes’ belated silver anniversary, we caught up with him in a recent interview to reintroduce the man behind the voice.
We started with Stokes, now 59, who started playing basketball when he was five years old.
“I think the name of the place in Canton was Highland Park,” he said. “There was a basketball court at the top of the hill. I had to wait until the players were done playing and I was out there dribbling.”
By the time he was in the lower grades of the Allen School, he was deeply in love with hoops. There he met Lavita Wheeler, who moved out and moved back in, eventually marrying him.
Ronnie has become a phenomenal all-around guard at over 5ft 11 tall.
He was probably five to nine years old when he played at Hartford Middle School, where he started playing above the rim.
“Jumping is God-given,” he said. “I couldn’t dunk with a basketball, but I could dunk with a tennis ball. One day I got high enough to try this.
“I did a little tip dunk once. It wasn’t a hard dunk, but I thought it was a dunk. I remember it being fun.”
Stokes started at Canton McKinley as a sophomore in high school when the Bulldogs won the district title but fell to Akron Central Howar in regional play. In that year’s state finals, Clark Kellogg scored his 51 points, but his Cleveland St. Joseph his team fell to Columbus East and their 6-foot-11-inch center Granville Waiters. lost to
By the time Stokes was in his junior year at McKinley, everyone knew about Bulldog backcourt tandem Stokes and Troy Taylor. In the district final, McKinley won his fifth overtime win over Canton South.
As seniors, Stokes and Taylor led McKinley to an undefeated regular season.
“We weren’t that big,” Stokes said. “Troy and I were 5-10, 5-11. Jeff Shelton was about 6-1 as a small forward. Greg Todd was 6-1 as a strong forward. Jim Johnson. I think we went 6-4 and Rick Wurstell played off the bench.”
“We had a lot of fun. Ken Neuron was our coach. We put together some pretty decent players. We only lost one senior year. Unfortunately, It was the regional final (to Wadsworth).”
“We had a lot of fun playing, had a lot of camaraderie and won a lot. I will never forget those days.”
Stokes and Taylor were linked during the Bulldog run, and that was the case at Ohio State as well.
They were freshmen in the rotation of the 1981-82 team, which went 21-10, captained by Kellogg and Larry Huggins. Their role increased as sophomores in 1982–83, when the team went 20-10 and Huggins and Waiters were captains.
Stokes and Tony Campbell were captains of the 15-14 team in 1983-84. Stokes, Taylor, Joe Konchek and Dave Jones were all captains of the 20-10 team in 1984-85. His future NBA players Brad Sellers and Dennis Hopson were also key figures.
One of Stokes’ favorite memories is his last home with Michigan State. Taylor read his old friend’s words and threw Rob. Stokes caught it and dunked it. The crowd blew off the roof of Saint John his arena.
A 75-65 victory over Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament was their last big win. Stokes and Taylor combined gave him 38 points on 15-of-22 floor shots. The Buckeyes lost their next game to a Louisiana Tech team led by Karl Malone.
Stokes and Taylor are both in the top 10 of Ohio State’s career in assists (Taylor leads Stokes 421-419) and steals (Stokes leads Taylor 158-155). Taylor leads him 1,485 to 1,237 points. Both played 120 games.
Their bond remains in that they are both part of a canton outside the canton.
Ohio State Basketball:Former McKinley, Ohio native star returns to ‘give back’ to honor deceased friend
“One of the things that’s special about sports is that it’s not just about playing games,” says Stokes. “You develop a very close relationship.
“I’ve always said that adversity tells you who you are. Losing a few games creates a bond. Many relationships are maintained over the years. Heart I still have teammates I keep in touch with from Ford – days in McKinley and of course in Ohio.”
Canton’s elementary school acquaintances, Ron and LaVita, got married and started a family. It now includes four children, all grown up and working in the family business run by their parents.
One of the children, Amber, played for Ohio State’s women’s team and was named the 2012 Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year.
Ronnie Stokes could still dunk at 43. He was 49 and still hitting the court.
“I was picking up at one of my son’s AAU practices,” Stokes said. “I tore my Achilles tendon. That was the last time I played basketball. I didn’t want to go to anyone’s operating table ever since.
“I still pride myself on staying in shape. I can run a mile on the treadmill in less than 8:30. It used to be better.”
At the time, Ohio’s roster was full of Ohio high school players.
In the 1985 NCAA Qualifier, the top six scorers were Cantoners Stokes and Taylor. Joe Konchek from Stark County Northwest High School. Brad Sellers from the Cleveland area. Dennis Hopson from Toledo and David Jones from Jewett Scio.
The Buckeye’s top scorer for the first half of the 2022-23 season was Florida native Bryce Sensibo. Zed Key from New Jersey. Judge Suing, from Hawaii. Sean McNeill from Kentucky. Bruce Thornton from Georgia and Roddy Gale from Utah.
No one has a better long-term view of the Ohio State hiring landscape than Stokes.
“If you want to compete at the highest level, you need great talent to play against the Dukes, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky. I don’t think so, but if you want to compete, no matter how good you are as a coach, you need players who can play.
“Statistically, we found that the teams that made it to the last four had 2.5 players who played in the NBA, and that speaks for itself.
“If Ohio’s talent isn’t four or five stars, and you’re the head coach, you have to go beyond Ohio like the team is today. Holtman will go and get the best players. Player of the Year from Georgia and Player of the Year from Florida.
“So I have no problem bringing players out of Ohio as long as the coaches go out and the players are four or five stars. If you can, you should always get the best players from Ohio.You have all the players’ resources.It’s the biggest school, has a great history, and a great place to play.
“Look at Thad Matta when he was here. Thad had almost all the top players coming from Ohio because Ohio has a rich heritage.
“BJ Mullens, Costa Koufos, Jared Salinger, William Buford, David Lighty, John Deibler.
“We don’t want to fire people who go to mid-career because it takes a lot of talent to get there. A coach who went out of Ohio to get it.”
Stokes played a piece of history unfolding at the landmark St. John Arena, which opened in 1956. His first season as an analyst on The Buckeyes Radio His was the show’s final season on St. His John. The Value City Arena at the Schottenstein Center opened for the 1998-99 season.
“The Schottenstein Center (which seats about 19,000 people) is used for basketball, hockey, concert shows, and more,” says Stokes. “There is give and take when trying to create a holistic arena for all these types of events.
“It’s a great facility. It loses some of its advantage compared to places like Duke, which has just under 9,000 people. Rutgers is another place with an intimate type of arena where the crowd is right above. is”
“What made St. John special was that it was originally a basketball arena. The scoreboard was at floor level. It had about 13,500 seats.”
This is a busy time for Stokes. He, his wife and their children work together at three leaf productions, an established company, and his new company, LARS Properties, in addition to other operations in the Columbus metropolitan area.
He travels with the Buckeyes. The 2022-23 team showed promise at the Maui Invitational in Hawaii, where he beat Cincinnati 81-53 and his two teams in the top 25, the San Diego State University and Texas Tech University. I played against They came out of an 81–72 loss at 25th-ranked Duke. They ranked 23rd before losing in overtime to preseason No. 1 North Carolina at Madison Square Garden the week before Christmas.
Ohio State resumes Big Ten play Sunday night in the Northwest.
All things considered, how’s life for one of Canton’s favorite sons?
“Life is a dream,” Stokes said. “I met my wife in Canton and we were on a date and one day we talked about family and our wonderful life. She and I have four wonderful children. I have.
“I get the chance to see them every day. I talk to them every day. I couldn’t have pictured it better.
“I grew up in Canton. I was only two hours from Columbus. I was able to raise and grow my family here.
“I have a career in broadcasting and have had many successful businesses. It’s a dream come true. I feel really blessed.”
You can contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP