Liberty-Benton’s Steve Williman wasn’t exactly an overnight sensation when he began his high school boys basketball coaching career in 1980.
But, as he exits the profession, Williman will go down as one of the best coaches in Ohio history.
Williman recently announced he has retired from coaching after posting a 551-208 overall record in 33 seasons, including the last 28 years at Liberty-Benton. He guided the Eagles to a 516-133 record, that included 15 20-win seasons, and 16 Blanchard Valley Conference titles.
The high point was 1994-95 when the Eagles went 27-0 and won the Division IV state championship led by seniors Andy Butler and Matt Moser, plus junior A.J. Granger, who would later start on Michigan State’s NCAA championship team in 2000.
Williman’s 2006-07 team, which included Nathan Hyde and then-freshman Aaron Craft, was 26-1 with a loss to Cincinnati North College Hill in the Division III state final.
Hyde later started on the University of Findlay’s 2009 NCAA Division II national championship team, and Craft recently concluded a much-heralded four-year career at Ohio State.
"It's always difficult to make a decision to give up something you've done for much of your lifetime," said Williman, 57, who will also retire from teaching at the end of the school year. "Our seasons are very long and very demanding. It can get to be a grind at times.
"I just felt it was time for a different face for our program, and time for me to move on to a different phase of my life."
Williman had only two winning seasons in his first nine years, at which point he owned a sub-par 74-125 record guiding his alma mater, Old Fort (22-42), Galion (13-30), and his first four teams at L-B (39-50).
Over the past 24 seasons, however, Williman’s mark of 477-83 (.852) is among the best in Ohio.
TITANS’ ERNSTHAUSEN TO WRIGHT STATE: St. John’s Jesuit senior Parker Ernsthausen is set to sign a commitment letter Tuesday to enroll at Wright State.
Ernsthausen, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 12.6 points and led the Three Rivers Athletic Conference at 8.2 rebounds per game for the 18-7 Titans.
According to Titans coach Ed Heintschel, Ernsthausen will join the Raiders basketball program, and be included in all workouts with the team, but will not likely play in any games during the 2014-15 season.
A scholarship is expected to begin for the 2015-16 season, at which point Ernsthausen would join the team as an active player.
Ernsthausen was named All-TRAC first team and Division I all-district third team.
“He’s one of those kids who kind of evolved with time,” Heintschel said, “and he became more and more interested in continuing playing basketball [in college] the more success he had. I’m happy he has the opportunity to do that."
The Raiders had no scholarships left for the upcoming college season, so Ernsthausen decided to commit for the future with an outside chance to play as a nonscholarship player this season. He is going to focus on adding bulk to his 200-pound frame.
“If I do bulk up and develop faster than they think I will, I do have an opportunity to play this year,” Ernsthausen said. “They used up their scholarships for this class, but I will get a scholarship for the next four years.
“They can’t guarantee me a scholarship now because of NCAA rules, so it’s more of a trust thing. But they’re committed to me, and I’m committed to doing what they need me to do.”
Ernsthausen, who carries a 4.4 grade-point average, plans to enroll as a pre-med student.
OWENS SIGNS TWO: The Owens Community College women’s basketball team has signed two local players to letters of intent.
Joining the Express and coach Mike Llanas will be Tatyana Reynolds from Rogers, and Demy Whitaker, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2012.
Reynolds, a 5-foot-8 guard/forward, helped the Rams reach the Division II state semifinals this past season.
Whitaker, a 5-7 guard, helped the Eagles reach their first of three straight trips to the Division I state semifinals as a senior in 2012. She then joined the Bowling Green State University women’s soccer team, playing for the Falcons her freshman year. Whitaker, who sat out the 2013 soccer season at BGSU, will have two years of junior-college eligibility at Owens.
SWING FOR THE CURE: Southview’s softball team will host its third “Swing for the Cure” charity game, with proceeds benefitting cancer research.
This year’s game, which features Perrysburg at Southview in a Northern Lakes League battle at 5 p.m. Wednesday, will have a local charitable tie.
Money raised from Southview’s first two Swing for the Cure games went to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for breast cancer research. This year the proceeds will benefit former Perrysburg softball player Kayleen Jurski, a senior who in February was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer called inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor.
Jurski, who pitched the last three seasons for the Yellow Jackets, had surgery to remove the tumor on March 21 and is currently in recovery.
Liberty-Benton head coach Steve Williman shouts instructions to his team during a game in 2007. THE BLADE